Skins is back on TV for a new series. Here, 15-year-old Alfie McKenzie says the show’s depiction of teenage life is way off the mark
It’s amusing to see the anguished reception Skins has had in the US. Over there, it’s been branded “dangerous” and seen advertisers desert it in droves. In the UK, we’re far less shockable. Or maybe, four years since it first aired, we’re just bored of Skins.
Either way, the first episode of series five aired on E4 last night without much fanfare, and without a single Daily Mail article calling for this sick filth to be banned. Indeed, the whole episode was hauntingly similar to a school anti-bullying assembly, harbouring themes of peer pressure, exclusion, isolation etc.
Admittedly, this is Skins we’re talking about. No doubt at some point there will be mass drug-taking and mid-pubescent humping; sometimes together in one scene of coked-up orgasmic chaos with MGMT playing in the background. But last night’s instalment was curiously restrained.
Even at its most grown-up, though, the main question that Skins faces is whether it is representative of the actual youth culture of today, and as with any piece of drama or fiction, it most certainly isn’t. It’s what the youth would really like youth culture to be, but nothing close to it in actuality.
Chiefly, my problem with Skins (and other shows like Glee that depict ‘outcasts’) is that it doesn’t know what a real outcast is. Outcasts aren’t shaggable and certainly don’t ‘get any’ like the characters in Skins do. We outcasts grow furry moustaches and sit for weeks on end playing role-playing games in a dark corner of a dimly lit room. We can only dream of mountains of heroin and naked women.
One thing that is accurate is the drinking culture – the very hinge of social teenage functions. But the only reason alcopops succeed where mephedrone lacks a mainstream following is that you can’t market mephedrone to kids due to silly advertising laws. Plus, drugs simply aren’t as easily available as Skins makes out. I’m one of 99% of 15-year-olds at my school who haven’t tried mephedrone.
Of course, the music featured is still typical Skins fare, ie lots of bands playing chiming sounds on every beat and ringing out vaguely philosophical lyrics from an East-End London Princess who can play five or six chords. Nice to see the use of the fantastic Mumford And Sons though, we really haven’t heard enough from those guys lately.
Still – as a male, girl-gawping, nasal-sounding teenager I did find myself thinking a lot about the characters in the hour-long feature. Deep and edgy thoughts raced through my previously dull and boring mind such as “She’s definitely a lesbian… I hope she’s a lesbian… She just has to be… what if there aren’t any lesbians? Oh no.”
The most enticing thing for young men and perhaps women about Skins is the credulity-stretching, montage-worthy film reels of potential lovers romping and humping like Yorkshire Terriers trying for triplets. Alas, no delivery this time.
So: if we look at Skins like a fairy tale we can thoroughly enjoy it and laugh with/at it. We just can’t make the fatal mistake of thinking it’s realistic, or some kind of threat to the nation’s morals. Let’s leave that to the Americans.