The Decay of Skins

When Skins first graced our screens in 2007, it was groundbreaking.

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I watched it. I probably shouldn’t have, seeing as at the time I was 14. The first episode was layered and layered with shock value – wanking, drugs, sex, booze, prostitutes, an overdose – you name it. Of course the press cried out in disgust, condemning the show, but that seems to be the signifier of greatness, these days. As series one progressed the main protagonist, Tony – who’s set up as the ring leader of the young hedonist troupe – slowly loses his friends, due mainly to the fact he is a total prick. He embodies the reality of ‘lad’ culture, in part. Yes, he gets the girls, maintains top physique through rigorous exercise, uses his geeky sidekick Sid and his long suffering, highly strung Dad as punching bags and regularly intoxicated. But the smartarse finds, shock horror, if you act like that much of a dick to a person, you can’t just pass it off as a charming intrinsic part of your personality. You best friend will have enough of you, your girlfriend will leave you when you’ve treated her like shit for so long, especially if you go down on your gay mate in front of her. In the end, Tony is left with nothing. Oh, and then he’s hit by a bus. More than just a teen drama, Skins served to display how popular media representations are ridiculous – which ridiculed the journalists who peddled them, but also the teens that admired and aspired to them. Both genuinely funny and genuinely poignant at times, skins hit a fine balance, which was difficult to recreate. Series Two, while not a patch on the original series, displayed a valiant effort. In binary opposition to the Tony of Series One, series two juxtaposes him with a helpless, pityingly pathetic and sweet childlike Tony. The death of Chris was maybe unneeded, but heartbreaking nonetheless, emphasising the emotion of Jal’s storyline. The performances of the largely inexperienced cast are outstanding, and the largely inexperienced writers made some great, memorable TV.

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Series 3 largely left me with a bad taste in my mouth. With the exception of the first-love lesbian Naomi and Emily storyline, which I totally fell in love with, I didn’t much care for many of the characters, especially not the chief character, Effy. The writers seemed to romanticise depression in her, the tortured, effortlessly cool and beautiful girl that you can’t help but love, no matter how many times you push her away… honestly, it just pissed me off. She was a two dimensional rose tinted idea, but unlike Tony, there is no real display that her harsh treatments of her ‘friends’ and the boys who chase after her, endlessly, resulted in any consequences on her. Poor Panda. Effy treated her like shit, she was lonely with a mad mum and a extradited boyfriend, and the moment she gives into Cook’s seduction, Effy crucifies her – Cook, who Effy repeatedly threw aside like a shitty nappy. Series 4 seem to devolve into poorly planned chaos, with the ridiculous murderous psychologist, which arguably demonises help available for the depressed; which is ridiculous. If anything, glorify psychologists, because they help the mentally ill a lot more than letting the issue fester. Why they thought asserting a distrust in psychologists to a impressionable demographic was a worthy idea is frankly mystifying to me. In its defense, I did find the “Katie Fucking Fitch” episode a surprise masterstroke,  tackling a subject that while not an obvious choice, was highly emotive and highly relatable. Katie’s reaction to her barren womb was expertly written, and tear rendering- hitting home a fear of the future, and that a huge life decision she had taken for granted, one she probably would thought, in the periphery of her mind, she’d always choose, was snatched away. The problems of Emily, who had consistently been the more likable twin, seem ridiculous in this comparative context, and the audience really grows a unexpected soft spot for sassy, tough but undeniably vulnerable Katie Fitch.

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The mess of Season 5 and 6 aren’t truly even worth mentioning. Less than tactful approach to eating disorder, from Cassie to Mini, which hardly seemed a footnote in her personality and with her pregnancy its swept under the carpet, unlike Cassie, who’s loneliness and deep rooted desire of some form of control in her life had consumed her and corroded her mental well being. Also a Mini is a car, Minnie is a name. Franky is consistently unlikable, her storyline seems to a total inversion of Tony’s – from social outcast, her arrogance grows and the boys throw themselves at herself destructive nature. The cast are bland, with a few likable traits in Rich, Liv, Alo and Grace, though both the wedding and death of Grace seem ridiculous. The cast as a whole are (and I know this seems a ridiculous point) just way too attractive. Series One dealt with ordinary looking people. Yes, you might think them beautiful, but they wouldn’t look out of place walking into your six form. However, if 6 foot blond Mini or the embodiment of macho Matty graced your 9am Philosophy class, you’d know about it.

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Viewers of the show can hardly be blamed for missing the point: skins isn’t meant to glorify this drugs and – the writers seem to have forgot that themselves, opting for popularity over quality and maintaining the idea of ‘cool’ that the first series exposed as ridiculous in the first place.The future of skins is allegedly a blend of past characters initially seems appealing. I liked the idea of finding out what the cast of series one has got up to, as Sketch and Anwar, in their final episode, play the five year game – guessing where their friends will be and what they’ll be doing five years on from that date. That episode showed in 2008, and airing in March 2013, this will show if he was right. I guess they win in the end, though. I have seen every episode because as bad as it’s got, watching skins just seems to be a habit I keep at. And though I don’t have high hopes for season 7, I reserve judgement- naively hoping for my expectations to be wrongly low.

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3 thoughts on “The Decay of Skins

    • Excellent article! Although, unlike you I found the second generation to be amazing, excluding the sloppy final episodes. Effy and her love triangle did become somewhat annoying, but for me the Fitch family made up for that and really made that generation a gem. Katie managed to become one of if not my favorite character, and I think it goes without saying that Naomi and Emily were amazing. Fitch spinoff!

  1. Interesting point about how Tony was like the opposite of Franky. Tony started off as a really noticeable person but became helpless whereas Franky started off being really lonely and desperate to fit in but became someone who always got a lot of attention. But I think it is worth a mention that Tony is kind of like Matty; both of them were in very helpless situations, Tony had to relearn everything and Matty was stuck in Morroco.

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