Not For Teens…So Who Is It For?
MTV’s Skins, the not-so-music channel’s newest program, has moms across the country in an uproar. Over three million people tuned into MTV to watch Skins. Did MTV viewers get what they were expecting? Possibly -- If they were expecting endless teen sex references, drug use, profanity and relationships/friendships that are anything but healthy.
What is Skins all about?
Skins is an American adaptation of a British television show… one that many American moms wish would have stayed on the other side of the pond. Skins depicts a handful of high school teenagers going through the motions of everyday life -- assuming, of course, the average teenager's everyday life centers around using drugs, getting girls high to have sex with them, treating each other in ways that one can only hope is limited to bad television and never facing any consequences.
Beyond that, I don't think there's much more to the plot. However, one point is noteworthy. Steve Kuritz of the Wall Street Journal's Speakeasy says, "What's more, as many reviewers have pointed out, on Skins, unlike typical teen shows, there's [sic] seemingly no negative consequences to all this reckless behavior. At one point, the Skins gang drives a luxury SUV into a lake -- and laughs about it."
Who's the target audience?
Presumably, Skins wasn't created for old 30-year-olds such as myself, but if you attempt to view Skins on MTV.com, where the full premier episode is available, you are required to enter your age: "This video contains mature content. Please verify your birth date." I attempted to enter my birth year as 1994 and I received the following message: "You're too young to view this show." (I wish.) Plus, it carries a "mature audience" warning.
A show about high school kids, starring many actors who are in fact high school kids, is too mature for high school kids? Interesting. It's clearly a bit much -- for lack of a better word -- for those of us who are a little, ahem, older. So who's the target audience? Apparently MTV is aiming for the 20's set, but I again have to wonder who in their 20's wants to watch a bunch of high school kids getting high and getting it on…or at least talking about the latter non-stop.
Furthermore, despite what MTV claims, the Nielsen ratings prove that teens are watching Skins. According to an article in The Huffington Post, of the 3.3 million viewers who tuned in to Skins last Monday, 1.2 million were under 18 years old.
Child porn concerns
Perhaps more compelling than the general "this show is disgusting" complaints are the allegations of child pornography. Remember how I mentioned that many of the Skins actors are high school-aged? Apparently, the conservative Parents Television Council is pushing the Department of Justice and the House Judiciary committees to investigate.
The PTC notes, "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." Furthermore, PTC states that "it is clear that Viacom has knowingly produced material that may well be in violation of" anti-child pornography laws.
While the Parents Television Council is sometimes met with opposition and accused of being too conservative, it has many people on its side in this case. Speakeasy's Kuritz says, "Reader, you have no idea how depressing it feels to actually agree with the Parents Television Council."
Advertisers distancing themselves
Faced with the overwhelming criticism directed toward Skins, advertisers are distancing themselves by pulling ads. Taco Bell was first. The fast food chain released a statement declaring, ""We've decided that the show is not a fit for our brand and have moved our advertising to other MTV programming."
GM quickly followed suit, sharing that Skins was on their Do Not Buy list on Friday.
Next, Wrigley's announced that their ads will no longer air during Skins. A representative shared with The Hollywood Reporter, "Wrigley has decided to suspend any advertising during MTV's Skins as it was never our intent to endorse content that could offend consumers. Any ads that previously aired during the show were part of a broader advertising plan with the network."
Finally, H & R Block made it perfectly clear that it wants no part of Skins and that its ad that was run during the premier episode occurred as the result of a mistake. The company told TMZ, "H&R Block is not an advertiser of the show. One ad ran by mistake as part of a rotation. Once we learned this, we immediately took steps to ensure it didn't happen again. This program is not brand right and H&R Block did not select it to be part of our rotation."
All of this commotion has me wondering whether MTV intends to stand by its initial statement: "We review all of our shows and work with all of our producers on an ongoing basis to ensure our shows comply with laws and community standards. We are confident that the episodes of Skins will not only comply with all applicable legal requirements, but also with our responsibilities to our viewers."
The bottom line
I think the show is awful -- not strictly because of the content, but simply because it's a bad show. The acting is unimpressive and the plot line is boring. Maybe we're too accustomed to reality television. I mean, if we're going to watch outrageous programming, at least it can be "real," right?
Sarcasm aside, this isn't something I'd want my kids to watch if they were older. At two- and three-years-old, my kids do watch some television (yes, I admit it), but we're definitely on the conservative side when it comes to what we allow them to view. So much so that if Phineas & Ferb happens to follow a Disney Channel program they are watching, both jump up and call for me, saying, "We're not allowed to watch this, Mom!" (Oh, if only that honesty would last forever…)
Simply because my children are far too young to see Skins doesn't mean I'm not bothered by what television for teens has become. I cringe to think of what will air when they're teenagers. Is it even possible to outdo this sort of content? I shudder to think about the answer to that question. While I don't feel the level of outrage that many moms have expressed, I'd be happy to see the show gone.
Let's hope that all of this attention doesn't increase the show's ratings, that advertisers will continue to pull away and that MTV will cancel the series.
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