'Skins' creator on controversy: 'Skins is in fact rather old fashioned'

Skins-MTV-creatorImage Credit: MTV; Inset: Martin McNeil/WireImage.comIn a statement released to MTV News, Bryan Elsley — who created the U.K. TV series Skins with his son Jamie Brittain in 2007, as well as the U.S. version of the show currently airing on MTV — addresses the current controversy surrounding Skins‘ depiction of the sex and drug use of teenage kids by actors who are actual teenagers themselves. Elsley calls the show a “rather old fashioned television series,” and adamantly defends its content as “a very serious attempt to get to the roots of young people’s lives. It tries to tell the truth. Sometimes that truth can be a little painful to adults and parents.” The full statement is below: 

Skins is a very simple and in fact rather old fashioned television series. It’s about the lives and loves of teenagers, how they get through high school, how they deal with their friends, and also how they circumnavigate some of the complications of sex, relationships, educations, parents, drugs and alcohol. The show is written from the perspective of teenagers, reflects their world view, and this has caused a degree of controversy both in the UK and the USA.

In the UK, viewers and commentators very quickly realized that although there are some sensational aspects to the show, Skins is actually a very serious attempt to get to the roots of young people’s lives. It deals with relationships, parents, death, illness, mental health issues, the consequences of drug use and sexual activity. It is just that these are characterized from the point of view of the many young people who write the show and has a very straightforward approach to their experiences; it tries to tell the truth. Sometimes that truth can be a little painful to adults and parents.

Consequences do flow from incorrect or selfish behavior but in the show, these are shown to be unexpected, hard to predict, and more to do with the loss of friendship than anything else, which in any context, is a disastrous outcome.

We proceed from the idea, not that teenagers are inherently likely to misbehave, but rather that they are intensely moral and disposed to make judgments on their own and others’ behaviour. Sometimes, but not always, they get things wrong. In this teenagers are remarkably similar to adults. Their morals may not be the same as those of their parents and teachers, but they are nevertheless, highly developed and active in their world.

When viewers have taken the time to watch the show in a little more depth, they are less concerned about the behavior of the characters. Teenagers can be loyal, supportive, dedicated, focused, and capable of making informed value judgments about their lives. In the pilot episode of Skins, it’s possibly easy to overlook the story wherein a young boy sets off to a party to sell drugs and have sex, but in fact, does neither of these things, because, he senses that he has been manipulated by friends and does not feel ready to have sex with someone he does not know properly.

Skins is a traditionally made television series which has won countless international awards and gained a worldwide audience for stories about the joy, misery and challenges of being a teenager. The show has been used in anti-drug campaigns, has drawn praise for its portrayal of mental health issues and explorations of bereavement, sexuality, bullying and gender stereotyping.

I have lost count of the letters we have been sent by viewers who tell us that they have been able to approach their parents or teachers with their difficulties after watching the show. It is something that we take a great deal of pride in and which can unfortunately be eclipsed by some of the negative attention.

Our approach is not careless. We’ve created a supportive and protective environment for everyone working on the show. And of course abide by the law, and give respect to our work colleagues who in this case, are young energetic and exciting people with so much to offer to an imperfect world.

Read more:
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‘Skins': MTV releases racy new teaser, GM places show on ‘do not buy’ list
MTV’s new teen hit ‘Skins': Could it be flirting with child pornography?
MTV’s ‘Skins’ reveals strong start

Comments (61 total) Add your comment
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  • jordan

    Kind of failed to address what the controversy is REALLY about: the age of the actors. Otherwise, the PTC outrage would merely be Gossip Girl 2.0.

    • Mike

      Quite frankly, who cares. The age of consent should be lowered to 16 anyways…it’s already 17 in many states.

      • jordan

        Well, your response is exactly why it is such a big deal. If you think the age of consent should be lowered to 16, you need to enroll in an adolescent psychology course.

  • Summer Bay

    Very well said & while i don’t agree 100%, i doubt most Americans could be so eloquent.

  • JBD

    Finally Elsey says what I’ve been trying to. The series is about the core of teen lives, not the drugs or the sex. It’s about their problems. When I was 17 and watched Skins, for one hour I felt like someone actually understood teenagers without talking down to us. It had nothing to do with sex, booze, and drugs and everything to do with the message…something PTC and parents seem to have forgotten.

    • Junaid

      this is how media gives morons like you a false sense of security. everyone has been a teen once, you are not any special. unrealistic and glorified represenation of sex and drugs and dysfunctional lives is a lame solution..

      • JBD

        Sex and drugs are usually things used to cover real problems. And you’re not much help either. Telling teenagers they’re nothing special? Why live? And you wonder why kids turn to drugs and booze and then kill themselves…

      • Junaid

        my point was being a teenager is something everyone shares i.e we have all been there and can relate (its not unique to an individual). and Skins is clearly an exagerated commercialized glamorized and dysfunctional representation of it.

      • Nemo

        No one shared my experiences as a teenager (unless I have a clone somewhere living in an alternate dimension). Yes, many teenagers went to high school, joined clubs, etc. But being a teenager IS completely unique to an individual – as is every aspect of one’s personal life. Skins shows you a glimpse of someone’s life (and maybe it is exaggerated b/c it’s a TV SHOW) but it isn’t a far off representation of some teenagers today.

      • Junaid

        Nemo, Its like saying two pregnant girls are unique. Obviously no two people are exactly the same, but teenagers can and do relate to each other immensely as they go through very similar issues growing up. Skins gives you a representation of some teenagers but that is no different than watching Osbornes to get a glimpse of family life.

