The MTV show “Skins,” based on the U.K. program by the same name, follows the fictional secret lives of high school kids. According to the show’s MTV website, “ ‘Skins’ is an emotional mosh-pit that slams through the insanity of teenage years.” Though teenage years are generally nothing more than an awkward encounter with peer pressure and social defiance, the image this new MTV series advertises is not one of the average American teenage life, but a lifestyle revolving around sex, drugs, and alcohol.
In the most recent episode, aired Jan. 31, viewers follow Chris (Jesse Carere), a male enhancement pill-popper whose mother abandoned him. Chris deals with the abandonment by popping more pills, throwing a party and flirting with his high school psychology teacher, Tina.
Those feelings of loss are where the realistic portion of the show ends. Later in the episode, Chris gets locked out of his house, naked, by a homeless man and decides the most logical thing to do next would, of course, be to break into Tina’s car and ask if he can stay with her. Because it’s the world of “Skins,” Tina accepts.
But it’s not the male enhancement pills, or Chris’s storyline, that has viewers up in arms, but rather the vulgar language, unnecessary nudity and glamorization of substance abuse and sex, which can be persuasive to the show’s 1.2 million viewers under the age of 18, said Examiner.com.
“Skins” also fits the definition of child pornography, which is “the visual depiction of minor children under the age of 18 engaging in sexual acts, such as sexual intercourse, masturbation, or oral sex.” The show’s youngest actress, Eleanor Zichy, is only 16 years old, and four other actors are 17. With themes like sex and masturbation of minors, “Skins” could be considered the first airing of child pornography on cable television.
Characters Stanley, played by Daniel Flaherty, and Cadie, played by Britne Oldford, are both underage on and off the set. In “Skins,” they pretend to have sex with each other to fit in with their group of friends.
According to the Huffington Post, “The show is littered with sexually suggestive poses and half-exposed breasts.”
One scene from episode three shows Michelle, played by Rachel Thevenard, asking quiet and shy Stanley what he thinks of her “tits,” utilizing word choice not preferred by the parents of the show’s young audience.
Underage drinking is also a major player is the show’s controversy. When Chris realizes his mother is gone, he spends all the small amount of money she left for him on a lavish party.
Since this takes place during high school, all characters are under the age of 21. Off the set only one actor, Ron Mustafaa, who plays Abbud, is over the legal drinking age. At this party, all the characters are holding onto some alcoholic beverage. Cadie walks into the party with a bottle of vodka, countless others with cans of beer.
Though the episode airs on Mondays at 10 p.m., it can be viewed 24/7 on MTV’s website, where viewers can also watch streaming video diaries of the main characters, and unseen footage.
The partial difference between watching “Skins” online versus on television is that the website requires a date of birth verification that the viewer is over the age of 18.