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MTV's Skins Controversy

MTV's Skins Controversy

Children today are like leatherback turtles lured away from the life-giving ocean by the glare of artificial lights.


A beach in Costa Rica. Pitch black darkness. Not even a flashlight shines on the sand. The only light comes from the glowing ocean, where living organisms emit bioluminescence and the rolling waves refract and reflect the warm glow of the moon and stars.

Pacing up and down are dedicated volunteers who have divvied up the beach into three sections, each section patrolled by a cadre of save-the-planet idealists. They walk back and forth in search of hatching leatherback sea turtles. It is not easy to find these tiny creatures, but these environmentalists are on a mission to save the endangered leatherback turtle.

Leatherback turtles, in their time of propagation, climb well past the highest tidemark onto solid beach, dig down to create their nest, lay their eggs, cover it all up and then crawl their way back into the ocean, no longer concerned about the next generation. Under the sand, the eggs stay warm and cozy, until hatching time. About three months later, the eggs begin popping. As that happens, the sand above the eggs begins shifting and you can see a slight depression, a sand bowl that hints of the nest underneath, the first give-away sign volunteers look for. But in the dark of night, it is not so easy to find.

Following a street lamp, a sea turtle will end up on pavement, to be crushed by the next vehicle coming around the bend.

It can take about two hours for the newly hatched turtles to emerge triumphant onto the beach surface. Volunteers don't help the turtles at this point. It is all up to the creatures themselves to make their way onto surface ground. The work strengthens their muscles and it is the natural progression of their first step in newly-hatched life.

The volunteers come in on the next step of the turtles’ journey. When the sea turtles finally emerge onto terra firma, the volunteers escort and protect them as they make their dash from sandy nest to life-sustaining ocean. A beach at night can be perilous to a newly hatched turtle. There are predators at every turn. Even a crusty old crab might be tempted by the tender new flesh of a hatchling and might latch out his bony arm and grab it into his lair to be served up at dinner.

But their biggest problem is the beckoning artificial lights. Sea turtles know they must head to light. That is their survival instinct; they hatch at night and the light is on the ocean, giving them a clear beacon of where life-sustenance can be found. However, when civilization encroaches upon the beach, artificial lights go up – car headlights, road spotlights, hotel rooms, neon bar signs. Artificial light pouring in from every direction, glaring brighter than the soothing warm glow of the ocean light. Light that sea turtles head to now. So the sea turtle can lose its way, heading to death and destruction instead of its healthy habitat. Following a street lamp, a sea turtle will end up on pavement, to be crushed by the next vehicle coming around the bend.

Recently making waves is MTV's graphic new show called Skins, aimed at teenagers and depicting a racy, anything-goes lifestyle and a “just do it” attitude. Many, most notably the Parents Television Council, are questioning whether the pushing-the-envelope show even borders on child pornography. MTV released a stiff statement that included the inane claim that they had a sense of “responsibility” to viewers, even as they claimed Skins is not a harmful show for teens.

People used to heckle me on the “ghetto” mentality I harbor – I believe youth should be shielded from graphic, gratuitous violence and sex. Give them free choice, folks will argue, let children be exposed to anything and everything, but ask them to make the right choices nonetheless. When counseling teens on the streets, I always ask them if they want random relationships, the sort of use-me-I’ll-use-you attitude that Skins sports. Or do they want to aim for a nurturing relationship, the kind that leads to marriage and a lifelong commitment.

Shows like Skins put out glaring, blaring lights that take teens' focus away from building up healthy self-esteem and healthy relationships.

A study by researchers in Ohio State University and Brookhaven National Laboratory found that teens would actually rather have a boost to their self-esteem than a physical hookup. Yet shows like Skins put out glaring, blaring lights that take teens' focus away from building up healthy self-esteem and healthy relationships. Kind of like the turtle lured away from life-giving oceans by artificial lights, children these days are lured to indulge in behavior that will crush them. They never stand a chance to see the gentle beckoning life-giving light of Jewish values and healthy self-esteem.

