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"Skins": MTV's Lighthearted Take on Underage Sexuality and Overdoses

skins episode and controversy

MTV "Skins" pilot final scene

The new MTV teenage drama “Skins” has been in the spotlight since its pilot episode aired last week. Executives are worried that some of the scenes in the show, which features underage high school kids getting hot and heavy, popping pills, and streaking naked in the streets with erections, may actually violate federal child pornography statutes.

Apparently, re-edits are in progress to cut around the most provocative images.

This weekend, Salon writer Tracy Clark-Flory highlights the fact that “Skins” is just the latest to shock and disturb the public when it comes to underage sexuality. She pulled together 14 of the most controversial images and films:

She starts in 1856, with Lewis Carroll, the author of “Alice in Wonderland,” who Clark-Flory says can be called the “first child pornographer.” He took photographs of half-clothed and naked children than were accepted as art at the time, but later seen as inappropriate.

From Jodie Foster in “Taxi Driver” and Brook Shields in “Pretty Baby,” the Calvin Klein ads and the controversy around 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey, and more recently, Miley Cyrus in Vanity Fair. What’s okay and what’s offensive and dangerous is a long-standing conversation.

The boundaries seem a little looser when art is involved. But when it comes to “Skins,” I don’t know if we can play that card. As David Carr of The New York Times points out, it’s a re-hashing of a British show. And its raw disturbing portrayals aren’t new — remember the 1995 film “Kids”?

It’s hard to offend me. But I do think “Skins” goes too far. Not because it depicts teenage sex and drug overdoses, but because it does it with snappy background music and a smile — the tone in some scenes is downright Gilmore Girls. Except someone gets naked and high, a friend OD’s, they crash an SUV into the river in a druggy haze and almost drown, and they all chuckle about it. Cue heartwarming music. Best night ever.

Image: MTV.com

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