Skins and Teenage Pregnancy (Part 2)

*Spoiler alert for all series of UK television show, Skins (up to series 6, episode 6).  You have been warned.

Last week, I explored the portrayal of teenage pregnancy on the second series of Skins. My intent was to critically read this media display of a certain social issue to see whether Skins takes a political stance on teenage pregnancy (and if it does, dissect what that stance is).

We’ve already discussed the pregnancy plot in the first generation Skins. While Skins’ second generation does feature a teen mom, she is only present for one episode and is not one of the central characters, so I am going to skip discussing her for today.

(DO NOT READ ON IF YOU HAVEN’T WATCHED SERIES 6 OF SKINS!)

In series 6, episode 5, we find out that Mini, the former Mean Girl of generation 3, is pregnant. Mini has hooked up with Alo for most of the series, and though he has feelings for her, she insists on keeping the relationship physical. Mini’s pregnancy is revealed very early in the episode when we see her open a vanity drawer full of dozens of pregnancy tests, all which are positive. Mini looks at these periodically throughout the episode, but generally remains calm and distant from her problem.

Outside of the pregnancy plot, Mini’s episode deals with family issues. Mini has been raised by her Mother, who in the beginning of the episode reveals to Mini that she has asked her boyfriend to move in. Disturbed by these changes and stressed by her pregnancy, Mini runs off to her estranged father, Gregory. Her father is a suave business man who reluctantly takes Mini into his bachelor pad and introduces her to his young assistant, who she begins flirting with. Mini’s involvement with her Dad distances her from her friends, most of who (besides Franky) are unaware of her pregnancy. When these friends show up to one of Gregory’s fancy work parties, Mini screams at them and gets her Dad in trouble with his boss. Mini apologizes to him and reveals to him that she is pregnant. He promises to help her.

That doesn’t last long, of course. Mini returns to her mother’s house to pack a bag to go on a trip with her Dad. Her mother tries to explain things to Mini to get her to stay. In desperation, she says to Mini: “From the first time I saw your heartbeat on that screen, I loved you. That hasn’t changed.”  This quote is important, as it defines parts of Mini’s relationship with her Mother and her relation to her Mother as a young, single parent.

Mini heads over to her Dad’s flat only to find everything emptied out. There is a check for £500 on the table and a note saying “I’m sorry. I love you,” which Mini tears up as she falls to the floor.

Mini goes to Alo for help, but he is fed up with her games and tells her: “I don’t think you know how to love anything.” This quotes defines Mini’s character and the outcome of her pregnancy plot. Mini returns home finally and sees her mother crying through the window. Her mother’s boyfriend is smoking outside, and gives Mini a bit of advice. She decides to stay at home with her mom.

In the last scene of this episode, we see Franky escorting Mini to an ultrasound appointment. This scene shows that Mini has finally come to terms with the pregnancy herself and is taking steps to make decisions about what has happened. As the ultrasound technician urges Mini to look, she turns her head away and says, ‘I know what it is, it’s a fucking baby.” The use of the word “baby” is interesting, since it is generally used by pro-life propaganda that does not distinguish between a zygote, an embryo, a fetus, and a baby. Finally, Mini decides to turn her head towards the screen.

She is immediately overcome with tears and a large smile grows on her face before the scene ends. Mini’s mother’s words about first seeing Mini’s heartbeat on the ultrasound screen come back to us. It is clear that Mini is embracing her pregnancy (although that doesn’t necessarily mean she plans to keep it.) We also connect Mini’s mother’s quote to Alo’s quote that Mini doesn’t know how to love anything. Mini’s reaction implies that she immediately loves whatever is growing inside her.

When watching this episode of Skins, I connected it to Jal’s pregnancy plot in Series 2. In both episodes, the girls are reluctant to admit their pregnancies to themselves and to those closest to them. This echoes a connecting thread through the idea of unplanned teenage pregnancies. Similarly, both episodes feature what I call a pro-life moment. These moments are made sense of in the plot through the character’s reactions, so that the moment is contextualized in the character’s personality and do not constitute a political statement. In Jal’s episode, it is the moment where she drops the “It’s Your Abortion!” pamphlet and a small toddler looks up at her with wide eyes. Jal quickly picks up the papers and walks indignantly from the clinic. In Mini’s episode, it is the powerful moment when she simultaneously smiles and cries upon seeing her ultrasound. This moment would definitely feel like a pro-life statement if it didn’t make sense for Mini to react in that way. While the moment was still surprising as a viewer, it made a lot of sense in the context of the two quotes (one by Alo and one by Mini’s mom) that contributed to that emotional ending.

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Filed under feminism, gender, pop culture, reproductive rights, sexuality

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