Multiple companies are pulling ads for MTV’s Skins as the series faces accusations of child pornography. With ratings falling for the show’s second episode, I can’t help but wonder: Shouldn’t this kind of controversy be a good thing?
By the show’s second episode, Taco Bell, Subway, Wrigley, General Motors, Schick Hydro and H&R Block had all pulled their ads from the show, leaving MTV to use promos for other shows to fill the dead air, after the show suddenly became the target of concerns over whether the show could fall foul of federal child pornography laws. The problem is that many of the actors in the show – a remake of a British series that sells itself on a blunt attitude towards sex and drugs amongst its teenage characters – are, unusually for television or movies, actually teenagers, leading some, even within MTV itself, to wonder whether the show has gone too far (Famed prudes the Parents Television Council haven’t helped by calling the show “the most dangerous program that has ever been foisted on your children” even before it had seen an episode).
Maybe it’s because of the internal concern, but MTV has stayed remarkably quiet on the matter, saying that the show will “connect with the audience it was created for,” and hoping that “advertisers will take advantage of the opportunity to reach them,” but with ratings falling pretty much in half this week after having the highest-rated series premiere on the network to date, it’s clear that the show is in real trouble. So why aren’t MTV taking the obvious route to help it?
Okay, make that two most obvious routes. The first is: Work out whether or not the show does go too far, and re-edit episodes to make sure that’s not happening. And then, secondly, play up the controversy for all it’s worth. Go out there and be bold about the show: “We can confidently say that we are not breaking any laws concerning indecency, but we understand that people are worried because it is such a shocking series that needs to be seen to be believed.” It’s not as if the controversy is going away anytime soon, so why not use it? The series is meant to be about teenagers being teenagers, and about rebellion, so I don’t see why MTV wouldn’t want to make “You can’t handle it, Grandad!” into a selling point for the show, if they believed in it.
Maybe that’s the problem, of course: That, for all the faux disapproval surrounding Jersey Shore or Teen Mom or [Name Your MTV Reality Show Of Choice Here], MTV doesn’t really want to be thought of as responsible for something actually controversial. We’ll see on the 31st, when the “problem” episode of the show is due to air. Originally, it featured the bare buttocks of a 17 year old actor… but will those make it to air? And, if they do, will anyone be prepared for the fact that the world will still be the same afterwards, the world having realized that, hey! It’s only a television show?
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