  • SXiPPY

    You know at first after reading what the headline manipulated; I was going to say “Good old fashioned TV is a adults pushing their separated twin beds together, not boning in an alley”, but then I read the statement and I have to agree. I love Skins, the original and far superior UK show, but the same rule likely applies here. Teens are curious and experimental and dabble in drugs, carnal temptation and gluttony. The show only depicts what blind negligent parents don’t want to face up to and for the it should not be lambasted.

  • olivia


    • Andrew

      LOL! How wrong you are

    • deedeedragons


    • axn

      uh… while I agree that this show is such an overexageration, please don’t use CAPS Lock or no one will take you seriously!!

    • Akane

      Don’t really understand the big deal, if this actors are underage didn’t the parents had to sign some kind of release. Anyway not really watching because I am faithful to the original, oh and all this “publicity” would make more teenagers want to watch.

  • Jeff

    The only reason this show needs to go is because it’s a horrible remake of the original. The american prudes just need to chill the f*ck out.

    • Haley

      You are so right. But anything American’s remake from British television is never nearly as good.

      • Olive

        Queer As Folk was ten times better

  • Caio

    I couldn’t have said it any better. I’m gonna link this to anyone who criticizes the show.

    • Josh

      What if they want to criticize the horrible acting?

      • Caio

        Then I’ll go right along with them. The acting is horrible for most of them, Tony is excruti,tingm and the carbon-copy episode was awful, but there’s nothing wrong with the essence of the show.

  • JoshP

    The first epsiode is nothing like that note. It was a bunch of self richeious brats setting out to ruin their lives before the begin.

    • Junaid


    • lynn

      Please learn to spell

  • Ken

    To me, after the end of the second season, you honestly don’t want to trade lives with these kids. Most of them are just straight up fuck-ups, and hey, they are lovable (some) and fun to watch, but they aren’t role models, I personally didn’t find them “cool” but I loved the show, because hey, s1 is a bit of a mixed bag. It’s more about character explanation, and then s2, ah, that’s when you see these characters in very personal/intimate moments that in life will change them, and that’s when the show became less 1-dimensional for me.

  • Angie

    I am 17 years old and I surely do not know of any one who’s teenage world view is anything like this show whatsoever. If they wanted it to come off as realistic, then make it realistic, not this exaggerated, horridly acted crap.

    • Luna

      Hi Angie. I’m 18, and I TOTALLY agree with everything you said. I have never encountered nor heard of any of these ridiculous scenarios to happen in real life in all my 4 years of high school. What a crap show.

      • JBD

        That’s the point. Do you honestly know the lives of kids in your school? Would they tell you what they personally go through? Some of the plots aren’t entirely realistic, but the characters are. The British version is fantastic, and I’m still being patient with the American one.

      • Mike

        To Luna and Angie, because you ARE in fact only 17 and 18, and lack a proper education, I will not trash you. I will say, however, that I know MANY teenagers who had/have lives like this. It is also extremely ignorant, arrogant, ethnocentric, etc.etc, to assume that a country of 310 million people would lead leaves vastly different from your own. I’ve been able to go to primary schools and colleges across the country, and the regional differences are VAST.

      • Junaid

        To Mike, not sure how old you are so i will give you benefit of the doubt. 310 million people do lead different lives and Skins represents a very very very miniscule percentage of them. it is not a treatise in “real american teens” as some believe (just because the promotion clip says so ;) but a glamorized version of dysfunctional behavior. Shows like this do only one thing: they give the normal the sense that the depicted behavior is acceptable and cool. i am sure some out there think MTV’s snookie is a role model too.

    • Menchy

      I’m also 17, and I disagree. I think there are plenty of teenagers who do all of these things. While they might not be your friends, it doesn’t mean they don’t exist. This show exaggerates somewhat, but don’t pretend there aren’t lots of teenagers that have sex, drink, do drugs, or are involved in criminal activity.

      • Angie

        Don’t get me wrong. I know pleeenty of people that drink/do drugs/have sex. That’s practically my whole school actually, myself included to an extent. I’m not naive. But the creators of this show can’t say that the way they are depicting teenage life is through a “teenager’s perspective.” They are depicting a teenage life through an adults perspective of what they think high school is like in the present time. Of course it’s going to be exaggerated, but if you’re going to exaggerate something, don’t call it realistic.

      • Junaid

        Hi Menchy, I don’t think anybody is saying there are no such teenagers. but that Skins is just as much about “real american teens” as Osbornes was about “real american family”

      • Caio

        The pilot is somewhat overfetched. Partying, drinking, sex and sometimes drugs are in A LOT of teenagers lives, Angie, so just because it doesn’t show your teenage experience specifically, doesn’t mean it’s an adult’s portrayal of a teenager’s perspective.

        All the writers in this show are young adults, and have been out of high school for only a few years, so what they’re writing is definetly much closer to our perspective than an “adult’s”. The personal dramas and sufferings, at least in the UK one, are definetly the closer thing I’ve ever seen to represent what a teenager feels on TV.

      • JBD


        They can say they’re writing it through a “teenage perspective.” All the writers are 21 and younger.

    • rob

      During high school we drank so much, we got wasted every weekend, on summers 3-4 times a week. Sex, alcohol, weed in every combination. Sometimes I miss those days, no worries, no responsibility, just having a good time. More than half of us have at least one college degree, no ones life got ruined.

  • Liz Lemon

    What controversy?! There is no controversy…no one cares about this show.
    Show the UK version and then we’ll talk about controversy.

  • Del Taco

    nice try Elsley………

  • mawhi

    yeah, that’s what the series is about. doesn’t make the acting any better though.

  • mickey


  • Nuno90

    Skins UK > Skins US

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