Culture Challenge of the Week: Child Pornography on TV

Rebecca Hagelin

2/1/2011 9:10:52 AM - Rebecca Hagelin

Danny Flaherty, a 17-year-old actor in the new MTV series, Skins, is described by his TV Director as “sweet, shy…ready.”

Ready for what?

To appear nude on TV, for starters. Danny’s mother had a few qualms, apparently, about her son starring in a teen drama rife with explicit sexual scenes, drug abuse and alcohol. But, Danny assured her, it’s just a “job,” and besides, he’s “superstoked” about it. After all, he and his co-stars (some as young as 15) get to inhabit a teen world full of sexual duos and trios, gays and straights, “pill-poppers” and “nymphomaniacs,” with no moral repercussions—or even capable parents---in sight.

Sounds like child exploitation to me.

MTV defends the show, saying it’s aimed at adults (rated TV-MA), not teens, and simply intends to depict teenage lives realistically. If so, it fails on its own terms. One Washington Post reviewer called Skins a “repugnant, irredeemably nihilistic viewing experience for grownups - the very thing for which ‘off’ buttons are made.” Another reviewer noted that if the series really is intended for adults, and shows that much underage skin, then “that’s creepy.”

But MTV is lying. It's MTV, for crying out loud. The teen actors are at least a bit more honest about exactly who the show is targeting. One of the beautiful young stars plays a lesbian cheerleader; a recent episode portrayed her “pleasuring herself” at the sight of Audrey Hepburn. Her read on the audience? "I'm much more concerned with the opinions of the teenagers of America than the parents, because that's who we were trying to reach," she says.

Whomever the audience is, one thing is for sure; MTV is willing to degrade and exploit teenagers for profit, and they have been doing it for years.

The show’s creator, Bryan Elsley, is so desparately trying to justify his personal abuse of young people that he even attempts to frame the show as “a very simple and…rather old fashioned television series…It tries to tell the truth [though] sometimes that truth can be a little painful to adults and parents.”

The truth is, the show is designed to tantalize, seduce, and corrupt children with a skewed version of reality. And responsible adults do find it painful when other adults degrade teen life as nothing more than a sensualized, drug-filled world, devoid of either morals or consequences.

But the situation is much worse than that. Responsible parents also have a problem with media companies who exploit teens—making money off their “superstoked” participation in sexual scenes—all to lure advertisers and viewers. Make no mistake—the advertisers know teens will be in the audience. Why else advertise acne cream?

More to the point, paying teens to appear on-screen, either nude or in sexual poses or actions, is child pornography.

How to Save Your Family: Tell Advertisers to Stop Sponsoring Child Exploitation

While some critics yawn and suggest that the show will die of its own accord, done in by vapid plots and mediocre acting, adults who care (whether you are parents or not)--about the teens exploited on the show, about their own children, and about the culture--must act now to pressure MTV to pull the plug on this series. Now.

Family advocates, like the Parents’ Television Council, and the Million Moms Campaign of the American Family Association, have called on the Justice Department to investigate the show. And they’ve successfully persuaded several major advertisers to drop their sponsorship.

For the sake of our children, take two minutes and contact the companies still advertising on Skins. Let them know it’s got to stop. Go to the Million Moms website or the American Family Association and make your voice heard!

And of course, make sure you tell your own teens that you will not support child abuse by allowing the show into your home. Exercise your parental rights by taking a few minutes to learn how to use those odd-looking buttons on your remote control, and block MTV today. Several years ago I figured out the controls and have kept our home free of MTV's abuse and influence - if I can do it, anyone can!