Fame Brief, Kids, Nude Dancing, Pornography, Television

Fame Brief: Is MTV’s ‘Skins’ Child Porn?

By now you’ve probably watched or seen an ad for MTV Skins, a fictional show about, well… I’ll let MTV explain this gem:

Skins is a wild ride through the lives of a group of high school friends stumbling through the mine field of adolescence… and stepping on most of the mines as they go….

Be it sex, drugs, the breadth of friendships or the depth of heartbreaks, Skins is an emotional mosh-pit that slams through the insanity of teenage years.

Picture My So-Called Life with seedier plots, despicable characters  and more drugs, alcohol and indiscriminate sex than you can shake an H&M blazer at.

Doesn’t sound that bad, right?

Wrong. Turns out you can’t hire a bunch of 15- to 18-year-old actors, film them in various states of nudity, and not have a slight problem with federal child pornography laws. From the New York Times:

In recent days, executives at the cable channel became concerned that some scenes from the provocative new show “Skins” may violate federal child pornography statutes.

The executives ordered the producers to make changes to tone down some of the most explicit content.

They are particularly concerned about the third episode of the series, which is to be broadcast Jan. 31. In an early version, a naked 17-year-old actor is shown from behind as he runs down a street.

BTW, he’s running down the street naked because he can’t get rid of his erectile dysfunction pill-induced erection. Naturally. And apparently MTV executives are considering further edits to upcoming episodes. On a somewhat related note: Viacom’s legal department is now hiring.

As a refresher, “child pornography” is defined to include a video of someone under 18 engaging in “sexually explicit conduct.” Sexually explicit conduct is defined as the actual or simulated “lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of any person.”  I’m paraphrasing, of course. You may want to minimize your barelylegal.com browser and read the full definition here.

So what say you, commenters? Do butts count as genitals and/or pubic areas?

For the moment, MTV is standing by the legality of its show, although Subway, Taco Bell, Wrigley, GM and H&R Block have pulled out as advertisers.* But I have a major problem with their spokeswoman’s statement:  “We are confident that the episodes of ‘Skins’ will not only comply with all applicable legal requirements, but also with our responsibilities to our viewers.”

O rly? So MTV has a responsibility to air this show because adults like you and me need to put down our rotary phones and Farmers Almanacs and be confronted with the NEW teenage reality? Maybe it’s just me, but at 17, I wasn’t crushing pills, having orgies or doing drug deals. I wasn’t verbally abusing my parents, grinding on strangers, or doing any of the other disgusting activities that now comprise my daily regimen. At 17, I was in Les Cabotins, the French drama club. I was taping the tip of my nose to my forehead with scotch tape in order to simulate a nose job. Maybe not everybody wants to join me at Cold Stone Creamery, but I refuse to believe that teenagehood is the cesspool of sex and drugs that the show depicts.

And yet MTV would have us believe that it is. The extended trailer for Skins shows the actors out of character, telling the camera, “Skins is real. Skins is true. Skins is life.” Yes — Skins IS life in MTV’s manufactured Ed Hardy world, where everybody’s 16 and Pregnant, pilled out and indiscriminately boning at 17, at the Jersey Shore at 18, and in celebrity rehab at 20. What’s next? True Life: I’m a Kindergarten Hooker? All of this crap is a hyped-up reality that may exist for a few people, but MTV’s serving it up to the masses like it’s de rigueur. They’re purposely bringing us back to the Middle Ages where everybody died at age 27 so they had to get everything done before then. They’re sending the message: This Is What Everybody’s Doing, and If You’re Not Doing It, You Are a Loser. That’s a pretty dangerous message to send to teens, especially because it’s untrue. MTV may claim it’s just documenting (or in the case of Skins, scripting) real life, but they’re only showing the most sensational parts of the most sensational lives of people with zero parental supervision. You want to show the real lives of teens? How about a half-hour show where someone does homework?

Skins may or may not cross the line into child porn — and personally I think that a 17-year-old’s naked butt qualifies — but regardless,  MTV violated its self-imposed ‘responsibilities’ to viewers by putting this fake stuff on the air and heralding the path for life to imitate art.

*What the hell H&R Block was doing advertising on MTV in the first place remained unclear as of press time.

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