Under My Skins

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Romeo and Juliet was the first teen drama (If not the first, the most popular. If not the most popular, the most retold). There is Juliet who is just 13. And there is Romeo who is most likely in his late teens. And there are Romeo’s friends (his posse? his crew? whichever term is appropriate now to refer to a trusted peer group).

There is youthful idealism and indulgences clashing with parental expectations of unwritten norms and social hang ups. And there is a tangle of relationships as youthful protagonists work through unfettered aspirations and appetites. And there is yearning. There is a lot of insatiable, painful, confusing yearning.

My English classes from middle school on were peppered with Shakespeare’s plays. However, it was not until adulthood that I was able to fully appreciate his work. A professor once told me Shakespeare’s enduring popularity is due to his mastery of  drama (the choreography of comedic and tragic elements in his storytelling). He said that Shakespeare had excellent timing when ordering events to make the dramatic that much more dramatic (jarring and memorable) to his audience.

I was reminded of this when I watched Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet again. Between the helicopters and the homeless the same love story (four centuries old) was told in its original 16th century English. Despite the now clichéd plot and incongruous speech and time, Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet had the same dramatic impact on me as I imagine Shakespeare’s original did when it first played out for the 16th century audience at the Globe.

Skins is like Shakespeare. It too deftly juggles the comic and tragic to create enticing drama that keeps me wanting more. It’s so maddening sometimes that regardless of whether I like the character or not I just need to know what happens next! Like Jace from Televisonary, I am well above the show’s target demographic (In fact, I might be well above Jace’s  demographic too). Nevertheless, BBC America’s Skins is programmed into my Tivo’s Season Pass.

Jen Chaney states in plainly:

The show introduces us to kids who, at first glance, seem irresponsible, empty-headed or just plain obnoxious. But with each episode, fresh layers are peeled away. We learn all the details about loopy Cassie (Hannah Murray) and her ongoing battle with an eating disorder. We come to understand the conflicted Anwar (“Slumdog Millionaire’s” Dev Patel) and his struggle to reconcile his Muslim faith with his attachment to his best friend, who happens to be gay.

I would add “stereotypical” to her initial impressions of the show’s characters and what Jace says about “shifts back and forth between characters, giving us the ability to look into each of the lives with a clarity and scrutiny not seen in most teen-oriented series.” And that it is all packaged with an excellent soundtrack (much like a jaded, hormone-addled John Hughes film).

Skins is now in its third season. I agree with most critics that the first season was the strongest but think the second was a fitting end to the storylines of the existing cast. I have to admit that like Sandie from Daemon’s TV, I have been disappointed by the third season so far. (That is until “Thomas” aired).

“Thomas” tells the story of Thomas Tomone, an immigrant from the Congo with questionable residency status. Without resources and having angered a local small time thug, Thomas struggles to prepare a comfortable place in England for the arrival of his mother and two younger siblings. As the child of immigrants, Thomas’ story was particularly poignant to me (especially as more and more Americans lose touch with their roots and attack immigration).

The episode kept the sex and the drugs down to a minimum, allowing the dialogue and well choreographed scenes to work without distraction. I hope this third season has more episodes like “Thomas.” Though the sex and the drugs certainly draw the viewer in, they are not what made seasons one and two successful. It is the careful choreography of comedy and tragedy that kept viewers coming back for more. Skins has been successful because it was good drama.

One response

  1. Shakespeare Geek

    Thanks for the link :). That “how old is Romeo” post is by far the most popular thing I’ve ever written about.

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