US “Skins” recap (1.01): Big Gay Night Out

If you have not yet rubbed up against someone who shouted you down about watching US Skins, well, how’s that hole you’re living in? If it’s not a UK Skins purist (with whom I find exactly zero fault), it’s the Parents Television Council (with whom I find universal fault). Or it’s a curmudgeonly critic howling about, “Get off my lawn, you kids!” And I always wonder if the adults on Skins just hit a little too close to home for those guys. Or it’s something about how America isn’t ready for “porn” or “drugs” or, like, “the truth.” I don’t care about any of those last things, because don’t tell me my business, for starters. And “what America is/isn’t ready for” — this antiquated Puritan trickle-down effect — has ruined more great stories than I can even count.

But here’s a UK purist thing. It’s not a plea; it’s a thing. Let’s call it something. Let’s call it the Effylant in the room. The Effylant in the room is the reason my screeners went unwatched for the longest time. It’s the reason it took me four hours to get past the first three seconds of the adaptation. It’s this:

If you know UK Skins, you know those bare feet. It’s not ephemeral familiarity; you know those bare feet. The symbolism of them, the million miles they walked between silence and breakdown and incalculable loss. Right? Effy Stonem. Effy Motherf–king Stonem.

So I put my screeners in the DVD player, and even before Animal Collective made a play for my affection, I was greeted with these bare feet. Eura. I paused it. I got up. I walked back and forth between the kitchen and the living room. I ate a bowl of cereal. I walked past the TV again. I went upstairs. I came down with my laundry. I saw her some more. I tilted my head to the side like a dog. (Puppy supplication.) I dusted a little. I baked some cookies. I checked my email. I looked at Eura and I remembered Effy backwards: Freds’ shed; Panda’s serenade; wrapped up in the angel Katie Fitch; Pato; the rickshaw; the rock; the vase full of flowers smashing to the floor; f–king Cook, Freddie; “Go on, JJ, tell me something true”; Panda’s missionary position; “Oh.” And a hundred other things I cannot say because I don’t really know where Eura and Effy intersect and I don’t want to spoil the first American season.

What I mean is: This is me, happy.

I’m not going to talk about UK Skins in my US recaps. It’s not fair to anyone. But what I want to say is, I get it. You’re not going to find a more sympathetic soul when it comes to the power of story and the ugliness of American cultural imperialism. You’re just not. UK Skins is my favorite show ever. Ever. US Skins is a long-term commitment for me, and acknowledging it as such was the only way I convinced myself to unpause the DVD. I’m not in it for the echo; I’m in it for what it can become if the echo is allowed to reverberate. I’m in it for the new noise I heard with my own ears. I’m not going to be an apologist for US Skins. Hate it if you hate it; you won’t hear a peep from me.

I miss Effy. And Naomi and Emily and Katie and Panda. I miss Jal. Michelle. I miss Cassie. God, I miss Cassie. But the guys who breathed life into those characters are huffing and puffing again, on opposite sides of the pond. And one of the products is Skins USA. Prejudging reaction robs us of real experience. And so I’m in it.

Animal Collective. It’s a good start.

I don’t mean to seem like I
Care about material things,
Like a social status,
I just want
Four walls and adobe slats
For my girls

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