Thursday 23 December 2010

Skins - Love, love, love. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing.

Skins: 2x07 Effy.

What makes Effy’s character work in the first two seasons of “Skins” is the fact that there are so many blank spot, but they don’t make her a weaker character, they make her more interesting. Effy does not believe in love (or is well aware of the destructive quality of love); Effy finds the conventional day-to-day business extremely boring and chooses not to get involved; Effy observes, with a certain amount of interest, what other humans do; Effy cares for, admires, loves her brother Tony, who seems to be the only person to share the same world with her, to see eye-to-eye with her.
Effy’s world and perception of it are very different from that of any other character of “Skins”. In the beginning of the episode, she slowly walks through a completely wrecked house, looking equally ragged (but, since this is Effy, still glamorous in her destruction). Jim is in Paris and Anthea has nicked some of Tony’s pills, spending the entire day in bed. She is clearly depressed and puts her daughter in the position of not only having to care for her brother, but also for her (“Tony is better mum. You’re gonna get dressed today, mum?”) – and while there is a lot that Anthea does terribly wrong in the course of “Skins”, this is one case in which it’s simply a family that can not deal with what has happened to them, that has already fallen apart over Tony’s accident.
Effy bears witness to the destruction around her: to the dysfunctional relationships, the wrong decisions other characters have made, her own brother’s attempts to get Michelle back.

Effy: “Still nothing?”
Tony: “Nothing.”
Effy: “How many times have you called her?”
Tony: “39.”
Effy: “Texts?”
Tony: “141.”
Effy: “Nothing?”
Tony: “Nothing.”
Effy: “Wow, Michelle really hates you.”
Tony: “Yes.”
Effy: “Well, you did totally fuck up her relationship.”
Tony: “Right.”
Effy: “You just stormed in there and fucked it right up.”
Tony: “Yes, alright. I love her, okay.”
Effy: “Love?”
Tony: “Just leave it Eff.”
Effy: “Love, love, love. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing.”
Tony: “Yes.”
This is the essential Effy Stonem before she was taken apart in the second generation. In this case, smarter and more realistic than her brother, with a very keen understanding that love usually never fixes anything. She is still fascinated by how it works and what it does to people – in the beginning of the third season, she is intrigued by both Katie’s manipulation of Emily, and by what’s happening between Emily and Naomi – but she chooses a position from which she can comfortably observe, and decide whether to get involved or not. She is in control of everything that happens in this episode, as she orchestrates everybody.

I’m Pandora. I’m new.

Whenever I see Effy and her “friend” in her first season episode, it is almost as if Pandora has left a retrospective hole in her life. Madame De Luca tells Effy that she has to guide and mentor the innocent girl currently accidentally chewing on a crayon, who, in a matter-of-fact way, declares herself to be “useless” (Madame De Luca responds with a dry “how perceptive you are”). Like so many other grand relationships on “Skins”, it starts with someone following someone else and never giving up (in a way, this is also what Katie does in the beginning, isn’t it?). This provides for an interesting dynamic because so much of Effy’s effect depends on her being alone and mysterious, and Pandora, the unlikely side-kick manipulates that image with every single word she says. Her reasoning is simple: “Madame De Luca said we have to be friends” – and then she does the one thing that sets her apart from the other girl, again, the unlikely thing, she says “I can do something you can’t do.”
Effy: “There’s nothing I can’t do.”
Pandora: “You can’t do this. If it good enough, can I be your friend? I got my rope and everything.”
Pandora: “Mum sent me to circus school for my dizzy spells, right. Big finish. I take off my bra without unbuttoning anything.”
Effy: “Okay.”
This will always be one of my favourite scenes of “Skins”: as Effy, clearly disinterested, discusses something with random guy Jake, Pandora climbs a tree, attaches a rope to her neck, jumps off, and in the process takes off her bra. “Tada.” And when she’d done, Effy tells Jake that “I’ve got a friend, wanker”, because Pandora CAN do something Effy can’t, and for a fraction of a second, Effy is visibly impressed by what she just saw. She grants Pandora the right to trail along, and even though this is still far from “Pandora, why are we friends?”, and Pandora, at this point, is comic relief (while one of her strengths during the second generation is that she never was that, although she could have easily been), it’s a brilliant beginning to one of the unlikeliest and most wonderful (and sadly, in the fourth season, mostly forgotten) friendships of “Skins”.

