Skins and What I Think

The Cast of MTV's Skin

I’ve been hearing a lot about Skins, the new show on MTV. It is a show that is based on the British show by the same name. I watched the first episode last night when I couldn’t sleep. The first episode wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, but I can see it getting racier with time. At first, I thought this isn’t reality, but on second thought after a flashback to my late teen years in college. I had a similar discussion with my parents about how I knew some people who lived out some of the movie “St. Elmo’s Fire.” There are some kids who are doing and experiencing these things, and from time to time, some of the story lines may be true for a few kids some of the time. However, the things that most parents will panic about is that their kid is living this life. I understand the Parent’s Television Council’s on this show, but is it possible that they are little overboard on the “most dangerous program ever?” I have to admit I am a bit nervous of teens, especially younger teens watching this and thinking that’s what high school life is about. People in general take a single story and think that’s the way the world is, until they hear more stories. This talk from the TED Talks talks about this very fact. Here’s the lede for it, but watch the 20 minute video from a Nigerian author talk about her experiences with only hearing a single story.

Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice — and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.

Kids are very susceptible to this as the speaker points out with her experience with a poorer family from Nigeria when he was a little girl.

However, as a youth worker, I try to keep on the youth culture, and how marketers try to get us to spend our money, especially youth. So what have I learned about this program. That youth workers should view this with the mind that some of your kids may be experiencing these. This is but a subset of the youth culture. Not all of the kids are into this scene.  This show, may get the ax or put on later at night. We must learn that kids themselves need to realize that living from a single story stunts their view of what the wider world is like. Some would argue that we should let the kids see this show, but the problem is there typically isn’t any other show on that tells the stories of other kids that don’t get into the subject matter that Skins delves into. Not to mention that from a marketing standpoint, it would probably be too boring and wouldn’t make any money. I find that there is a fair amount of hype with Skins and that if parents allow their kids to watch it, then they need to watch it with them and ask the questions. You may not get any answers, but the conversation should get you reconnecting with your teen.

One other thing I noticed. Cellphones. Having grown up without them, to watch the way that these kids use them got me to thinking how kids can more easily hide their lives from their parents. An unattended consequence of the advance of the technology. There was a scene where one of the characters was pulling together plans for an upcoming party and loss of virginity of one of his friends. All this while walking from home to school in the morning. The tech wasn’t in place when I was in school over 25 years ago, so it we would have had to resort to the between class and lunch time. It would have been more efficient with the phone and texting, not to mention more covert. This makes me realize that ever since youth culture was started, about 50+ years ago, that youth culture has been slowly separating itself from the culture at large, and that the technology that we adults take for granted helps the kids to continue this separation.

So as youth workers, how do we handle these things. No, not new curriculum. Conversation, story and experience. The same things that Jesus used to reach out to those that the culture found unclean. Pray is key. Eventually, through all this kids are transformed so that they can reach out to their friends and engage the youth culture like we try to do.

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