Monday, January 24, 2011

The Reality of Young Adulthood

Before I write about what I'm going to write about, I want to let you all know that tomorrow I'll be hosting the amazing Michelle McLean on the blog.  Her book Homework Helpers: Essays & Term Papers is out now so she'll be stopping by with a guest post about how to jazz up non-fiction.  Michelle rocks so stop by tomorrow and show her some love!

So here it is:  The Happy Days....not so happy.  Charles wasn't always in charge.  That Full House was full of lies.  Prime time family shows are bullshit.

There.  I said it.

This is a difficult post for me to write because it involves the new MTV version of Skins, a brilliant British import.  It's difficult because the remake was horrible.  It was a helpless, hapless ghost of the original.  And yet, I feel the need to support it for two reasons.  The first is that I hope it finds its voice and becomes at least as good as the original.  The second is that there is a need for shows like it on the air.

So what is Skins?  It's not a poor version of Gossip Girl.  It tells the stories of real kids doing things real kids do.  The thing about Gossip Girl and shows like it is that they feature obscenely rich kids in exotic locations...OUT THERE...doing things most kids will never get to do.  Whether you realize it or not, there's safety in that.  Most parents who let their kids watch GG aren't worried that their kid is going to suddenly inherit a trust fund and start doing lines of coke off of other rich kid's Gucci handbags.  Shows like GG are so out there that they're easy to dismiss.

A show likes Skins is not.

The kids in Skins are written by and portrayed by kids their age.  16-18 year-olds.  They're kids I could have known in high school.  They're kids, your kids probably know.  That's what makes them so scary.  You watch them getting high and screwing their brains out and, as an adult, a little voice in your head SCREAMS that kids shouldn't be seeing this.

But you're wrong.

Because kids aren't just seeing it.  They're DOING it.

Not all of them.  Kids are as diverse and varied as crayons.  I didn't experiment until I was out of HS, and I know people who have never tried drugs.  I know some who tried them all in HS and are now as straight as arrows.

But shows like Skins along with books that provide honest, frank depictions of teenagers (books by the likes of Hannah Moskowitz and Andrew Smith and Ellen Hopkins) are essential.  Pretending that kids don't do those things, or putting them in bubbles, doesn't actually protect them.  In fact, I'd argue that it does more harm than good.

I'm not going to argue that the show doesn't glorify some things that shouldn't be glorified but that's what honesty is about.  I know there's this idea that if you see a kid doing something they ought not be doing on TV that they should subsequently be punished in some way.  But that's just not how life works.

The reality of Young Adulthood is that it's fucking messy.  Kids are stupid.  They do stupid things.  They experiment with sex and drugs.  They're absurdly reckless.  Sometimes that leads down dark, terrible paths.  But more often than not, those kids grow up and go on to be your real estate agent or tax preparer or your kids' teacher.

So before you condemn a show like Skins, watch it.  Watch it WITH your kids no matter how uncomfortable it makes you.  Talk about it.  Understand that your kid and ALL the kids don't live in a PG world.  You may not like shows like Skins, but your kids probably do.  And if it helps them relate to their world, you should be for it too.


  1. I'll be honest--I watched a little bit of the pilot episode of the original Skins and couldn't force myself to continue watching. i dont really know why--tony just realy rubbed me the wrong way. all the cussing and naked-women ogling...
    and the thing is, i dont even normally get offended by that kinda stuff. ive only read the first chapter of the deathday letter (it's awesome, btw) but ollie's sexually-charged thoughts actually had me laughing and going 'that's so teenage-boy-esque.' that's because teens do that kind of stuff (i'd know, being a teen myself).
    so, in a way, it really depends on how you depict it, i suppose. (and, uh, sorry about the rambling.)

  2. Wow. I'm having Michelle by tomorrow as well. I'll be sure to mention your post.

    And it's funny about teens. My daughter had her 15th birthday party on Saturday, and as we all sat there gobbling pizza I listened to the conversation, and I was trying to imagine writing dialog like that in a novel, and it just would never work. You would lose track of what the hell was going on in about 15 seconds.

    Anyway, that show sounds realistically disturbing. A lot like that movie they made in the 90s "Kids." Did you see that one? It's kind of terrifying and hilarious at the same time.

  3. Okay, so hopefully I won't get beat up for this but I have to completely disagree with you on this Shaun. And for the record, I have to state I haven't seen any part of the show.

    Having said that, I have a teenager who I keep in a partial bubble. I'm not naive in thinking that he isn't exposed to all kinds of things that I probably would prefer he not be exposed to. But I do attempt to temper that massive influx of what I consider wrong and idiotic behavior with some sense of normalcy at home.

    I talk to my son all the time. We talk about everything under the sun, even to the point where I force him to talk with me about things he would probably rather not (i.e. his inner feelings, girls, sex, drugs, etc).

    Having said all of this, I still do not think it's necessary to bring the stupidity (and I'm sorry but I consider trying drugs, having random sex partners, and rampant profanity as a teenager to be a sign of stupidity) of the outside world into my kid's head. I don't think I have to bash him over the head with "reality" in order for him to get what's right or wrong about it. And unfortunately I think shows like this do exactly that. I don't think it's entertaining or enlightening or even mildly amusing.

    I could be wrong (and I'm more than willing to watch an episode to decide for sure), but I don't think this is something I'd want my teenager to watch. And yes, I TOTALLY enjoyed Deathday Letter and happily provided it to my son to read, which may make me slightly hypocritical I guess.

    ...stepping off soapbox...

  4. Andrea - Thanks!

    Aleeza - The great thing about Tony is his entire two season arc. Maybe one of the most realistic reversals I've seen. I think you're right in that it's all about depiction.

    Matthew - Oh wow, I remember being so turned off by the movie Kids. It was harsh and hard and as a teen when it came out, I remember thinking that no one could possibly act that way.

    Eric - I think you may be the voice of sanity. I think that shows like Skins...entertainment that toes the line...should be regulated by parents but only on a micro level. I think we could debate all day long about what is considered entertainment but I think that shows like this have a valid right to exist. As a parent, I think it's fantastic that you and your son talk about these things and that you have a hand in deciding what's appropriate for him to see...where I get upset is when people attempt to take their worldview and impose it on the rest of society.

    I mean, my upbringing was much closer to Happy Days than Skins. My teenage sex, drugs, & rock and roll was very limited. But for a lot of kids, this show depicts something close to real life. Yeah, it's dramatized, but much less so than most junk on TV.

    If you decided to watch it...skip the American version and watch the BBC version. The first two seasons are some of the finest on TV but definitely not for everyone.

  5. BBC version FTW.

    Thanks for the shoutout, hottie.


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