If hatching sea turtles get advocates who ask for “lights out” to keep them healthy, can’t children have advocates who ask for the same thing? Artificial lights out, so that young children’s souls can find the life-sustaining waters of Torah and values, illuminated by its natural glow.

Many thanks to the Goldring Marine Laboratory in Costa Rica for the inspiration on this piece.

January 29, 2011

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Visitor Comments: 12

(12) SR, June 12, 2012 4:56 AM

More to the Mashal!

Interesting comparison to turtles- I was just using the turtle as an example to explain how jews relate to the torah and mitzvos the same way the turtle's shell protects him. He is born with it, yet it is soft and seems burdensome but as he grows it solidifies into a protection and a haven from danger. Just as a turtle is too vulnerable without it and it protects his internal organs, we are asked to keep the Torah "al levavecha". Just as a turtle without a shell is likely to die, a jew without torah is spiritually close to death and equally, a shell with no live turtle is only a shell, as are torah and mitzvos if done by habit(habitat) without heart and soul. Israel and the Torah are one , neither is complete without the other!

(11) Liora, February 5, 2011 1:36 AM

Protecting MY little turtles

Before I even had children, I knew I had to shield them from the US educational system. So, over 20 yrs ago, I kept my children at home and taught them the ways of G-d. My children will NEVER watch a show even similar to the one described here and neither will their friends. Yet, my now grown children can drink and within their marriages have intimacy. Good physical relations that doesn't destroy their godliness or their bodies. I will continue to guide my children and grandchildren towards the TRUE LIGHT, the Torah of life and LOVE. They will be GREAT citizens of this world and the world to come!!!

(10) Anonymous, February 4, 2011 4:52 AM

Healthy children, healthy adults

Maybe Alex should read the book Doesn't Anyone Blush Anymore? The book was written over twenty years ago. Or perhaps another book Freedom Not Liscense by Eric Fromm. Freedom is beautiful and so is knowledge but both need to be used with wisdom and decency. Freedom does not mean doing anything you want and knowledge does not mean filling your head with all the ugliness of the world or allowing your children to see things freely without any guidance. Children need to learn the value of respect: respect for themselves and respect for others. I haven't seen the program mentioned but it does not sound like a show which teaches that respect. IT sounds like a show which teaches that having a so called good time = disrespect. Disrespect toward your body, disrespect toward yourself and others. This does not help prepare or prevent, this influences negatively. IT's unfortunate that those in the media have no understanding of their responsibilty to the public and to the world. We need inspiring shows for our kids and for ourselves. Show which lift, not shows which bring humanity down.

(9) Sarah, February 2, 2011 2:42 AM

#5 Alex

Alex's reply is one of the saddest Ive ever seen describing the condition of the land of Israel today. NONE of that stuff, drinking, kids running around drunk, drugs, prostitution, and the bars should NOT be going on in the holy land of Israel in the first place. The land is being defiled and those living there are or are becoming idolators, heretics. And we see what happened in the UK over the past 6 years or so havent we. Gangs of drunk kids running amok and robbing people, beating them up for no reason, destroying other people's property, drugs and drinking in the streets. Yeah, "Skins" has done wonders for the UK, hasnt it. Rather than CONTINUE that cr*p in the USA, how about the UK cancels it and people start teaching their children how to be decent human beings? Same for the USA and Israelis should be teaching their children how to be TORAH-true children to grow into Torah-true adults. Television is a channel of the sitra achra straight into the home, except for a very few useful shows, historical documentaries, and the like.

(8) Dvirah, February 1, 2011 5:53 PM

Question to Alex (Comment 5, 30 January 2011)

Are you sure that these "irrisponsible young Americans" can't handle their liqour or their lives due to underexposure? Could it be that never having learned to set limits to themselves, they just continue to drink, etc., until incapacitated? There is at least as much evidence for the second senario as for yours!

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