I find the controversy surrounding MTV’s new series “Skins” amusing to a certain extent and annoying at the same time. Amusing because as many of the critics have pointed out and despite what MTV’s PR machine says, there is nothing new about this program at all. Sex, alcohol, drugs and teens have been a provocative theme for decades. I suppose that to compete with the world of “reality” TV and YouTube executives at MTV decided that to stay relevant (not that they seem to be anyway) they needed to use the incredibly old and annoying “shock the public” trick. Premised that I have not watched the show and really have no intention too, I can pretty much guess the basic plot lines that involved as I said before sex (the unprotected pregnancy inducing and STD catching kind), alcohol (the drink until you pass out because for some reason people find that fun kind), drugs (from weed to OTC cocktails) and teens (the ones that we all were and know full well are capable of anything if left to their vices). How original.
What I do not get is what is innovative or thought provoking about this kind of writing? Is it a faux-morality piece like 90210 was in the 90’s where you show teen debauchery to then have the consequences pedantically analyzed by the adults in the show? Certainly those were valiant efforts despite the fact that we all know that children (teenagers especially) will genetically do the opposite of what adults tell them to do.
Maybe I grew up differently than most kids, but I watched TV to be entertained and, when I have the time, I still do. I hated shows that tried to instill morality or steer me towards acting a certain way. I already had my parents busting my chops, the last thing I wanted to do (when I was allowed to watch TV) was to hear more adult petulance about the dos and don’ts.
Am I so old that the concept of reality TV and voyeurism fails to capture my undivided attention? I’ll fully admit that I rubber neck when I drive by and accident and laugh at those blooper videos with the guy crashing into a pole on his bicycle; it’s certainly a deep-rooted human instinct. That’s not, though, what “TV” is about for me. I hate Fox News, MSNBC and CNN because they cater to the same voyeuristic instinct, but they do it 24/7 (unlike the fleeting moment of seeing what happened in the next lane); and yet, many people actually call it informative and stay tuned to it all day long basing their opinions and life decisions on what is said and shown on these channels and their content. Then again it may go back to the fact that I am getting old and just don’t get it (whatever “it” is).
It seems kids these days don’t really watch TV that much. With YouTube and the Internet they get their entertainment elsewhere. Is it any less voyeuristic? No, actually the younger generations seem even more so interested in every personal aspect of each others lives and are not afraid to share it (very) publicly. I am amused at MTV’s effort to stay relevant through a medium that for their target audience is growing everyday more outdated. At the same time, I am annoyed by their efforts to come up with a fictional (adapted) TV show that is meant to look like a reality show minus the consequences of people’s actions (as several critics have pointed out including this NY Times piece) that targets a very young and impressionable audience. There is plenty out there to worry about when it comes to kids and what they see and hear. The Internet already makes it that much harder to keep kids from seeing and hearing all sorts of crazy things. Do we really need to make this stuff up for them too?