A Quarter-Life Crisis: 10 Years of ‘Skins’

Take yourself back to a time before Fake News, Trump, Brexit, Revenge Porn and Take Me Out: A time of NuRave, hot indie girls, Emo and house parties.

You know what I love? When telly goes wrong. You remember, when the screen would just go blank, and they’d have to apologise and announce “In the meantime, here’s some music” – hilarious! Hardly happens these days but I was lucky enough to see a fault last night, oh how I laughed. Get  this: Channel 4 accidently ran an advert for Skins, saying that it’s 10 years old, haha, a decade!

Imagine Channel 4 making a mistake like that! Imagine Skins actually being 10 years old! If Skins was really that old then that would make me, a proud member of the “Skins Generation”, nearly 30 and I’d be living some sort of adult life, worrying about rent, serious relationships, working in a 9-5 dead-end job, getting balder, losing my jawline, worrying about my health, only going for a night out once every 6 months and not enjoying it and… Oh fuck, Skins is 10 years old.

Yes, as I sit here writing this, I live in denial that (and no matter how many times I say it, it doesn’t seem real) SKINS IS TEN YEARS OLD!

I wanted to write about the tenth anniversary of the show with some sort of rundown of the best moments, or a list of the most favourable characters but if truth be told, I just feel devastated that I now live in a time where teenagers have no idea about the show and it was first broadcast so long ago. Putting to one side (completely ignoring) the final series (which was crap) and the final generation (which was even crapper, sorry Dakota you utter babe) I made the mistake of watching a few episodes from the first two series (Generation 1) and I couldn’t believe how dated it looked.

Watching a few episodes of Series One alone makes you realise (for the first time to be honest) just how much has changed in the last decade when it comes to fashions in clothes, social attitudes, technology and music. For example, I’d nearly forgotten about NuRave and remember when Emo was a big fad that then disappeared overnight?

The characters themselves are still somewhat recognisable, being wonderful characters that Bryan Elsley based on real people, along with excellent writing from the likes of Jack Thorne. However, with the lack of so many modern aspects of teenage life such as social media, the youth of today would be forgiven for thinking this was a period drama. I’ve mentioned the soundtrack, which features bands such as Crystal Castles and Hadouken, triggering a few fond memories of the carefree summers of the late ‘00s. However, unlike The Inbetweeners which holds up today as the cracking soundtrack for every teen in the 2000s, most of the incidental music in Skins is ill-fitting and just odd. Other than Wild World, of course – that was one of the greatest television moments of the 21st Century.

In regards to the writing and episode plots, we’ll get on to the whole “Skins was too over the top” thing in a bit; watching now I think the first two series of Skins would struggle to get on television. In particular the tragic character of Cassie was rather a dark one for a show aimed at teenagers. Don’t get me wrong, other than Effy, Cassie was without a doubt one of the best characters in the series and her story was the most gripping. The one piece of her story that was so disturbing? Her eating disorder; not the subject itself, in fact the way she dealt with it and how it developed throughout the series was very well researched and written. For those of you who knew somebody who was going through something like this, it was fucking close to the bone and that’s a real credit to the writers. The only bit that concerned me looking back was how the medical and professional help she was receiving was portrayed in a very negative light, almost nightmare-like. It seemed almost as if they were villainising organisations set up to help and support mental illness and that may have deterred those watching and suffering with the disorder to seek professional help.

Maybe I’m thinking too deeply about it, but it seems that almost every adult and parent in Skins are portrayed as some sort of sociopathic monster, the women like Stepford Wives and the men like wild animals. Having said that, I did read an interview somewhere that the parents were supposed to be caricatures of the way teens see their parents. Not sure how well that comes off artistically, mind.

I think the one thing that dates at least the first generation of Skins is that it was filmed in a time before the irony of ‘Hipsters’. Some of the minor characters are so cartoon-like that the show looks like it was written by your mum. You have private school girls with catchphrases such as “oh yah” or “totally jokes” and slang that’ll make you cringe. Also, I hate to say this, but almost every black character in the series is written horrendously. There’s a real lack of diversity in the first few series of Skins. Dev Patel’s character, Anwar, was a very well written however and the story of his struggled relationship with homosexual best friend Maxxie was a very important one. It was an excellent story arc of acceptance and friendship now  more relevant than ever. When watching the entire series back, although he’s never a ‘main character’ per se, it’s no surprise that Dev Patel went on to become the BAFTA-winning movie star he is today. Bloke what played Maxxie did Britannia High, or something…

Homosexuality and sex were explored in a surprisingly adult way with almost every “interaction” resulting in consequences. In particular, Simon Amstell writes a great episode which explores Tony’s experimenting with homoerotic urges, which a teen drama would normally do with the female characters, for obvious titillating reasons.

So what was it like growing up in the “Skins Generation”? Well, not like Skins sadly. Don’t get me wrong, we all had our moments.  We all had at least one ‘Skins party’, took drugs, and had rubbish sex with an ‘Indie Cindy’ in a polka-dot dress after 7 WKDs and thought we’d be romantic by letting her take the walk of shame in our yellow nu-rave retro Adidas hoody. But if you want an accurate representation of being in your late teens in the 2000’s, The Inbetweeners is on the mark. At fifteen, you were more likely sat with your mate daring each other to ‘nudge’ the girl you fancied on MSN Messenger (lOlz xoxo) than go to an all-night rave and get blackmailed in to having sex with your own sister… Yes, that was an actual episode.

So, happy tenth birthday, Skins. Take a watch of the entire first and second series on All 4 now and cast your mind back to carefree time of Nu-rave, Bacardi Breezers, ‘hot indie girls’, polyphonic ringtones and smoking joints in the middle of a park on a long hot summer’s eve. A time before Trump, Brexit, Revenge Porn and Take Me Out; we were the Skins Generation, and we were lovable cunts.

❉ Skins online: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/skins

❉ Official YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/OfficialSkinsTV

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