The Gap Between Here & There
When TV show ‘Skins’ began in 1997, it received good reviews for being a reasonably accurate portrayal of teenage problems in a drama format. Cut to 2011, when it’s airing in the US to moral outrage, with sponsor Taco Bell pulled out because – love this – some scenes did “not match with its vision” of what teen entertainment ought to be. Well, Mexican food gives you heartburn so I guess it doesn’t hurt to switch the roles once in a while.
Parents’ groups and various concerned citizens’ organisations are accusing the show of promoting child pornography, which is a bizarre idea to anyone who has actually watched it. There’s a good article here about the whole shouting match.
And it’s an interesting point about cultural differences. Miley Cyrus and that little foetus-thing with the feather-cut whose name temporarily escapes me are considered ‘good’ role models – never mind if they turn into Britneys and Lindsays – but ‘Skins’, which has real teenaged actors dealing with things like teen pregnancy and unplanned parenthood – Sarah Palin, you might want to watch – is considered harmful because it engages with rather than dismisses such possibilities.
When I wrote my children’s book ‘Hellion’ about 18 months ago, although it was fantastical, I went to great pains to place it in an identifiably real teenaged world. People are the same wherever you go, it’s just the way they’re treated that differs, and there is a sub-genre in US books and films that we don’t have – the travails of the Child-Man, from ‘Of Mice And Men’ to ‘Forrest Gump’, ‘Benjamin Button’ and ‘Rain Man’.
Clearly, we view innocence differently (see Paris Hilton story elsewhere). It’s a question of abstinence or engagement.
The US version of ‘Shameless’ is also currently airing, without complaint. For further differences in US and UK media attitudes, check out the droll TV show ‘Episodes’, which will be horribly familiar to writers who have been through this particular pain-mill, myself included. Oh, the stories I could tell.