MTV's highly anticipated new teen drama "Skins," a remake of a popular British show, scored strong ratings in its Monday premiere. There's just one problem: It might be considered child pornography. According to a front page New York Times article, MTV execs concerned about potentially violating child porn laws are having a "flurry of meetings," even ordering producers to re-edit future episodes and fretting about who might face criminal prosecution and jail time. The network says all episodes of "Skins" will comply with legal and social standards, but with a core cast ranging in age from 15 to 19, is MTV still at risk? (Watch a trailer for "Skins")
Yes, it's pornographic and dangerous: In its "attempt to portray teenage 'reality,'" MTV is really just offering up "pornography, underage sex, drug use, peeping toms, vulgarity, grand theft auto, and sexual assault," says Erin R. Brown at NewsBusters. The network has crossed the line this time, and really "bumped up the smut and sleaze level on television" by showing teen sex and drug use without consequence. From the network that also airs "16 and Pregnant," that's just "hypocritical."
"'Skins': A New Low, Even for MTV"
Well, it's no worse than "Gossip Girl": This is nothing new, says Amy M. Adler, a New York University law professor who focuses on issues of free speech, art, and pornography, as quoted in The New York Times. From Miley Cyrus's scandalous Vanity Fair photos to "Gossip Girl," the media frequently walks a dangerous line when it comes to teen sexuality, often coming dangerously close to flouting "child pornography laws."
"A racy show with teenagers steps back from a boundary"
But underage actors are involved here: The "Skins" cast members are actually in their teens, says James Poniewozik in Time, which makes the child pornography question trickier: Just "a picture of a naked minor can itself be ruled child porn if it's sufficiently sexualized." That being said, one of the scenes network execs are worried about — depicting a 17-year-old boy running down the street naked — did not strike me as particularly "sex-charged." Where the show really deviates from American TV standards are its graphic depictions of drug use.
"Is MTV's Skins child pornography?"
It's realistic, not pornographic: "Skins" isn't "dangerous," as the president of the Parents Television Council called it, says Jessica Bennett in Newsweek. It's just one of "most realistic" shows on television. "Face it: Real teenagers can be a little nuts. They do have sex; they do experiment with drugs." But the show isn't just about those risqué subjects. "At the core of 'Skins' is the close relationship between the characters."
"The most dangerous show on television"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Beware of Splenda: The backlash against artificial sugars
- The real story behind Deliver Us From Evil
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Stop making fun of philosophy and read some philosophy
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- Sorry, we will not all be having sex with robots in the future
- The real lesson of the looming Martha Coakley disaster
- How to live a long life, according to science
- 13 Urban Outfitters controversies
Subscribe to the Week