There's a British show called Skins and chances are you've heard of it — it's been on since 2007, has experienced international acclaim and was even developed into a nightmarish American adaptation that aired on MTV for one short season. But just in case you are unfamiliar, here's a brief synopsis: Skins is about a revolving cast of Bristol teenagers as they navigate young adulthood by doing a shit ton of drugs, drinking a fuck ton of alcohol, sticking it to The Man and frequently having sex with one another.
When I say "frequently," I mean frequently. Not an episode of Skins goes by without one teen, at some point, being inside of another teen. You could take the least attractive, geekiest member of any given casting cycle, add up the number of times that he or she has gotten laid and — more than likely — that number will still greater than the number of people that most of us have had sex with by the time we reach 30.
While lots of teen dramas portray an exaggerated high school hookup culture, there's something more real and disconcerting about Skins. Maybe it's because the Brits are slightly more relaxed about censoring television or maybe it's because the kids on the show are often portrayed by actual teenagers as opposed to almost-30-year-olds like they would be on an American show. It's a probably a bit of both and no matter what, as an adult viewer, you end up feeling a little voyeuristic and pervy. This show is not made for you...and here you are enjoying it anyway.
This is not a takedown of Skins. I love Skins. I've watched every episode — even the recent seasons that most people describe as shitty — and I've cried, laughed, cringed and enjoyed myself the entire way through. I like that the teens on the show look like actual teenagers who come from working-to-middle class backgrounds as opposed to glamorous coastal socialites. The series is great. Even when it's not great (which is often), it's great. Even when it's not great, you might even say that it's more great.
A lot of adults I know (myself obviously included) are very into the show. The trailer for the upcoming and final season — which features the return of past season favorites Effie, Cook and Cassie (you work that Game of Thrones hiatus, girl) — has been emailed between friends and small selection responses include "!!!!!!" and "kshfksrfhkshd." Grown-ups are into it! Cool, but also: WHAT IS WRONG WITH US?
Skins in no way resembles my high school experience, probably because I didn't so much spend my teen years going to day raves as much as I did rehearsing dance routines from Newsies in a friend's basement. (To each their own, dude.) It might very well be that "otherness" that most of us are attracted to in the show. Being a teenager tends to be a boring drag of an experience, so vicariously experiencing an extremely heightened version of adolescence that's actually entertaining — and all from the comfort of our living room/adulthood — certainly has its appeal.
In the end, I can clumsily analyze what it is that draws adult viewers to Skins all day, but it all comes back to this: there's something slightly shameful about being into the show. Don't get me wrong — it's not that shameful. On a scale of inappropriate to appropriate, liking Skins as an adult probably falls somewhere between "Brony" and owning all of the books in the Hunger Games series. In other words, it's not that creepy, but even if it was — well, if loving Skins is wrong, I don't wanna be right.