Pandora’s presence in the Stonem’s house changes the perspective: now we hear Effy explain, at least a bit. She tells Pandora tell that mum isn’t mental – she is tired from everything that happened, from Tony’s accident, from being in a situation she could not deal with. And Tony isn’t just nice – “He was hit by a bus you know. Had to learn everything again. How to swim, how to write his name. How to be my brother.” – which is one of the many examples of Tony or Effy explaining, in a speech, how they feel about their sibling.
Outside, there is a different complicated friendship: Sid has come to visit Tony, and they both try to fix it, because they both know that despite of everything that happened with Michelle, they still care about each other. They shake hands the way they used to solve arguments when they were kids, but “that didn’t work out”.

I’ll sort out your fucking soap opera

They can’t fix it on their own, and as Effy watches their attempts, she decides to get involved – to create a piece of art, in a way, a project .
Effy: “You’re an idiot. You are fucking the wrong girl. It’s Cassie you love. You only got mixed up with Michelle because, let’s face it, men are dicks and there was nobody else to screw which is totally fucking pathetic, isn’t it?”
Sid: “Has anyone ever told you this whole sneaking up on people, getting inside their head, is not cool, okay?”
Effy: “I’m right though.”
Sid: “You’re always right. You and your fucking brother. You always fucking, fucking, fucking…. Right.”
Sid: “My best friend. Fucked it up. My girlfriend. Fucked it up. My other girlfriend. Fucked it up.”
Effy: “You’d give anything to have it all fixed.”
Sid: “Yes.”
Effy: “But you’re incapable of anything involving effort, focus or subtlety.”
Sid: “Yep.”
Effy: “Women are a total mystery to you.”
Sid: “You got it.”
Effy: “Any good at art?”
Sid: “Of course not. Huh.”
Effy: “My art coursework. It’s on the subject of emotion, and you seem quite...emotional. So you can do it for me.”
Sid: “And?”
Effy: “Oh, for chrissake, I’ll sort out your fucking soap opera.”
Sid: “You will?”
Effy: “Just this once.”
Effy puts the pieces in place and because she is Effy, and observant, and, not unlike Cassie, able to predict human behaviour, everything works out in the end. She visits Cassie who is completely out of control  - “That one’s called Sidley, and that’s Misha. Isn’t Misha just so pretty. Look at Sidley. Sliming all over her, disgusting, isn’t he. […] When I’m ready I’ll pour salt on them. When I’m good and ready.” She sets up her friend Jake to convince Cassie that sleeping around doesn’t solve anything. She makes pictures of Cassie kissing someone else to try and motivate Sid to do something, anything. She gets Michelle’s watch fixed off the money she makes from selling drugs. But why would Effy Stonem do all this? She asks Tony, as they watch their broken mother, why anybody bothers with caring about people, and he responds: “You don’t fool me, Effy Stonem”. He has seen the side of her that does care, even if it always just a beat when she watches her mum, even if it just when she takes care of him. Tony’s introspection when Michelle still doesn’t pick up (but, as Effy explains, it is about hearing her phone ring, again and again, knowing that Tony is still trying), is revealing too: “Sorry I messed everything up. Sorry for not knowing how to walk across the road. I’m sorry you got depressed, and I’m sorry that dad couldn’t handle being around at home.”

