This Monday the last ever episode of the cult show Skins will air at 10pm. The first series was originally aired in January 2007, and was praised for its avant-garde graphic content and its daring filming style. Skins has taken almost every risk known to TV drama and has had comparably few regrets when this is taken into account.
For the final six episode series, the original father and son partnership of Brittain and Elsley decided to bring back three key protagonists. Viewers were offered an insight into what happened to the characters once their teenage years were behind them. Now in their early-twenties they enter the disorientating world of early adulthood. As an ambassador of the “early-twenties” community, I am far from impressed. Yet bear with me, for unlike others this Skins critique will not focus on the over-indulgence of drugs, violence and sexual intercourse.
Yes, the music, shooting and scriptwriting is once again, original, ground breaking and fresh. However, one cannot help but question the out-of-date chauvinistic style through which many of the young women in this series are presented. Effy can only gain knowledge and success by seducing two different men; Cassie is convinced to capitalize on her looks for money and finally, in the first of Cook’s episodes, we see him attempting to juggle two women along with a new-found career as a drug dealer.
Effy, who represents the young female professional, climbs from the role of hedge-fund tea lady to stock trader. However, this quick ascension of the career ladder is only made possible through an insider-trading scandal in which she takes advantage of a fellow city worker’s powerful infatuation with her. This form of emotional and sexual blackmail, coupled with regular shagging sessions with her boss, allows Effy to achieve success of unrealistic proportions.
Meanwhile, Cassie is seduced by the image which a photographer and admirer has created of her, until she makes the brave decision of attempting to capitalise on her looks through a fashion shoot. This causes voyeuristic and romantic jealousy on the former photographer’s part as he accuses Cassie of being a “clothes whore”. Eventually, Cassie is forced to take on the more traditional maternal role and care for her younger sibling in the absence of their father’s mental stability.
As we await the second episode of “Rise”, we only know of two women, both sexually involved with Cook. One is his coke-sniffing sex-on-a-plate girlfriend, while the other flaunts her sexuality with the hope of seizing Cook for herself. The latter rather depressingly advertises her romantic connection with the local drug dealer as a symbol of high status.
Both the male and female characters are of course, by the nature of the series, intentionally dysfunctional. The worrying influence on viewers with regards to the glorification of sex and drugs has long since been discussed. However, on analysis many of the female characters from this series suffer from stereotypically apparently gender-related issues: “hysteria”, “nymphomania” and “narcissism”. This, in my opinion, is just as great an issue.
What is ultimately missing from this series is the strong set of female characters from the bygone years. Characters such as the headstrong and talented musician Jal are now few and far between. Unlike Jal, very few of these women appear capable of solo performances, unassisted by their male contemporaries or feminine charms. The “Naomily” storyline portrays the only functional women and relationship so far within the series. It is just ever so slightly unfortunate that one of the only characters who appears to enjoy success on her own terms while maintaining a healthy romantic relationship is killed off by cancer – it was all going a little too well I suppose…
With the recently released results from the Higher Education Statistics Agency showing female graduates narrowly beating their male peers in the race for employment, I can’t help but think that the cutting edge series is failing to keep up with the times. Yes, before you start commenting “not another student media feminist rant”, I really think that the possible impact the show has on the 783,000 viewers that this series has attracted is a matter which should not easily be dismissed.
I was fourteen when I watched the first episode of Skins. I was, like others around me, to grow up and realise just how unrealistic the hedonistic lifestyle was for any aspiring “cool” adolescent. With tea-girls waking up to become stock-traders and waitresses working part-time as international supermodels, any young woman would have to be pretty naïve to assign these lifestyles to the grounds of normality. I can only hope that whilst watching this particular series, young women bear in mind that genuine members of their sex can achieve far more than their fictionalised representatives.