Skins Wins

It hardly surprised me to hear that MTV was criticized for its content this week.

Any one of the network’s many shows could be objected to. A recent episode of Jersey Shore had Snooki treating a hangover by just remaining drunk, taking shots with tourists and getting arrested. Teen Mom 2 featured a teenage mother who verbally and physically assaulted her own mother after being deemed an unfit parent.

But the criticism levelled at MTV didn’t target any of these so-called ‘reality’ shows. Instead the focus was on a British import called Skins, which has caused a fuss amongst advertisers and the Parents Television Council.

Skins is meant to portray a realistic version of being a modern teenager. The show has nothing to do with vampires, the Upper East Side or anonymous bloggers, and more to do with out-of-control parties, sex and drugs. The fuss around the show reminds me of a childhood favourite of my own. I was just a baby when Degrassi premiered on CBC. I caught syndicated episodes when I was in elementary school and, with the exception of the dated clothing and unfamiliar references, that show taught me what to expect in high school. If you smoked a joint, rehab would soon follow. If you had sex, watch out! Becoming a teen mom would be the next logical step. If you drank at a party while your friend’s parents were out of town, the cops would be called, someone would get alcohol poisoning and your boyfriend would cheat on you.

Degrassi should and has been applauded for representing realistic situations and has not shied away from difficult issues such as abortion, homosexuality and drug use.

What astounds me is that this show premiered in the late ’80s. Recent shows have been unable to fill the hole that Degrassi left. Even The Next Generation plays more like an afterschool special.

The refreshing nature of Skins is partly due to the lack of immediate consequences and the non-judgement of the characters’ behaviour. Degrassi never steered me the wrong way in high school, even with frank discussion on teen pregnancies, suicide and drug use. Degrassi brought much-needed attention to teenage issues, which is what Skins has done in its native England.

MTV should examine the rest of its content before bowing down to critics of a fictionalized show.

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