Skins

Skins was a British program created by Bryan Elsley and Jamie Brittain, and aired from 2007 to 2013 on the E4 channel. It’s a story about the lives of teenagers from Bristol, England and discusses controversial issues such as eating disorders and substance abuse, among others. It has 4 series but that constitutes for 7 seasons. The first series is comprised of the first two seasons, followed by a second and third series, with a new cast for each. The last season consisted of only three episodes that ran an hour long, highlighting the lives of three chosen characters from the previous seasons.

I attempted to examine the soap by using Discourse Analysis and I chose to focus on the 6th full season. The 5th season introduced these characters and their relationships. This one builds on those relationships and deeper problems develop. The 6 th season is not connected to any of the other seasons aside from the 5th.

Media Discourse analyzes the interactions that took place between the
characters in the drama. Franky is torn between her love for brothers Matty and Nick, Mini is distressed because she was carrying Alo’s child, and everyone is mourning the death of Grace due to a car accident while on vacation. It especially took a hit to her best friend, Liv and to her boyfriend, Rich. Media Discourses are also oriented to non-present viewers, and in this case, Skins has a global teenage audience, despite originally being aired just in the UK.

To add, the show has a lot of  expletives and explicit content, so it is not surprising how it is only broadcast on cable. Media Discourse also encourages a public form of interaction. Skins was quite active online. They had supplementary videos of the characters doing just about anything and it was broadcast on a very teenage territory – on the Internet. However, the most important aspect of Media Discourse is knowing that it is a produced show, so the messages produced should be reviewed. How the actors were cast, how their characters are written and presented, how the relationships unfold and progress, and even its effect on the viewers, conscious or unconscious, should be assessed.

In Discourse Analysis, we attempt to uncover the hidden relations of power present. In Skins, we see how Mini, the Queen Bee of the group, has power over everyone in their circle of friends, especially over her boyfriend, Alo. Matty asserts his power over Nick because he’s quite the eccentric older brother who doesn’t care about much, and because Nick loves his brother, he gives in almost all the time. Franky constantly defies her two gay military dads by running away. Liv is constantly drinking and doing drugs to numb the pain of losing her best friend and Rich almost drove himself mad trying to forget as well; so we see that even in death, Grace has such a strong hold over her friends.

Other than the characters, I think it is also good to discuss that the program is shown on cable television, so people have to pay to watch it, or if not, they can buy box sets of DVDs of the show. So there’s that aspect of capitalism as well. The ideal subjects for the text are, of course, teenagers, with those living in the UK and other greatly liberated countries being the ones who can identify with the show better.

There are also so many things left unsaid, not just in this season, but also in the entire run of the program. Mini and Alo had a daughter, but how were they going to raise her when they both weren’t even in college. Rich was finally moving on from Grace, and apparently from his friends as well now that he was going to attend university. Matty and Nick made up, and so did Mini and Liv. Franky finally resolved some of her own issues and was last seen in a rehabilitation facility, which loyal viewers would recognize as the same place that Cassie, one of leads in the first series, also stayed in. So was that an allusion to a connecting storyline? There’s also the presence of counter discourses in the show, like how Franky came to have 2 gay dads from the military. Liv’s sister stuck in jail and her mother putting her faith in rocks. The question of Alo going to college or taking over his father’s farm? You can build a myriad of these in just 10 episodes.

The production process of the program takes place mostly in Bristol, with the exception of the first episode taking place in Morocco. What I commend about this show is how teenagers can easily identify with the characters. Even if they’re very British, you still can observe their universal archetypes. Aside from that, the cast is also composed of up-and-coming actors and actresses that aren’t glamorized. You see barely a smidgen of makeup on their faces and they wear simple outfits. I believe this adds to the charm of the show because it made sure even the small factors remained true to life.

The ideologies I saw behind the show are power relations, as I previously discussed. We can also see a bit of class relations because while Alo and Rich are best friends, Alo is a simple farm boy while Rich lives a comfortable life as part of the middle class. There is also LGBT and SOGIE references as presented by the 2 gay fathers as well as gay supporting characters. There are also a lot of issues about identity, which I think is a normal thing gone through by teenagers during the transition years from child to adult. Lastly, there is a lot of sex and
violence present in the text. Here, it presents that even the girls are the ones initiating sex and that violence can happen between siblings and friends.

I think the messages the creators of the show intended for the viewers to understand that these problems are acknowledged and that they are not alone in experiencing them. I also think that because the creators of the show are father and son, it points out that in the end, we are saved by our family and friends, no matter how bad things get. We understand that we’re all just trying to fight our own demons and we forgive each other for being lost along the way. It’s present also in similar texts, such as Gossip Girl and 90210, but Skins is more honest so I think it is more effective in delivering messages to viewers.

What I like about Skins is their treatment of series finales. It will always end on a good note. Not a cheesy, happily-ever-after ending but rather the cathartic kind. You assume that these kids will still mess up, because old habits die hard, but there is a catharsis in seeing them truly and finally happy about something, after experiencing nothing but drama in the first 9 episodes. The audience experiences nostalgia as well, seeing that the season, along with the characters you’ve grown fond of and storylines you follow, are bidding their farewell.

Personally, I think Skins is a very honest retelling of what teenagers are doing, what they feel, and how they think in this day and age. I acknowledge that it still is a TV show, so some scenes are exaggerated, but let’s not forget how life imitates art, and how teenagers can accept the things they see on television as real life. Viewers now hold some form of responsibility by being critical about the content of the show, by choosing what to accept and what to distinguish as reality. However, I also think that responsibility lies heavily on Elsley and Brittain, on how they will justify all the controversial issues and scenes presented and
how they will deliver the media messages clearly to the viewers.


Source:

Skins (UK TV Series). (n.d.). Retrieved October 9, 2014 from Wikipedia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skins_(UK_TV_series)

Supplementary program website:
http://www.channel4.com/programmes/skins

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