CMI Commentary: Media MIA on Scrutiny of Skins Creator

Bizarre: 49 year-old 'Skins' creator Bryan Elsley claims expertise on the sexual behavior and drug use of high school students and his defense of the controversial show has gone unchallenged.

The controversial new teen drama on MTV 'Skins,' has shocked and outraged viewers and parents groups with its depiction of raunchy, illegal behavior by young high school students. 'Skins' creator Bryan Elsley has responded to criticisms of his show by defending his creation with a 561-word op-ed posted on, and cross posted on The Huffington Post.

Elsley, a co-creator of 'Skins,' adapted the series for the United States from a popular British show of the same name. But in the United States, the casting of underage actors who are regularly seen having sex, drinking alcohol and taking drugs, has prompted the Parent's Television Council to call upon Congress for an investigation into the show for potentially violating child pornography laws.

The controversial material on the show has caused, as of this writing, six companies to pull their advertisements from being aired during the show. Despite the possible federal investigation, loss of advertisers and a firestorm of controversy, the media have allowed Elsley a platform to defend his trash.

In his piece, Elsley blankets all high school students with participating in the shenanigans seen on 'Skins':

'Skins is a very simple and in fact rather old fashioned television series. It's about the lives and loves of teenagers, how they get through high school, how they deal with their friends, and also how they circumnavigate some of the complications of sex, relationships, educations, parents, drugs and alcohol. The show is written from the perspective of teenagers, reflects their world view, and this has caused a degree of controversy both in the UK and the USA.'

Elsley said the show is about how teens 'get through high school' - excessive drug and alcohol use and careless hooking up is exactly how real teens get kicked out of high school, get thrown in jail, contract diseases and or get pregnant. Perhaps some teens navigate their high school years this way, but it is certainly not without consequences and more likely to get them in trouble than help them survive their formative years.

To accurately reflect 'their world views,' Elsley should truthfully admit that 'Skins' only reflects the world view of the teens he consulted for a sensationalized drama, and not the millions of dedicated, scholastically-minded students.

The truth about high school teens is exactly what Elsley claims to detail, but contradicts himself by admitting the show is somewhat 'sensationalized.'

'In the UK, viewers and commentators very quickly realized that although there are some sensational aspects to the show, Skins is actually a very serious attempt to get to the roots of young people's lives. It deals with relationships, parents, death, illness, mental health issues, the consequences of drug use and sexual activity. It is just that these are characterized from the point of view of the many young people who write the show and has a very straightforward approach to their experiences; It tries to tell the truth. Sometimes that truth can be a little painful to adults and parents.'

Elsley is full of contradictions - he admits 'Skins' is sensational but at the same time he admits it is a 'very serious attempt' at reality. Later he says that the show tries to 'tell the truth.' So is 'Skins' a dramatic, over-the-top portrayal of life for a few teens, or an accurate reflection of high school life in the United States? Elsley clearly wants to have it both ways - the 'sensational' for the ratings, and the 'serious truth' for his moral argument to defend the show's controversial content.

A 'very serious attempt' to 'tell the truth' would naturally require a display of the consequences for such careless behavior.

'Consequences do flow from incorrect or selfish behavior but in the show, these are shown to be unexpected, hard to predict, and more to do with the loss of friendship than anything else, which in any context, is a disastrous outcome.'

So far on 'Skins' the consequences have been minimal at best. In the first episode, a drugged up former mental patient named Katie overdoses and then wakes up in a fit of laughter after her concerned friends rushed her to the hospital. If the show continues, Elsley's dream of creating a 'serious' likeness of teens better replicate real-life consequences for their actions.

Instead of arguing that teens would be smart enough to not imitate the 'sensationalized' bad behavior displayed on 'Skins,' Elsley says just the opposite.

'We proceed not from the idea that teenagers are inherently likely to misbehave, but rather that they are intensely moral and disposed to make judgments on their own and others' behavior. Sometimes, but not always, they get things wrong. In this teenagers are remarkably similar to adults. Their morals may not be the same as those of their parents and teachers, but they are nevertheless highly developed and active in their world.'

If teens are 'disposed to make judgments' on others' behavior by Elsley's own admission, why would he willingly show the smutty and practically consequence-free lifestyle to impressionable young viewers? Elsley admits that teens are inclined to make judgments abased on the behavior of others - why not encourage them to behave responsibly?

These simple observations are never made by the media who have willingly given Elsley a stage to defend the offensive material he proudly creates.