MTV’s new racy teen drama, Skins, has drawn nationwide attention since its debut. Skins is a scripted drama about overwrought teens, which is a spinoff of the British series of the same name.
MTV premiered the show on Jan. 17, with 3.3 million viewers, 1.2 million of them under 18 according to Nielsen Co., and after the premiere the Parents Television Council put out a release calling Skins “the most dangerous television show for children that we have ever seen.”
The council then called for a federal investigation into whether the drama, which features frank depictions of teen sex and drug use, violates child pornography and exploitation laws.
But this is only the beginning:
On Thursday, Jan. 20, a front-page story in The New York Times introduced the notion that Skins may — with the emphasis on “may” — be trafficking in kiddie porn. Because many of the teenage characters are played by actors who are 17 or younger, executives at MTV “in recent days” have become concerned that some scenes “may violate federal child pornography statutes,” the Times reported, without naming those executives.
Those same unnamed MTV executives later “ordered the producers to make changes to tone down some of the most explicit content,” according to the Times. Due to the controversy, Skins has lost five big-ticket advertisers since its premiere, including Taco Bell, GM, Wrigley, H&R Block and, most recently, Subway
On Jan. 24, Skins creator Brian Elsley spoke out for the first time in response to the controversy surrounding the U.S. adaptation of his hit British drama. In short, he says that the show is “a very serious attempt to get to the roots of young people’s lives.” He called Skins a “very simple and in fact rather old fashioned” television series.
He also says that the show is “about the lives and loves of teenagers, how they get through high school, how they deal with their friends, and also how they circumnavigate some of the complications of sex, relationships, educations, parents, drugs and alcohol. The show is written from the perspective of teenagers [and] reflects their world view.”
When all is said and done, the final decision regarding if Skins is inappropriate for teens is up to the parents. Parents are, after all, responsible for what their children can watch