In What Way is "Skins" Realistic?

What Women Really Think
Jan. 20 2011 11:29 AM

In What Way is "Skins" Realistic?

The story of the MTV remake of the British teenage drama Skins has played out just the way the continentals would like it to: the American version is derivative, crap, prudish, and, according to a front page story in today’s New York Times, possibly illegal , since it may violate child pornography laws. Both the British and American versions show implied teen sex, masturbation, assault, only the British version implies a little more strongly. I can’t defend the American version; I am a huge fan of the British show and am afraid to watch MTV’s version, since it’s gotten such terrible reviews.   

But I can say this about the reactions: defenders of both versions, and its creators, always say the same thing about the show: "It may be the most realistic show on television," as Jessica Bennett wrote in Newsweek . This is puzzling, since the show is not at all realistic. The main character is a psychopath who gets hit by a bus, his sister refuses to speak all her life, another character lives in a magical insane asylum, all the parents are never around so never object when the kids go to all night raves in creepy mansions where each room is painted a different neon color, and they have scary encounters with drug dealers.  It's a teenage fantasy about teenage life lived at the heady, reckless extreme. Also the show involves traditional narrative arcs which revolve around a different character in each episode. In other words, it’s drama, not realism.

Advertisement

From this confusion I can only conclude one thing: Reality TV has reversed the meaning of the word "realistic." We have now all fully digested that reality TV is not real at all, but that it involves mostly narcissistic types put in scripted situations and pushed to the extremes. In our minds, reality TV and TV dramas have somehow switched places, so we perceive a very traditional, tightly written television drama as "realistic" and Jersey Shore as fake.

 

Hanna Rosin is the founder of DoubleX and a writer for the Atlantic. She is also the author of The End of Men. Follow her on Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

Frame Game

Hard Knocks

I was hit by a teacher in an East Texas public school. It taught me nothing.

Chief Justice John Roberts Says $1,000 Can’t Buy Influence in Congress. Looks Like He’s Wrong.

After This Merger, One Company Could Control One-Third of the Planet's Beer Sales

Hidden Messages in Corporate Logos

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

How Can We Investigate Potential Dangers of Fracking Without Being Alarmist?

My Year as an Abortion Doula       

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 16 2014 9:22 AM The Most Populist Campaign of 2014
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 15 2014 7:27 PM Could IUDs Be the Next Great Weapon in the Battle Against Poverty?
  Life
Atlas Obscura
Sept. 16 2014 8:00 AM The Wall Street Bombing: Low-Tech Terrorism in Prohibition-era New York
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 15 2014 11:38 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 4  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Listen."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 9:13 AM Clive James, Terminally Ill, Has Written an Exquisitely Resigned Farewell Poem
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 7:36 AM The Inspiration Drought Why our science fiction needs new dreams.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 16 2014 7:30 AM A Galaxy of Tatooines
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.