Is MTV’s “Skin” Representative of Our Generation?

Original MTV logo

Posted by Megan Bannister

When it was founded by Robert W. Pittman in August of 1981, MTV was designed to cater to music videos presented by VJs (video DJs) and later live concerts and other music-related events. Almost 20 years later, the reality of MTV as a pop-culture outlet has drastically changed.

Before there was “Teen Mom” and “Jersey Shore,” there was Lauren Conrad on “The Hills.” But before there was “Laguna Beach,” there were music vieos from artists like Pat Benatar and the Buggles. At the dawn of the new millennia, though the station began to move away from its traditional music-based programming and towards the growing reality television phenomenon. In fact, at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards, artist Justin Timberlake addressed the station directly in his acceptance speech, urging MTV to “play more damn videos.” It appears the message was not received.

During last week’s season finale of “Jersey Shore,” the station’s largest viewer audience of the year, MTV announced that come January the station will premiere a new series: “Skin.”

Originally a controversial British teen drama about the tumultuous lives of a group of friends as they struggle with drug use, sexual orientation, familial instability and a myriad of other problems, the MTV adaptation will be set in Baltimore, Maryland featuring a supposedly distinct plot line from it’s UK counterpart. According an article published in Sunday’s New York Times, MTV aims to expand their audience and interest a new demographic of viewership with its latest endeavor. However, I began to wonder, how starkly different could the audience of “Skins” be from those already devoted to “Teen Mom” and “My Super Sweet 16?” It was then that I came to a revelation, one that poses the question: Are we becoming the people we see on MTV?

In a sneak peak of the new series, posted on the official MTV website, one of the principal characters remarks to his friend, “Stan has got to get laid before he’s 17 or he can’t be my friend anymore.” Unfortunately he’s not kidding. And mentalities such as these are not only present on MTV but in popular music and current events as well.

Members of Generation Y are bombarded with media images of casual sex and socially constructed sexuality on a daily basis. Earlier this year music videos such as Katy Perry’s chart topping “California Gurls” and Lady Gaga’s “Alejandro” were criticized by some for questionable content. More recently, Duke student Karen Owen’s private powerpoint presentation, which rated the sexual desirability and prowess of some of the school’s biggest names, went viral and was reported on by major news outlets like The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal online. The explicitly detailed account of Owen’s trysts with over a dozen male students brings into question not only the morality of college students and their peers but also how media portrayal of sexuality has constructed these values in the American youth.

Is MTV’s newest series the final nail in the coffin? Are the future leaders of America products of the social media they consume? Are we MTV?


5 responses to “Is MTV’s “Skin” Representative of Our Generation?

  1. I am not an MTV addict by any means, but totally understand the students and teens you are describing. Ever since “Jersey Shore” aired in December, 2009 the hair around campus has gotten bigger, the boys a little tanner with a lot more hair gel.

    Personally, I think “Jersey Shore” is a riot: The dumbest, funniest people I have ever seen on television. Unfortunately, it is rubbing off on younger generations. Thank goodness my parents put limitations on MTV watching, otherwise my young, easily-influenced self may have ended up just like Snooki (Nicole) Polizzi.

  2. Don’t worry: There are still cynics out there. I myself am one. I do not watch MTV and the few times I see it from others watching it, I laugh. Real life doesn’t seem to reflect much like MTV ‘reality’ and I still retain the hope that the majority of viewers don’t take it seriously. Most people I know don’t. Only a few groups act like Snooki. Let’s hope it stays that way.

  3. I recently read this amusing bit on about the lack of music on MTV:

    Dear MTV,
    I was wondering if I could get my “M” back…you know, since you’re not using it.

  4. Dear MTV and Skin’s characters:
    The “Skin” serial might be a serial of our generation, but we have to remeber that we still respect family values and social ethics. Also, the characters on the show are young and it is better for them to choose another area except naked porn show. It is disgusting to earn money by selling intellectual wealth at the age of 18. If you do, then you will soon be famous like: Kim Kardashian, the sex tape start.
    So, enjoy a better life than this and let us live a better American life free of porn.

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