Wednesday, October 14, 2015

A Cultural Analysis on Skins

Skins is a influential British TV from the mid 2000’s displaying the lives of a group of teenagers of different races/cultures  just trying to figure out how life goes and how to handle everything while finding their adulthood. Every two seasons comes with a new round of kids with generally the same plot line basis: kids just trying to figure things out. (But each characters own subplots differ tremendously), with a comeback season following the most highlighted characters life’s finally as adults out in the independent world. Google describes it as “The lives of a group of teenagers in Bristol, England, are followed through two years of sixth form, with the storyline of this critically acclaimed series delving into such controversial subjects as substance abuse, sexuality, teenage pregnancy, personality and eating disorders, and mental illness. "Skins" is unique in its casting of amateur actors, and the fact that the cast is replaced every two seasons, when the characters leave school.” (Google Home Page) I feel that this is something that's very relevant to us; particularly because were also teenagers going through a lot of the same problems as many of these teens portrayed on this show, ei, social, educational, and family struggles. The interesting thing about this series is that each character gets an episode within the season highlighting them and their specific problems.  This series - while highlighting some racial stereotypes, but not exactly promoting them, crushes a lot of typical racial stereotypes. The four characters analyzed in this article will reiterate that.
This series shows some typical racial stereotypes, but it more feels like these stereotypes are being more portrayed than reinforced. While the existence of them is generally not so noticeable in the series itself unless you were looking out for it? They’re still prevalent. Here's an analysis of some of characters that support modern stereotypes:

  • Cassie Ainsworth: Portraying: The Manic Pixie Dream girl, a typical sort of stock character, the cute eccentric (almost always) small white girl who has something so very wrong with her but if usually unnoticeable or goes unnoticed by the character who's lusting after her. (Cassie suffers from suffering from several mental disorders — most notably, anorexia nervosa — and multiple problems, including low self-esteem, suicidal ideation, and drug addiction.)
    • Cassie’s problems are best highlighted in “Cassie” the second episode of the first season. Where many things happened to her that are caused by her eating disorder, a sticky note on her back that reads “EAT!”, or when she goes to her clinic with her underwear filled with weights as to fool her disorder clinic into thinking she's eating and gaining weight. (Stereotype that girls with eating disorders are crazy and just cannot recover properly) And gets to a point where she begins to get constant text messages telling her to eat, eat, eat. But is then resolved in the end that she's sending these to herself and just really had no idea due to some of her mental disorders.

  • Liv Malone: Portraying: A typical party girl played by a black girl. Typical booze party girl, living recklessly, life and mind usually set of some sort of reckless abandon. (Which ties back to the “reckless” tendencies of black portrayal like Zambo, Zipcoon, etc)
    • Livs stereotypical ways are highlighted throughout the season, but just like Cassie and most of the characters her ways are most brightly highlighted in her characters episode of “Liv” (episode four, season five) Where she deals with sleeping with her bestfriends boyfriend (stereotypically untrustable), introducing Marijuana into her group of friends and around her little sister. (Who she actually removes from the drugs scene, and leaves her at a sci-fi marathon, which she fails to notice is 24 hours long, and then goes to visit her sister in prison.) (Also stereotyping that blacks end up in prison.) Where then on a bus trip she meets a guy, (who also happens to be a POC) and they somehow end up acquiring a large amount of ecstasy which they then take (stereotyping that POC takes drugs whenever handed to them) and then proceed to shoplift and rob two different shops. (In the second shop the owner tries to rape Liv, which prompts them to basically knock him out, and then rob his store.)  

These two characters portray a lot of typical racial stereotypes. But now I’d like to introduce you to a different pair of characters from the same series who defy and crush many racial stereotypes:
  • Jal Fazer: (defying the stereotype that people of color (POC) are lazy, unambitious, and the idea that that can generally not reach their desired goals.) The smart ambitious black girl who plays clarinet like a dream. (more like nobody's business) She is obviously the most affluent character out of all of her friends “As a highly talented and intellectual teenager, she defies various stereotypes. Her school is quick to take pride in (and responsibility for) a young black student being so successful, despite carrying little interest in the naturally gifted Jal. She is very straightforward and self aware.” (Skins Wiki)
    • Jal defying stereotypes is seen throughout the show but is most prevalent in her episode “Jal” (season one, episode three) where her main focal point is to win “Young Musician of the Year” award for clarinet performance. (Defies the stereotype that POC are unambitious) In the Skins Wiki synopsis of the episode they mention “Back at school, Jal is taken to see the school rector. The rector tells Jal that she’s delighted they’ve got such a talented pupil. The school want Jal to do a couple of interviews to make the school look like it’s helping ethnic minority pupils achieve. She’s even prepared a checklist of ways in which the school has helped her overcome her “handicaps”. “ This slightly bothers me because they're just using a talented black student to make their school like a little bit higher than the rest just because they have an outstanding student who happens to not be white. (Defies the stereotype that POC don't succeed as often as who are white do.)

  • Anwar Kharral: (defying the obedient Muslim child stereotype, also defying the “all Muslims are terrorists stereotype.) The young Muslim boy dealing with overbearing Pakistani parents. “With parents that attempt to regulate both his faith and his life inside of the Mosque. He is not a very devout Muslim, he takes drugs whenever at a big party, drinks and has premarital sex; although he does pray five times a day and believes that homosexuality goes against his religion.” (Skins Wiki) Anwar is just a typical teenage boy who just happens to pray five times a day. His religion doesn't really hold him back from all life has to offer .
    • Anwar defies a few common stereotypes that Muslim people hold, and him defying these stereotypes are most prevalent (like the last three characters mentioned) in his episode - split with his best friend - entitled “Maxxie and Anwar”. Where we see Maxxie (Anwar's bestfriend who happens to be gay.) and Anwar friendship beginning to dwindle due to Anwsar becoming severely uncomfortable with Maxxies sexuality. (Which actually promotes a stereotype about Muslims being uncomfortable with homosexuality.) In the same episode the gang travels to Russia with there school at which point once they land Anwar is taken into custody and then released. “Anwar says they all look disappointed that he’s not a terrorist, but Tony that’s probably because he’s a very dull Muslim.” (Skins Wiki) (Also promoting the stereotype that all Muslims are terrorist, even though Anwar turns out to not be one.) Later Anwar meet a girl who he falls in love with and does end up having premarital sex with. (Despite his religion (defying the obedient Muslim child stereotype)) And also ends up doing drugs and drinking. (At which point Maxxie calls him out. “Maxxie finds him talking about drugs and has a go at him for being all Muslim about gays, but still doing other non-Muslim things such as taking drugs and drinking. He calls him a hypocrite and leaves,”.) Anwar both promotes and defies Muslim stereotypes.

So in conclusion this TV show portrays a lot of racially based stereotypes as well as crushing many to, and with a generally diverse cast. I think this show did a pretty good job of not coming out as ‘too’ racially bias of a show. So yeah. Skins man.

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