Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Skins: Why Other Teen-Dramas Can't Compete

These days, it seems the airwaves are flooded with more and more teen-dramas such as The O.C, One Tree Hill, Gossip Girl, 90210, etc etc, and for the most part, these shows aid specifically to the demographic of teenagers who want to get lost in a world of beautiful hunks and girls who dramatize their issues as much as THEY do... but does anyone else find that they can sometimes get a little "fairytale-like"? I understand that escapism is really the intent, to get people to escape into this world of beautiful people, parties, and extravagant lives, but at what point do we stop and think, "Ok, I REALLY don't relate to this at all..."

That is where Skins comes in! This program is from England and follows the lives of exceedingly random groups of friends as they work their way through highschool (referred to
as College in Britain) and deal with various issues, relationships, and wild shenanagins while
they smoke, drink, have sex, party hard, and cuss even harder.
Due to the different nature of British Broadcasting as compared to that in North America, they
can get away with showing pretty much anything. Alright, so the antics of the Skins kids may
seem a little exaggerated, such as their intensely casual sex and use of drugs, but honestly? If
censorship and editing wasn't so strict in North America, television here would probably show that too!

You may still be wondering why Skins is so much more enjoyable (well, to myself personally)
than all those other teen shows out there today. Here is a comparison of various aspects of usual teen dramas, contrasted by that of Skins:

*Characters and Actors*
Let's take a look at the average teen-drama beginning, shall we?
A new kid comes to town with some sort of family/clique issue, and all the other
snooty kids in town initially don't like them besides one or two that they
get involved with, soon driving them deep into the inner-town drama. The
characters involved are generally well-off families living in Beverly Hills, New York, Orange County, etc etc, are all very similar characters in each group of friends, have "classy" parties, wear expensive brand names, and are rarely ever seen actually IN class during school. The actors playing these highschoolers are generally MUCH older than the characters they portray (think Chad Michael Murray playing an 17 year old or Blake Lively playing a 16 year old). The characters act MUCH older than usual kids their age, and so make them seem almost... not relatable to the general teenage population.
And now let's compare that to the show of Skins...
The characters at the beginning are all essentially friends, or soon become friends via a party. The families are all average, with maybe the exception of one or two, and live in the very average town of Bristol. As for
the group of friends, they are very diverse and almost "misfits", making them seem like less of a popular "clique" and more just like a group of friends that could be anywhere. The kids attend school and the teachers are actually a big part of the kids lives, as are classes that they are SHOWN attending. All the actors that play the characters are the same age as their characters (or simply one year off) making them actually SEEM like they are the
right age, and also making them relatable to the demographic that the show is supposed to pertain to. Plus, are they all gorgeous actors as seen usually on television? No! There are some people who are unconventionally attractive, but that also makes it more realistic in that OBVIOUSLY not everyone can be so darn attractive and put-together like in usual programming.

Ok, so BOTH the usual teen dramas of America and Skins have their exceedingly
dramatic moments, but try to bring up the mood slightly with a little humor, but the difference between American and British humor is really VERY different. The O.C. may have some sort of humorous situation and a terrible little pun to go along with it, while Skins will have just a ridiculous situation and a hilarious ramble to get through it. The fact of the matter is that Skins is just SO much more humorous, and isn't that what you want? Why solely focus on the drama going on in these characters lives? The point is to say "Hey! There is crap going on and I know we can't forget it, but life is still worth smiling about."

*The Drama*
"Oh my goodness, my reputation has been shamed by rumors!" "My family status has been demoted to normal/average."
Really? You make a big deal about THIS?
Try having a father that left after your "perfect" brother died because he doesn't love you as much, followed by your mother leaving because she doesn't want to deal with you when you die of the genetic disorder your brother had. Now where are you going to live? Both your mother AND father want nothing to do with
you, even though you didn't do ANYTHING wrong!
Or how about having a twin sister that has run your life since you were children, making you feel like nobody could EVER
love you and doesn't accept you because of your sexuality, trying to hide it from the rest of the family, only to shame you when you DO come out, as if that weren't hard enough.
Ok, so maybe both shows have the whole relationship issues "oh em gee,
you slept with this person!" and all the different shows have different issues, Skins is just so much less... "Soap Opera - ish" and the kids deal with REAL issues. Essentially none of the families are doing well and have some sort of problems that really affect their lives. And you know what? The characters deal with their problems but at the same time, don't let them RUIN their lives in the end... the figure out how to really deal with them rather than brood all angsty about them for 10 episodes straight.

*Sex, Drugs, Parties*
Parties are always high-class functions. Doing drugs is a dramatic, moving
experience. Sex is intimate and beautiful. ALWAYS.
Now do you REALLY believe that?
This is what the average teen-drama would have us believe. But... whyyy? Why make everything so classy and
gorgeous? To make it more acceptable? To make it seem like less of a big deal and create unrealistic expectations of these experiences?
Really, the life we see on these
these shows and the rumpus the kids get in are exceedingly unrealistic. So that makes you wonder what is so different about Skins, right? They make no excuses for being raunchy, overt, and out there. But why should they? That's what teenagers are like! Pushing the boundaries and getting into trouble. Alright, so the sex in Skins is a LITTLE bit exaggerated and casual, but the purpose is to illustrate that teenagers these days think that you aren't NORMAL if you are not having sex. This is especially present in the character of JJ who has mild autism, and feels like he is not normal at all, but once he has sex, he feels a little bit more connected to the world, and even his mother can see that!
All in all, Skins is wild and crazy compared to American teen-dramas, but also (as I've heard, I'm not the expert on this), sexuality in Europe is also very different
than it is here... Another factor creating the differences between
what is shown.

All in all, I understand that different people love different things when it comes to television. In the end however, we sometimes need to consider what we are watching. In addition to all the differences above, usual television programs all continue with the same cast over and over, new people coming and some going, but at the same time, after a while, it becomes very hard to sustain an original storyline without it becoming a little ridiculous... Which is why with Skins, the cast changes every two years once highschool is over for the kids and they start to move on with their lives.

Hopefully this inspired some of you to perhaps take a gander at this show if you have never seen it before... And really, I say all this stuff but what do I know? You make your own opinions about it in the end :D