Has MTV’s ‘Skins’ Campaign Gone Too Far?

by | January 13, 2011 at 8:57 PM | Skins, TV News

Rachel Thevenard & James Newman in Skins (Jason Nocito/MTV)

Rachel Thevenard & James Newman in Skins (Jason Nocito/MTV)

An Idaho teen anonymously brags about “losing his V card,” adding, “it was great, but had to leave the b-tch after.”  A Kansan claims, “after waking up in my friends dorm who is a guy, I found pictures from the night before… threesome.”  A Facebook app disingenuously warns that it is only for people over the age of 21, then questions people about whether they have committed sins ranging from the benign (lying to your parents, starting a foodfight) to the illegal and immoral (having sex with someone twice your age, doing whippets), before assigning participants a wildness score — the wilder, the better. The same application informs players, “76% of teens have raided their parents liquor cabinet. 39% of girls have streaked.”  A promo clip features teens in the midst on an apparent orgy bragging about their exploits with sex and drugs.  They are all part of the provocative marketing campaign for MTV’s new teen drama “Skins.”

Watch Full Episodes Of The Original “Skins” On XfinityTV

The show, based on the British series of the same name, promises an unflinching, realistic look at teenage life, without censoring any of the sex, drinking and drugs.  It’s like “Degrassi” minus the tacked on moral lessons where the characters quickly come to regret their nights of partying.  Or “Jersey Shore” minus the tanning.  Predictably, some people find this offensive. The Parents Television Council is as outraged as it was by the promos for “Gossip Girl’s” OMFG billboard campaign, and it still is by a glimpse of nudity on “NYPD Blue” back in 2003.  In a statement that undoubtedly thrilled both MTV and the show’s producers, the PTC proclaimed, “‘Skins’ is the most dangerous television show for children that we have ever seen.”

Do they have a point?  On one hand, it is misleading to produce a series about teens then give it a TV-MA rating.  Clearly, the target audience is people who are officially too young to watch the show.  By encouraging viewers to celebrate their own exploits, it crosses the line from chronicling a group of fictional characters to endorsing real life teen sex and drug use.

Preview “Skins” Here:

On the other hand, many teenagers do drink, get high and have sex.  Every time a television show or film offers up an unsanitized version of teen life, people freak out. There is nothing shown in the promos that has not happened on “Gossip Girl” or “Degrassi,” or “Heathers” or any of the teen sex comedies of the 1980s like “Risky Business.”

Thanks to the Internet, teenagers have unlimited, unfettered access to actual porn.  That makes it hard to get worked up over what looks like a really entertaining television show that focuses as much on the emotional struggles of a group of socially and ethnically diverse characters as their sometimes edgy behavior.

The promos also highlight that one of the characters is Muslim and another is a lesbian.  The teens are shown worrying about their relationships with their families, playing musical instruments and holding down part time jobs.   In other words, typical coming of age storylines.  One could make a case that “Hannah Montana” and “Sonny With A Chance” are equally irresponsible, because they send the message to young girls that they should aspire to be celebrities, and that anyone can be a star.

One thing is clear: “Skins” has people talking and it has not even premiered yet.  That’s the measure of a successful marketing campaign.

“Skins” premieres Monday, Jan. 17 at 10/9c on MTV.