Syracuse’s Professor of Culture: ‘Skins’ is Like Shakespeare, or Roth

image1080982x Syracuses Professor of Culture: Skins is Like Shakespeare, or RothSyracuse’s oft-quoted “Professor of Culture” Robert Thompson weighed in on MTV’s Skins controversy this morning on NPR, saying the last word we’ll ever need to hear on the subject. Thompson, whose official title is founding director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture, is notorious for his availability to journalists–there’s no issue too seemingly un-academic!–and he’s a fan! Conditionally, that is: “It actually shows these people as three-dimensional, complex, and, at times, kind of interesting characters.”

“Adults are so regularly portrayed as ridiculous, and as not having anything to say,” complained host Michel Martin. Gosh, why would they think that? Here’s Thompson, giving a justification for Skins‘s existence. “When I was fourteen, I was forced by my public school to read Romeo and Juliet, which was about two kids of my age who kill themselves in the end because Mom and Dad won’t let them be together. I suppose that’s not such a good story to be playing to kids, especially of that age.” Somehow, this is not the worst false equivalency Thompson pulls out. You want to see a junior-English text used to express a vaguely benevolent opinion about Skins? Get ready:

“When you’re at that age, sometimes you’re looking for culture that is in fact going to distance yourself from your parents. You’re individuating. You’re becoming your own person. When I was about 13, I discovered Philip Roth’s novel Portnoy’s Complaint. It was considered a dirty book. I read that book and I found it insightful and it helped me think about some things I was thinking about and all the rest of it.”

Let your kids watch Skins, if they want, then! It’s just like Philip Roth, because a professor said so! And at least it’s better than Glee, a show host Martin says is very “Rainbow Coalition” but has “a lot of sex in there.” No matter: Thompson’s own child, he says, refuses to watch television, which seems the most jarring sort of teen rebellion–or individuation!–of all.

[Click here for the NPR segment]

ddaddario@observer.com :: @DPD_