Archive | January, 2011

Skins USA: Spot the Difference

5 Jan

It would appear that the producers of Skins USA have learnt from the mistakes of failed cross-continental conversions such as “Kath and Kim” and “Big Brother”; instead of reformulating a concept for American audiences, Skins USA looks to be more of a downtown-Baltimore carbon-copy. One might question the logic in spending millions of network dollars simply so American audiences need not furrow their brows in a desperate attempt to understand the phrase “you think I’m a right James Blunt”. But nevertheless, considering the popularity of the original Skins to every American in the English-speaking world outside of America, and as much as it pains me to admit, this *could* work.

But then wait a minute. There is something missing from that promo. Something’s not the same.

Watch it again.

Anyone?

Where the fuck is Maxxie?

Now don’t get me wrong. I actually didn’t like Maxxie in the original skins. I thought his character lacked development and that the writers had copped out on a figure who could’ve had a compelling and important storyline. But he was pivotal, interesting, and like all the other original characters, distinctly different from the kind of person who we were used to seeing on television.

So I searched far and wide and found Maxxie’s replacement.

Meet Tea. She’s young, she’s gay, she’s a dancer, and she’s….a chick?

Fascinatingly, Skins USA producers don’t appear to have bothered with changing anything about Maxxie Tea’s dialogue or relationships; check out this leaked “side-script” (court. Perez Hilton).

INT. SPORTS HALL. MORNING

CHEERLEADERS: (CHANTING) Roundview… We love you!!! Aha! Ahu! Love you, Roundview!! Say what?!! Say Huh!!! Say what! Say huh!! Say who! Roundview…!

The camera comes to rest on TEA (17), an unusual looking but nevertheless beautiful girl.
The CHEERLEADERS spin out into immaculately coreographed individual spins and group turns. TEA presses a BLUETOOTH RECEIVER. Cheerleader continues around her.

TEA: Hey Tony…
TONY: [PHONE] Forget the big gay night out Tea. We need you.
TEA: Sorry Tony, I promised Chris and Abs I’d take them on a voyage of wonder and discovery…

Yet again, identical (more or less) to the original.

When I was in New York a few years back, I watched on free-to-air TV the original Skins episode in which Jal contemplates terminating her pregnancy. It was a poignant and powerful storyline, one which had the potential to further the normalisation of discussion of family planning and teen pregnancy in an honest manner. And it was completely airbrushed out of the version I saw.

I’m afraid the same thing is happening here. Maxxie has been airbrushed out, and the opportunity to have a televised character who is young, male, gay, functional, and not on Law & Order: SVU has been lost. Instead, we’re left with another example only alternate sexuality permissible in the American media – young, hot, and lesbian.

There’s a certain irony in transforming a show which was based upon concepts of inclusivity into one which is subtly pornographying it’s characters.

Who knows; maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Tea won’t be a 2-dimensional object. But what worries me the most is that audiences won’t be watching in order to see a (inevitably stylised) reflection of their own lives, or to be challenged, or stimulated; they’ll be waiting for Tea and the other cheerleaders to hit the changerooms. And that is not what Skins is about.

The mind boggles.

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