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such a nasty woman | by maryann johanson

question of the day: How ridiculous is the outrage over MTV’s American adaptation of ‘Skins’?

When I reviewed the first British series of Skins a couple years ago, I wrote this:

[I]t’s impossible to imagine [Skins] inspiring the kind of indignation that, say Gossip Girl has, not only with its actual content but its flaunting of the ire it raises: the CW recently ran ads promoting Gossip Girl’s new season featuring quotes from critics and parental groups decrying the show as “mind-blowingly inappropriate” and “a nasty piece of work.”

That would never happen with Skins, partly because a show like this would never get made for American TV. (It did air on BBC America here, though.) Clear fantasies like Gossip Girl pass muster, but something as grounded and realistic and tough as Skins? Never.

It appears I was wrong. Because not only has MTV just debuted what is apparently nearly a shot-for-shot remake of, at least, the first episode, there have also been howls of indignation from the same sort of people we always expect howls of indignation from. TMZ reports:

The Parents Television Council has fired off a letter to the U.S Department of Justice AND the U.S. Senate and House Judiciary Committees … over concerns the show uses underage actors in graphic sexual situations.

The organization explains, “In addition to the sexual content on the show involving cast members as young as 15, PTC counted 42 depictions and references to drugs and alcohol in the premiere episode.”

The group adds, “It is clear that Viacom has knowingly produced material that may well be in violation of [several anti-child pornography laws].

*facepalm* Here we go again: God forbid kids — or anyone — acknowledge that teenagers are sexual beings, or that they experiment with drugs or alcohol. CBS News quotes PTC as saying that Skins “may well be the most dangerous television show for children that we have ever seen.”

(Now, I haven’t seen the American Skins, and knowing what I know about what happens when British shows get redone for American TV, it’s easy to imagine that all the subtlety and nuance have been removed from the U.S. redo, and that what the kids get up to — everything from the most casual kind of sex to crashing cars into rivers while stoned — may well come across as glamorous and exciting, as they did not in the British version. But I don’t know that for sure.)

This may be even worse, however. David Carr writes in The New York Times:

Last week, my colleague Brian Stelter reported that on Tuesday, the day after the pilot episode of “Skins” was shown on MTV, executives at the cable channel were frantically meeting to discuss whether the salacious teenage drama starring actors as young as 15 might violate federal child pornography statutes.

Senior executives are now considering additional editing for coming episodes, but that’s a little like trying to lock the door after a naked 17-year-old has already busted out and gone running down the street, which is precisely what one of the characters does in Episode 3 — with a pill-enhanced erection, no less.

This suggests that MTV execs either had no idea what the actual content of their own programming was, or else they had no inkling that anyone would object, neither of which is plausible. The same goes for the corporations who are now pulling their ads off the show. Via Reuters:

The Parents Television Council said it was urging L’Oreal, Subway, Foot Locker not to sponsor MTV’s controversial show “Skins”.

And General Motors has placed the teen series on its “do not buy list”, according to the PTC.

“GM told PTC that ‘Skins’ was on its ‘do not buy’ list on MTV, and that MTV admitted placing a Chevy commercial on ‘Skins’ in error. GM also stated that MTV had apologized for its error,” the PTC said in a statement on Friday.

The TV watchdog group is now urging Schick Hydro, H&R Block, L’Oreal, Subway, Foot Locker, Orbit chewing gum and Extra chewing gum to stop advertising.

The companies “can rest assured that they will be hearing from PTC about their decision to sponsor the program,” said PTC president Tim Winter.

“Every single advertiser who sponsored the premiere episode of Skins is not only endorsing, but glorifying teen drug and alcohol abuse, not to mention a plethora of baseless sexual content,” he added.

The Hollywood Reporter reported on Thursday that fast food chain Taco Bell had pulled its ads from the show.

Did none of these companies have any idea what the show was about before they agreed to buy advertising time? Also: I’m offended by the notion that anyone might think Taco Bell is somehow less offensive than a raunchy show about partying teens.

It’s worth noting that the U.K. version of Skins is about to debut its fifth series this week, and the country is, for the most part, still standing. I have seen no wild gangs of feral teenagers, those who were not protected from Skins, roaming the streets, mugging dogs and harrassing old ladies.

How ridiculous is the outrage over MTV’s American adaptation of Skins?

(Thanks to bronxbee for prompting the question. If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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