After reading a Megan Daum column that promised I’d see what amounted to a documentary reenactment of life in Babylon, I set up my DVR to record the latest episode of the MTV series Skins.
What I saw was a ramped-up, warmed-over Degrassi, only with disappointingly cartoonish adults.
Some real-life parents are apparently up in arms about this show, calling it kiddie-porn. A scripted drama, it bills itself as being about “real American teens.” At least real American teens who suck down fistfuls of pills, fifths of vodka and one another’s naughty bits on a daily basis.
In the episode I saw, a hot lesbian named Tea whines about how all the girls she sleeps with are so uninteresting, compared to her, that she just cannot find a suitable match. That, at least, sounds real. No one cursed with that level of self-absorption should expect to find true love. And aren’t we all so cursed between the ages of twelve and twenty-one?
Anyway, Tea’s dad could be a top Mafioso, but his family disowned him when he found true love and married Tea’s Jewish mom. Being disconnected, though, doesn’t make it hard for him to round up thugs to threaten a loser who threatens Tea by calling her a dyke.
Except what Dad hears is “kike.” So he, unlike all the kids at school, remains clueless as to his daughter’s true romantic inclinations—a good thing, since he’s a hater. And, boy, is he clueless, since some of Tea’s conquests have come while he was asleep one room over. On school nights, no less!
On the other hand, all those other kids are just fine with Tea’s true sexual identity. As screwed up as they are, they apparently never got the text message about how the No. 1 way teens today insult other teens is by calling them homosexuals, only using more pejorative terminology.*
Things work out for Tea, though. Her Nana lives with them, which isn’t so great most of the time, since Nana inhabits a dream world where she holds nonstop conversations with people who aren’t there.
Nothing gets through to Nana, except Tea’s laments about the L words, by which I mean “love” and being a “lesbian.” And, guess what? Not only is Nana the latter, but she also suddenly develops the presence of mind to tell Tea about how she had found the former. Until her soul mate was forced by her family to marry a farmer in Wisconsin.
It’s presented in cheesy fashion, but I don’t doubt things like that happened sixty years ago. Hell, it happens now, with parents convinced there are TV programs like Skins trying to “convert” their kids to “the homosexual lifestyle.”
Then again, my own gramma once told me about two “spinsters” who lived down the street when she was growing up—in Wisconsin. “Everyone in the neighborhood knew what was really going on,” she said.
And then shrugged. No big deal.
True, it was a “don’t ask, don’t tell” world back then. But if people were willing to allow others to experience true love wherever they found it during the Jazz Age, why is it such a big deal for the parents of the MTV generation?
* According to the BBC, eight of the top eleven “terms of abuse” among teens are derogatory words for “homosexual,” with “gay” being far and away the most popular. OK, so they’re talking about British kids, and I can’t imagine an American kid calling someone a “batty boy” (No. 5). Still, I couldn’t find a similar list specific to the U.S., so this one will have to suffice.