Skins: the end of the line

There comes a time in life when something important ends, it’s whisked away before you realise it and there’s nothing much you can do about it. Having prior warning does little to quell the emotion because it’s not always easy to feel things until the situation makes it possible.

Skins was a television programme about young people, written by young people, for young people. It represented a world of hedonism, parties and the realistic difficulties that happen to teenagers.

The programme didn’t come without critics. The infamous ‘Skins parties’ rocked the nation, causing perhaps more harm than was necessary (a handful of parties gone wrong versus the rest of them is hardly true representation). Parents and other adults were forced to face up to issues of drug use and sex.

But as much as ‘Skins parties’, drugs and sex can represent the young generation, so can the realistic storytelling that broke boundaries. Storytelling that Skins allowed us to experience without censorship or fear of the repercussion.

In the six years that the show aired in its traditional form (before its redux) we were thrown into storyline after storyline exploring: death (of friends, parents and people you know but aren’t close to), sexuality (including one of the most honest love stories that just so happened to involve two girls), eating disorders, religion, bullying, affairs, teen pregnancy (with differing outcomes), illness, suicide (from the inside and the outside), disability, homelessness and many more besides.

When I first heard about Skins in 2007, I saw it in the same light that many people did. I saw the drugs, I saw the alcohol, I saw the sex and I wondered which teenagers the show was representing. As a ‘good’ teenager, I didn’t experience growing up in the same way the Skins characters did and I was almost blind to such things as drug use (if it happened in my school, I didn’t have a clue). I was annoyed at how negatively young people were being portrayed and I longed for something that represented my life, rather than a life I didn’t know existed.

Fast forward to 2009, I was in my final year of university (a year behind the rest of my school year group) and I turned the television on one evening and there was Skins. (Whoever said Skins was just for teenagers, was wrong.) I’d never actually watched it before (aside from a brief scene of the final episode of series two) and I decided to give the episode a go. It was Freddie’s episode in series three; many of the people I know who love Skins will know how much we ‘hate’ that episode. But it showed me something which I wasn’t expecting. The preview for the following week caught my eye and I decided to watch for a second time.

I’m glad that I started my Skins experience with Naomi and Emily, in episode five of series three. I was thrown head first into sex, drugs and alcohol (plus a riot – which I wrote about in an essay for university). But I was also thrown into a special way of telling stories, a deeper meaning to the world I’d seen as destructive and I enjoyed the ride. It took one episode for me to see that Skins wasn’t just about the ‘negative’ aspects of teenage life, it was also about telling a story about a character and digging deep into their world until you can’t help but wonder why they weren’t a part of your life long before that moment.

In the months after the January/February of episodes I found myself in a crazy rollercoaster of a fandom who had all been there before me. I tried my best to catch up with the episodes I’d missed and I found myself caught up in a world I’d once ridiculed (something which I regretted a lot).

Despite the fact I had two large projects to complete for university before April/May, I continued to be part of the fandom, so much so that I probably wrote more words in fanfiction than I did for my final projects (100,000 words versus 15,000?). I still managed to come out with a first class honours degree (who said you can’t succeed at uni AND have a life?).

Skins gave me a community to be part of, it gave me hope that there was something out there more than what I knew and it helped me see that sexuality isn’t as black and white as the life you’ve grown up with.

I owe a lot to Skins and it’s very difficult to put into words quite what the last few years have given me.

I’ve been lucky in the past, when one thing ends something else has come along to replace it. When I finished school/S Club 7 (yes, I was a fan, and?) were splitting up I immersed myself into being a fan of Delta Goodrem (again, and?). When that fell by the wayside and my university degree ended, I discovered Skins. Now I’m reaching a point in my life where I’m not quite sure what I’ll do next, or what will fill my life, but it doesn’t matter as much anymore.

They say that the destination isn’t important and they’re right. The end of Skins is merely a final point in the journey we’ve all been exploring together. The journey has changed me in more ways than one (perhaps not all for the better, but that’s okay). It has forced me to look at my world and the world around me and see it all from another angle. Though I have met many people along the way, I’ve had people come and go from my life, whilst others have been there throughout.

The end of the line is a difficult thing because it means that we no longer have this shared thing sitting between us, always on hand if ever we need it. That’s not to say it will ever go away, because it won’t. Skins brought us all together, Skins changed us all for the better, and no amount of jumping ship will change that.

I’m not sure there’s much else to say, except that Skins may ‘only be a television programme’ to the outside world, but to everyone inside, it’s something more than that. It’s a group of writers who told stories that everyone can relate to. It’s a training ground for those writers and for the actors, too. It’s an experience that you can love and hate in equal measure. It’s a world where you want to see things differently, to look deeper at the things that once seemed so clear and simple. It’s Bryan Elsley and Jamie Brittain deciding they wanted to create a television programme about teenagers. It’s the springboard that television needed in order to cater better for the needs of young audiences.

Skins changed television.

Skins changed lives.

Skins changed me.

And knowing it’s over is heartbreaking, emotional and something that fills me with so much happiness, pride and gratitude.

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