For teens, MTV's 'Skins' offers allure of the forbidden

Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 24, 2011; 8:44 PM

I'm pretty sure that I scored at least 12 new viewers for MTV over the weekend.

They really don't need my help, given the furor surrounding their new teen-angst-possible-child-porn drama, "Skins."

I hung out at Tysons Corner Center over the weekend, figuring I'd bump into kids buying the kind of skanky, sequined hookup outfits they saw on the show, or rather, the kind that would soon be peeled off the underage bodies on the show.

I wanted to ask them what they thought of the series, which has been running in Britain for a few seasons and was remade into a tamer, American version by MTV. The show was flambeed for its depiction of rampant underage sex and drugs among a group of working-class high school friends after the first episode aired last week. Advertisers including Taco Bell and Subway are running for cover.

The network has its panties in a bunch because executives came to realize, shockingly late, that filming kids without clothes on, unless it's a diaper commercial or baby bath-time films done by parents, is generally considered a felony.

"No. Never heard of it. 'Skins?' What does that mean?" one teenager with dramatic silver eyeshadow said to me, crinkling her nose at my question, as she was looking at towering, pole-dancing high heels that seemed daunting even to me.

"I'm from Kansas," another girl with blonde spirals simply offered, to explain her "Skins"-less existence.

"Nah," is all I got from the indifferent, long-haired kid in skinny jeans and a hoodie, when I asked him whether he had seen the show where his 16-year-old doppelganger displays an impressive porn addiction and bumbles through a quest to "park his Chevy" in a girl's garage.

The nerd working the Tysons food court stand while surfing his laptop? "No. I don't watch MTV."

The gaggle of tweens giggling outside Victoria's Secret, wearing bedroom slippers to the mall? "No. What's that? When is it? What time is it on? Is it good?"

I can't tell whether this is awesome, because these kids have more productive ways to spend their youth, or horrible because they obviously don't listen to the news, and thus weren't clued in to our hand-wringing over the show.

"Well, it's supposed to be really racy? And, well, maybe some people think stuff they filmed could be child porn? Cause the actors were, like, underage?" I explained to the kids, matching their diction as I spoke.

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