With reference to relevant cultural theories analyse the representation of sexuality in a film/television text of your choice. I have chosen to look at and analyse a television text. It is a TV drama aimed at a teenage audience called Skins. I chose this particular text as it focuses upon many different characters and scenarios in regards to sexuality and this forms a basis for analysis and evaluation. Skins also focuses upon Teenage sexuality, specifically, which I believe is a broad and interesting subject to analyse with many opportunities to elaborate.
Skins is a British teen drama, which was aired on Channel 4 on terrestrial television and E4 on digital television. It has had 2 seasons consisting of 19 episodes altogether. Skins incorporated many extras utilising the Internet as a large part of this. Fans can read character profiles and blogs, view pictures and see extra episodes and mini clips online in order to keep them interested between Seasons. One of the most talked about episodes of Skins features a teenage party which has been emulated many times over, even incurring one girl national news coverage and a large cost to cover the “estimated ? 0,000 worth of damage” she caused to her parents house by throwing a so-called ‘Skins Party’. (‘Police Arrest MySpace party girl’ www. thetelegraph. co. uk) When Gordon Farrer of theage. com reviewed Skins he said; “What a refreshing, entertaining and worthy series this has turned out to be. ” Most reviewers and critics have looked at Skins in a positive way, with the movie and TV database IMDB. com rating it as a “9. 0 out of 10”. (Skins – The Internet Movie Database www. imdb. com) Sexuality can be described as “The feelings, behaviours and identities associated with sex. (LeVay S, Valente S. M, (2006) Human Sexuality 2nd edition, Sinauer Associates Inc. USA p. 5) “Sexuality can be studied with a wide variety of approaches. ” (Ibid,. p. 22) Therefore sexuality is a broad and complex subject, which can be analysed in many different ways. The main topic I have chosen to look at within Skins is the representation of the homosexual character Maxxie but also taking into account that the show is a teenage drama and teen sexuality plays a large part in its construction. There are many pieces in the first season of Skins that place emphasis on Maxxies homosexuality.
The portrayal of homosexuality in television drama is a recent progression; in fact the acceptance of homosexuality within general culture is one of recent years. Krafft-Ebing (1840-1902) wrote a book containing “a compendium of 237 case histories illustrating all kinds of sexual “deviations” including masturbation, homosexuality, transvestism… ” (op. cit. p. 9). Homosexuality was considered to be a mental disorder or disease back then and was only removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in 1975.
As Skins shows in a variety of ways some people are still living with a negative view of homosexuality. One of the main scenes that illustrates this involves Maxxie being set upon verbally by a group of people from his housing estate. They call him negative names such as ‘Faggot’ and make jokes about his sexuality until his father steps in and disperses the situation. We later find out that the main protagonist in this scene is actually gay himself and he goes to Maxxie for help and sexual favours. “Homosexual men…. ften reach out to one another for sexual fulfilment, social engagement, and political action. ” (Op. cit. p. 242) This shows that teens also follow adult protocol in discovering their sexuality. It also elaborates on the point that I earlier made about the difference in eras in regards to the acceptance of homosexuality. “…Adventuresome teenagers may explore gender and sexual orientation issues in ways that were completely off limits to earlier generations. ” (Op. cit. p. 427) Skins focuses on this idea in a rarely seen way.
In Season Two one of the main characters Cassie goes ‘off the rails’. Sex is a big part of demonstrating this point and we see Cassie in a number of sexual situations including Lesbian partnerships. The further ‘off the rails’ Cassie goes, the more extreme the sexual situations, at one point ‘courting’ a female and then a few minutes after the female leaves a male arrives. “Sexuality strongly influences people’s identity. ” (Op. cit. p. 22) And at this point in the series we find that Cassie has a very mixed up idea about who she is and what she wants.
This can also be seen in Season 1 when Maxxies best friend Anwar refuses to tell his parents about Maxxies sexuality due to their religious beliefs. We see that Maxxie is torn between who he is and whom Anwar wants him to be and this puts the friendship under great strain resulting in Maxxie refusing to turn up to Anwars party. “Gay adolescents who are more conventional in their gender characteristics have the option of passing as straight and many do. ” (Op. cit. p. 61) This situation happens a lot in real life but can be the cause of many problems, both for the person dealing with feelings of homosexuality and hiding them and those around that person. Many people have reported having feelings of being ‘trapped within themselves’ and having pent up aggression due to being in such a situation, which isn’t hard to believe when we think that adolescence is when we discover ourselves sexually. “Adolescence involves the development of a sense of self and social identity independent of one’s parents (Erikson, 1968; Steinberg 2004).
Answering questions about one’s sexuality figure centrally in this process. ” (Op. cit. p. 427) Imagine feeling like the only person who has these kinds of feelings and lusts at such an impressionable time of your life. In this day and age “many teens are personally acquainted with one of more gay or (less likely) transgendered people” (Op. cit. p. 428) and if they do not personally know a gay person they have seen it on the Television or read about it in Newspapers or Magazines. I think that Skins looks at teenage homosexuality in quite a responsible and understandable way.
Yet not everybody agrees with that statement, some of the criticisms of Skins say that it does not represent what real teenage life is like. We could argue that a television drama is not supposed to emulate real life but elaborate and develop upon it in a dramatic way drawing focus to problems and situations, which occur in real life. Overall I believe that Skins has successfully portrayed teenage sexuality for a teenage audience and that it has done so in such a way that it has become a reference for teenagers with problems.
Teenage sexuality and angst is often overlooked in modern day society, it is more often the stuff of small dramas or little known television programmes. Take into account an average news broadcast, the topics and interviews are generally that relating to an older generation or berating the younger generation. In my opinion Skins looks at the wide array of teenage sexual topics and does so in a way that helps the audience relate to and understand what is happening in their own lives.
In a social context this can only be seen as a good thing when we consider the amount of viewers the show gets and the amount of advice these viewers can take from it. Teenage Sexuality has never been an easy or small topic to look at in a social way and many of the studies conducted into doing so are behind the times. This is due to changing times, attitudes and social norms. What was once considered ‘deviance’ is now considered a norm in terms of sexuality and Skins pushes the already known boundaries on this to be not only a gripping drama but an interesting social look at teenage sexuality.
The subjects it tackles include one-night stands, swinging, homosexuality, bisexuality and religion and sex. I would go as far to say that it challenges the genre boundaries of the media and sets a whole new set of protocols in the field of teen drama as well as that of teenage sexuality. Bibliography Ed. Briggs, A. Cobley, P. (2002) The Media: An Introduction 2nd Edition, Pearson Education Limited, England. Ed. Hall, S. (2003) Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices, Sage Publications, England.
LaVey, S. Valente, S. M, (2006) Human Sexuality 2nd edition, Sinauer Associates Inc. , USA Payne, S. ‘Police Arrest MySpace party girl’, Last Updated 14/04/07, Online, http://www. telegraph. co. uk/news/uknews/1548483/Police-arrest-MySpace-party-girl. html , Accessed 20/05/07 Skins – The Internet Movie Database, Last Updated 20/05/07, Online, http://www. imdb. com/title/tt0840196/ , Accessed 20/05/07 E4 – Skins, Online, http://www. e4. com/skins , Accessed 20/05/07