So Sid goes to Chris’ apartment (as if Chris needed any more love than he already has, his protectiveness of Cass is really, really endearing) to talk to Cassie. He finally does something, instead of always letting things happen to him.
Cassie: “What do you want, Sid?”
Sid: “I want you to stop do what you’re doing, okay? You know, fucking around. Fucking anything that moves. Just stop it.”
Cassie: “You started it.”
Sid: “I don’t care. I don’t care. You’re cruel. I hate you.”
Cassie: “I hate you right back.”
Sid: “You went away! Why did you go away? You know, I needed you, and you pissed off! My dad said... he said you're special, but you're not! You're just slutting around like a spoilt kid!”
Cassie: “Michelle, Sid, Michelle!”
Sid: “I don't love Michelle! I never loved Michelle, I love you, but you… God, where were you? My dad fucking died. I needed you. I mean, Michelle? We had great sex for three days and guilty sex for the rest. So what? I don't care! I did it. I hate you. Fine, fuck fifteen year olds. Whatever. I'm sick of saying sorry. I love you. You say sorry.”
Cassie: “I didn't fuck him, Sid. His mum had sewn his name into his trousers, and, well, he got a bit excited. And he squashed my slug. My slug called Sidley. So I threw him out.”
Sid has almost lost his best friend. His dad died. There is a lot of things that are his own fault, most of all, probably, his passivity, his inability to show how much he does care, but in this case, I understand his side of the argument. It doesn’t change the fact that they are still too different. Cassie sees the future. Sid lives in the moment.

Elsewhere, Michelle finally picks up her phone and says “I love you too”.

This episode is about everybody BUT Effy. It poses the question of why Effy does that, if maybe she cares more than she likes to admit (while I don’t see her caring about Sid so much, she does help Tony get what he needs). Does she care, or is it just amusing and fascinating and interesting for her to see people act and react the way she predicted? In the end, she interprets everything she did as art: she depicted “Anger. Jealousy. Bitterness. Tiredness. Hope. Lust. Love.” – “It's conceptual. You just can't see it.” And isn’t that a brilliant description of the elusive Effy Stonem – fit and mysterious as she is? Jim comes back home and for a bit, it seems like things might be okay – Anthea the sleeping beauty wakes up from her big sleep, to a slightly changed world, and Effy once again smiles mischievously directly into the camera.

Random notes:

The song that plays throughout the episode is “Point of Disgust” by Low. “I had in my sight / lack of vision / lack of light / I fell hard / I fell fast”. That’s upsettingly foreboding. 

You can actually see the one red sock when Effy pulls up the wash load of – now pink – underwear. I am fairly certain that she did that on purpose.

Usually when people suggest actors and actresses for roles in upcoming movies I don’t really understand why, but in this case, I have to admit that Kaya Scodelario would probably make a pretty good Katniss Everdeen in “The Hunger Games”.

I am quite fond of Madame De Luca. “With great breasts come great responsibility.” / “and that, Ladies, is why Monet was shit.” I also found it amusing that every single picture in her class is a rip-off of something famous.

The running gag with the milk: “A BIT CHEWY”. Ew ew ew.

I still can’t decide whether it’s ironic that Effy ended up in the very same soap opera eventually or if it’s just unfortunate writing.

Note that Panda started the whole “keeping stuff in her bra” thing, and I am guessing that this is something Eff picked up from her.

Panda dancing. I do not know how they found Lisa Backwell, but it always amazes me how fearlessly she plays Pandora, and how, despite of how ridiculous the things she does and say are, she is loveable from the beginning. Haters to the left, and stay there with your bad karma and your fifteen layers of irony.

Tony carries Pandora home after their night out; Thomas does the same thing in his first episode.

“So the orgy scene comes before the disembowelling of the elvic hordes!”

There is this short moment when Sid runs to Chris’ apartment because he wants to talk to Cass, and every single time when Chris opens the door, I feel like I’m actually watching two completely different shows, and the passage from on to the other is always a bit awkward.

Pandora passes her class by handing in Sid’s “hopeless” painting. Effy fails it, but doesn’t exactly care.

This is a category for “things Pandora says”

“I’ve got a friend. No, not like the last one. No, not on the internet. No mum, she really is a girl this time.”

Pandora: “Where we going, Eff?”
Effy: “Eff?
Pandora: “Yeah. Where are we going?”
Effy: “To pick up.”
Pandora: “Pick up what?” [Hi mum. We’re just going to pick up]. She wants to know what we’re picking up.”
Effy: “Drugs.”
Pandora: “[Salad.]”

I find this exchange interesting because Pandora has this way of getting to Effy: for example, picking up the nickname that only Tony uses, and it is clear from the beginning, even though it’s just hints, that her mum has put her in a situation where every bit of freedom depends on telling a convincing lie.

