For those of you who are like, “WTF are you on about”, Skins was a British teen drama that followed a group of teenagers as they lived there lives in Bristol, UK. There is an American version but it sucked so please don’t watch the American one.
The entire cast of Skins was replaced every two years, so there was a fresh dose of angst. All the kids were ostensibly friends, but they always had some sort of tension simmering underneath the group dynamic. The entire series, plus a “reunion” season (which I won’t comment on because I hated it) is currently on Netflix.
Skins was like no other teen drama show I had seen on TV before. It wasn’t polished and soapy and after school special-y, like Degrassi or Gossip Girl. It seemed incredibly real and relatable and current (which, back then, current was texting using T9 on a flip phone).
I discovered Skins at a pretty shitty time in my life with a lot of changes happening, none of which I felt like I had any control over (aka 2009). I felt alone and helpless and deep in the grips of my anxiety. So you know what helped me get through it? Watching really attractive British teenagers completely screw up their lives and livers.
THESE KIDS HAD PROBLEMS
Like, a LOT of problems. Here’s a short list: eating disorder, the death of friends, death of a parent, being gay when your friends aren’t supportive, being gay when your family isn’t supportive, abusive relationships, overcoming life-changing injuries, dealing with mental illness, dealing with a partner’s mental illness…and that is only a partial list.
Every cast member got their own episode, with some kids having combo episodes together. That meant we got a really detailed look at whatever was messing them up at the time – and how their problems and subsequent behavior affected the other kids throughout the season. It was also oddly comforting to see that most of the kid’s parents were complete and total idiots who had no idea what their children were doing. Or was that just how all the kids saw their parents? Either way, it resonated with me like no other.
VODKA DOESN’T FIX EVERYTHING, BUT SOMETIMES IT HELPS
Booze, weed, prescription pills, MDMA…all of it was a walk in the park if you were a character on Skins. All the kids drank and took drugs like it was going out of style. But what was interesting was that the drugs and alcohol weren’t necessarily the CAUSE of their problems, like on a standard teen drama. It wasn’t like OH MY GOD, THEIR LIVES ARE RUINED AND AWFUL BECAUSE THEY DRANK! AND SMOKED POT! More like, they did all this stuff as just a regular part of their life. And partied way more than I ever could, at any age.
YOU’RE KILLING ME, GUYS
Watching characters on Skins self destruct actually helped me learn a lot about what NOT to do in my teenage life. I’d watch them sabotage themselves over and over again and self destruct and make themselves and everyone around them crazy and miserable. It was all cool and entertaining for a while, but after a couple of episodes, when you were really and truly sucked into the characters and the story, but after a while, you just wanted to scream at all of them. It was fun to watch them, but I definitely didn’t want to be them – except for the wardrobe, they had really cool clothes.
GODDAMN YOUTHS AND THEIR LOUD MUSIC
The soundtrack to Skins was incredible. They had a perfect song for every scene, mood, and character. I still listen to songs I heard on Skins. The list is pretty long, but here’s a top 5 to get you started.
- Don’t Go by Rae Morris
- Alice Practice by Crystal Castles
- Hello by Martin Solveig & Dragonette
- Don’t Preach To Me by Skallywags
- Daylight by Matt and Kim
There is also this handy Spotify playlist if you’d like to dig deeper.
THE CAST WAS FULL OF FUTURE STARS
As dramatic and sometimes implausible as Skins was – it was really well acted. The cast left every two years, so we got a fresh batch of actors and problems. But really, if you check out the cast of Skins, you’re gonna see a lot of faces that are now pretty damn famous. My favorites are:
Slumdog Millionaire, Lion, love of my life
Star of About A Boy, Mad Max, also is blue and scary in X-Men
Yeah, the dude from Get Out
Star of Unbroken, general badass
Best manic pixie dream girl ever
ONE OF A KIND
There really hasn’t been another teen show like Skins since it went off the air. It represents a type of crazed, partying, uninhibited teenager that has basically disappeared. It was complicated to be a teenager back then, but I can’t imagine being one now – with the Snapchat and the Instagram and the phones and the mind games via technology. So sometimes I like to watch Skins and think back to being a teenager. I still thank my lucky stars my teenager-hood was never as nuts as Skins was – but it’s still soothing to watch those fictional characters party.