Friday, 14 January 2011

The Verisimilutude of “Skins”: Using Sociological Diffusion Analysis to Determine the Accuracy of the Popular British Drama Using Linear Regression, Graner Causality Tests, Empirical Evidence, and Anecdotal Evidence


Skins is indeed a pretty popular show on this island. Like a lot of American teenage dramas i.e. Gossip Girl it seems like most of its audience is younger than the characters depicted on the show, but it definitely has a strong following. The big thing about Skins is it is supposed to be a realistic depiction of life in Britain. It was created as a kind of rejection of the overblown outrageous scenarios seen on other British teenage dramas at the time (and knowing what they show on Skins they must have been really terrible). A teenager had a huge say in the creation of the show and the show has teenage consultants to make sure they keep it somewhat realistic.

I am guessing none of you have seen any episodes of Skins so I will fill you in on the little I know about it. Basically it follows teenagers in Bristol, a city west of London and kind of far away from me (and home of Portishead and Massive Attack and instrumental in the creation of trip-hop) as they do drugs, get pregnant, engage in same-sex relationships, suffer emotional breakdowns and other things of that variety. A big focus is on being realistic. While in most shows characters get their comeuppances shortly after committing some kind of salacious or scandalous action (usually by the end of that episode, anyway), in Skins such characters don’t face such consequences until later if at all, at least according to the New York Times article I read on it. Most of the characters are wealthy. They are in the British equivalent of high school. Continuing with that whole keeping it real approach, Skins started out using completely amateur actors, like Kids by Larry Clark (what a reference! Was that movie even reviewed anywhere outside of the New Yorker when it came out? Speaking of which, look what I bought for the plane ride from Newark. BOOM! I even read the first two pages of the article on psychoanalysis in China before the words got too big and the article became way too boring). The show is also unique because it is filmed with actual quality film stock. At dinner (the only time I watch television here, and this is just an unfortunate consequence of having televisions in our dining hall) all the shows look like youtube videos. Like Coronation Street, which has apparently lasted fifty years  As the dubstep article and this clip proves, British culture is horrendous.

Again, I am not a total expert in the field of the life of the British teenager, but I definitely have more knowledge about them than I do on dubstep. However, like dubstep, my contact with British teenagers has been completely involuntary, and unfortunately more extensive. Skins portrays teens as constantly using recreational drugs and drinking constantly, and I would say that this is pretty true all in all. In high school and colleges, the only things that matter for British students is tests at the end of the year. So basically they don’t have any tests or essays that are meaningful in the interim. This frees them up to go clubbing and engage in various buffoonery beforehand. Some follow soccer, though many of the Asians seem more into it than the Britons. A lot of them, especially the Indians seem to enjoy weightlifting and do it almost every day. Fun Fact: They all wear very expensive gloves and the amount of bicep curl variations they (exclusively) do would put any Pitt fraternity brother to shame. But there are club nights every weeknight at random clubs. I went to one hosted at LSE and as stated in the dubstep post it was terrible. A lot of house music, very drunk people, and it was too loud to talk to anyone, not that you would have really wanted to anyway. But people here do drink a lot. There aren’t any common rooms where people sit around and watch tv in my dormitory. The only social space is a bar in the basement. Social life definitely revolves around drinking.

Skins also deals with the consequences of sex and STDs seem to be an actually big issue in Britain. Earlier this year I had a terrible fever that thankfully got me out of attending a Benny Benassi concert. After the night of the concert I decided the fever was annoying and went to the local NHS for a prescription to deal with it. While the doctor did give me a prescription and confirmed my fever, he spent most of the time bragging about their STD-detection system and cajoling me to have my urine sample tested for syphilis (I had to bring a urine sample to my doctor visit, I don’t know if that is standard protocol for every NHS visit in England but it might be). Three weeks later, waiting for my public economics class to start I received a text from a random number saying “the results of your syphilis test were NEGATIVE. That means you DON’T have syphilis.” It startled the hell out of me until I remembered signing up for the notification at the clinic. I was actually going to write down one of your cell numbers on the “Send my results to this number” form but then I realized it would a) cost significant duckets b) definitely wake you up c) you might actually have syphilis, and that wouldn’t be very nice to send you a text from NHS saying otherwise, now would it? In sum, STDs seem to be somewhat of an issue and Skins seems to accurately depict that aspect.

Skins also seems to focus on religious and racial issues and gay issues. I haven’t seen any racism or racist stuff in London, though I know the skinhead culture isn’t the most tolerant in the world. I did see some racist British nationalist party protesting outside of the Royal Courts once but besides that it hasn’t been an issue. My Indian friend thinks he is mistreated by the Pakistani owners of our local convenience store but I don’t really see it. Britain and London are pretty godless places, especially compared to parts of America and I haven’t seen any religious issues. While gay characters on Skins often face problems, I haven’t seen any issues regarding that in London. I’m assuming they are more tolerant of gays here in general but I honestly haven’t seen that many.

The series does seem to fall flat in other areas. For example, to my knowledge none of the characters have ever read any journal articles concerning the delegation of monetary policy authority to independent central banks or the gradual convergence in Western European telecommunications policy in eighties, which has basically taken up all my time that isn’t spent running or answering questionsthataretoolongforfacebook, and the same is true for most of my friends. But again, my British sample could be skewed by the fact that I go to a school devoted to the studying of economics. But basically British teenagers like to drink copious amounts of alcohol, do drugs, and go to clubs where awful music is played. Americans in my program seem to generally follow this pattern as well, only they often lose various personal items and significant amounts of money in the process as well.

As for the American version of Skins, I would expect it to be a lot like Gossip Girl and other shows where rich people with too much money get drunk and do drugs without facing many tough consequences. However, the show is apparently being set in Baltimore, so the whole wealthy character scenario seems pretty unrealistic. But after watching the trailer it seems like more of the same. I think it should do alright financially considering how Jersey Shore demonstrated television viewers love awful programming geared towards drinking and clubbing.

Speaking of awful cultural imports, don’t think the Jersey Shore phenomenon has evaded Europe. The Europeans wouldn’t shut up about Jersey Shore the first week when I told them I was from New Jersey. It has led to the reality series The Only Way is Essex, basically a British Jersey Shore with “actors” whose English is even harder to understand than their New Jersey counterparts.

This post features a special question from Lindsay from London, UK. She writes: “What exactly is Eurotrash?”

I honestly have no idea. After looking it up on Wikipedia I realized that it is the name of a show that I have seen on in the reception area of our dorm. While I have filled my daily (really hopefully lifetime) quota of British television series synopses I will tell you that it is ostensibly a “comedy” series looking at weird European things. As with all British television shows, don’t watch it under any circumstances


  1. While Eurotrash may be a show in your host country, it also refers to a music genre summed up nicely in this classic hit by Sun Stroke Project & Olia Tira:

    Congratulations on not having Syphilis!

  2. Good gravy I can't believe I forgot about this. While they lip/sax synched everything its still quite a performance. I need to find a way to attend the 2011 Eurovision Contest in Germany to witness further Eastern European shenanigans.