intercourse with biscuits
This site is a modern miscellany written by me, Mic Wright. I'm a journalist and writer and have contributed to Stuff, Q Magazine, The Times and Sunday Times, The Guardian and Wired. You can see some of my writing portfolio here, follow me on Twitter, find me on Facebook and email me.

A whore in a burka: the moment Skins lost me for good

“I’m stoned like a whore in a burka.” 

- SKINS, SERIES 6, EPISODE 1 

You can’t review a TV show on the strength of a single line can you? That would be dreadfully unreasonable. The game of stripping comments of their context to stoke outrage is pretty popular now. It’s the fuel for many a Facebook feud and Twitter spat. On any given day approximately 65% of Daily Mail editorial is predicated on a deliberate disdain for context. But there’s something about the line above that captures the studied shock that runs right through Skins as it toddles into its sixth series. 

The line is uttered by Ryder, a pretty rugby boy with a Piers Morgan ego chief among his unpleasant attributes. We’re not meant to like him so in that respect the line works. But there’s something about the sharp edge of that analogy that speaks to the generally unpleasant undertones that run through the most recent incarnation of Skins.

It has always been a world where drugs, drinking and dysfunction are the three Ds of teenage life rather than dullness, depression and daytime TV. Come Series 5, it resembled, more than ever, an animated version of elegantly wasted American Apparel ads. 

Episode one of Skins Series 6 isn’t on TV until January 27 but you can watch it online via 4OD now, in one of those forward thinking moves the kids love. If there’s one thing Skins knows about, it’s what the kids love, presuming the kids you’re talking about enjoy watching intoxicated drug sponges with a proclivity for stripping down to their underwear at the merest hint of excitement. Which of course of they do. Who doesn’t? 

I enjoyed Skins for the first two generations. Tony was the arrogant lad from school you always wished would get his comeuppance rather than a thriving as career as an actor/Abercrombie model/investment banker. And he did, punished with a fall from grace in Series 2. In Series 3 and 4, Cook was an enjoyable anti-hero turned actual hero, played with admirable swagger by Jack O’Connell. 

The relationships in those first four series were also enthralling. Sid and Cassie in the first iteration and Emily and Naomi in the second felt very real even if the plot lines that wrenched at their bonds weren’t. 

Series 5 left me cold. The turnover over of characters every two years has always been a clever touch with Skins but the new intake seemed to be shinier, skinnier versions of archetypes the series had played with before.

Skins is starting to feel like ever regenerating Puerto Rican boy band Menudo scouring the land to find a midget Ricky Martin or the Sugababes using skill cells stolen from Mutya Buena’s to create frighteningly scowl-faced clone. Though admittedly I would prefer to watch a TV show where either of those plans was the premise. 

The “stoned like a whore…” line bothers me not because I am gearing up for a descent into a Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells early middle age but because its part of a general feeling of unearned smartness to Skins scripts.

Watch the Series 6 opener and you’ll see the usual round of crowbarred in sex scenes and plot twists that turn so sharply you should probably have a neck brace on hand. Why does one Minnie suddenly jump one of the boys? Because…um…because…nope, I’ve no idea. 

It may just be that at 28, I’m too old to appreciate Skins anymore. That would be a shame. As Boyd Hilton wisely noted the other day, there’s no reason we should restrict our TV watching to shows that represent our own age group.

The trouble with the first episode of Skins Series 6 is that those characters feel utterly alien to the version of myself typing this and the teenager who lacked even a scintilla of the brash confidence and wild irresponsibility of the characters. Were any of the others shocked by Ryder’s whore in burkha banter? No. 

If you’re a woman on Skins, you will be punished for having a good time

Grace DEAD. Franky RAPED. Mini PREGNANT. Liv better watch out as the Skins writers appear to be on a quest to punish every leading female character in the show for having a good time. Grace’s reward for finding happiness with oddly squeaky clean ‘rocker’ Rich was to be smashed to bits in a Moroccan car crash. That was the series’s first dose of punishment for the ‘girls’ but it wasn’t the last. 

Franky’s slightly sadomasochistic Fight Club via the Fimbles relationship with Posho Punchington ended in rape. Now this week, Minnie’s no-strings-attached rutting with rural heartthrob Alo has left her hosting the gestation of a ginger foetus. The message is clear: in Skins, teenage sex, drugs and drink have consequences but they’re much, much worse if you’re walking around with a womb. 

The direction the scripts have taken really bothers me because the Skins writers are having their controversy cake and making the female characters eat it. The lads’ problems so far in this series (besides Rich dealing with the death of Grace) have been extremely minor compared to the litany of misery that has rained down on the women.

While using Grace’s death to add jeopardy to the entire series is perhaps understandable, the twists in Franky and Mini’s stories have been painfully, depressingly obvious. Women, remember, you’re not allowed to have any fun. 

With Franky, the writers began something quite interesting. The relationship founded on a mutual excitement about violence was an unusual tone for the show to take. But almost inevitably there had to be a reckoning. It was simply not possible for the show to allow Franky to actually enjoy the frisson of combining sex and violence.

She had to be raped by the blonde bastard boyfriend to show that risk taking always gets you hurt in the end. I’ve never gone in for the sort of violent sex that Franky and her beau banged their way through but I certainly had some risky encounters in my past and didn’t end up being damaged by them or damaging anyone else. 

Skins makes the mistake of thinking that it can leaven the ridiculousness of its extremely beautiful drama dolls bumbling around in an implausible cartoon Bristol by dropping the most route one problems possible in their paths.

Mini is promiscuous and so as one of the tablets of stone brought down from the top of Television Centre in the late-1950s declares, she must face the trial of teenage pregnancy. She can’t just shag around and enjoy it. There is always A CONSEQUENCE. 

I’m not saying we should tell teenagers that guzzling drugs like they’re cheap pick’n’mix and offering up your orifices for more traffic than the Blackwall Tunnel gets on a busy Friday afternoon is wise. All I’m saying is that if Skins is trying to sell itself as an evenly vaguely plausible edgy, sexy confection of a drama, then it doesn’t always have to punish women for enjoying sex, taking drugs or choosing bad boyfriends. There are other, more interesting dramatic choices to be made.