New MTV show should consider responsibility to audience

Sex, drugs and homeroom; all just a day in the life of the characters of MTV's scandalous new show, "Skins."

When these high school teens aren't scribbling notes in class or munching on some tater tots in the cafeteria, they're busy "getting busy," popping pills and partying into the morning. This depiction of reckless teen behavior by MTV is morally irresponsible and cause for controversy.

The raunchy storyline of "Skins" depicts the antics of nine teenagers as they lead supremely hedonistic lifestyles and indulge in countless vices. The content is borderline pornographic, and the 16- and 17-year-olds live life seemingly without consequences.

The show debuted last week to an audience of 3.3 million viewers, 1.2 million of whom are under 18, according to the Nielsen Co.. Since then, MTV has faced its share of controversy. Parents Television Council President Tim Winter openly criticized the show's content and warned advertisers to stay away.

"Every single advertiser who sponsored the premiere episode of "Skins" is not only endorsing but glorifying teen drug and alcohol use," he said in a statement to Fox News.

As a result, Schick, Subway, H&R Block, Taco Bell, Wrigley and General Motors all have pulled their ads from the show, according to an article by CBS News.

MTV executives have raised concerns about the amount of explicit content in the show and fear scenes in upcoming episodes may violate the federal child pornography statutes, according to The New York Times. These same executives have since ordered producers to modify some of the show's most provocative scenes. The decision came after the network executives realized criminal prosecution was a possibility if changes were not made, according to the article.

Apart from this move, MTV has remained largely defensive of its new series. MTV spokesperson Jeannie Kedas said in an article in The Baltimore Sun the show "addresses real-world issues confronting teens in a frank way."

"We are confident that the episodes of "Skins" will not only comply with all applicable legal requirements, but also with our responsibilities to our viewers," the network presented in a statement.

Their "responsibilities to viewers" must be very loosely defined.

The first two episodes of this series are morally reprehensible, especially with regard to the promotion of sex. Not only are the underage actors scantily clad and participating in destructive sexual behavior, they also collect pornography and refer to virginity as an embarrassment.

Teenagers look to popular media sources like MTV for both entertainment and guidance. These impressionable adolescents observe the behaviors and mentalities of their favorite television characters, like those on "Skins," and often begin to emulate these behaviors in real life. MTV should consider how the promotion of immoral acts and unrealistic ideals will affect its eager young audience to which it has such a "responsibility."

Michelle Altenberg is a junior strategic communication major from Joshua.