“They’re man and woman kissing!!!!”

“Grandpops died and left me his credit card.”

“Are we gonna put weeds in the reefer now and get honky?”

“Well, I guess I’m looking at Tony’s cock, but he can’t tell. See ya!”


junkster199 said...

What's peculiar to you about the that part with Sid and Chris?

I watched it over again to get a sense of scene. I hadnt seen the episode is awhile but anyway is it like it's a typical thing that shows do where the other character says "hey they don't want to see you" and start acting threatening when you want to come in? Im pulling at straws here. Like Chris is serious for a second and goes back to being nonthreatening when he says he wont really harm him?

Anyhow I have to think more about the question you posed about whether Effy cares or it just a bit of a game because I was first thinking she does have to care for Sid a bit to try and help him out give him a push.

On another note, I had seen Black Swan and I think the same day I wondered what you'd think about it if you ever watched it and reviewed it.

flame gun for the cute ones said...

I thought about your question for a while and then I realized that there are so many scenes in "Skins" in which a character is not welcome at someone else's doorstep (just off the top of my head: Chris at his dad's, JJ at Panda's, Cook at Effy's, Naomi at the Fitch's, Katie at Naomi's) and at the same time, all these incredibly important scenes take place just there (most obviously the catflap scene but there are others). I've never thought about this; but it's a great tool for the writers to connect the characters when they lack a... common space they share (there is no "TO THE LIBRARY" in "Skins")?
I know this doesn't really have anything to do with the question though, it just occurred to me while thinking about it. You're absolutely right, this is definitely something shows do a lot, but I liked this scene because of something that has bothered me about Cassie's treatment in this circle of friends from the start. When she is introduced, she has just gotten out of the hospital and everybody KNOWS that she is vulnerable, yet, her issues are never really taken seriously (especially not by Michelle or Tony). They treat her carelessly, and I'd never even realized how much that disturbs me until now. This scene finally showed Cassie in an environment in which she is protected, and Chris assumes that role because he actually does care about his friends. Of course he is just joking around and I don't think that he is a violent character (also, we mostly see him connected to female characters, so it's hard to say how he acts in a different environment), but he seems serious about taking care of Cassie. Before the second season, they barely had any scenes together, but now Cassie has kind of replaced Jal as Chris' best friend and they share their secrets (which is a burden for Cassie, but still).

Regarding Effy - This episode is also interesting because of how Tony has changed over the past months. He started where Effy is now, mostly curious about other people more than actually caring about them, intrigued by how he can manipulate them, and then the accident happened. Tony knows that things change. Effy still has to get to this point (Pandora blames her for her carelessness the next season). I think this episode portrays her as caring about Tony and her mum (which she probably wouldn't admit, but it fits in well with how much she falls apart when her parents split in season three), but I don't really think that it extends far beyond them, and the thing with Sid is mostly curiosity about how these tiny mediocre humans live.

BLACK SWAN. I'll take forever to write about that film. I have so many thoughts and they won't really do the film justice.

junkster199 said...

For some moments there I had a hard time grasping the part of it being a tool for the writers to connect characters. I think I was taking it a bit literally because I kept thinking about when Cook shows up at Effy's doorstep later on and I was couldnt see a way for him and Anthea to really go beyond a "she's not here" or a "come in" but then I thought it really goes beyond that. Youre right about the no common area, snd because there is none it really pushes the character to actually go over another character and do/say something. So with that perspective I do think you answered my question in a way and then elaborated on it later.
I do remember when I first started watching Skins I don't remember taking Cassie's problems all too seriously, maybe because they appeared light at certain times in different scenes and odd in others like when she heads off to NY, I was just trying to grasp the show.

After rereading and evaluating your comment a scene with JJ and Freddie came into my head. The one where JJ gives Cook his pills and all their stories gets pushed by the truth. JJ asks Freddie if he's not allowed in the shed anymore. That scene has always stayed with me. With this topic, my perspective is this perceived fear that JJ has: that because of one incident his friendship with Freddie ends and he is not welcome to the shed. This as opposed to the actual denial of entrance that have happened to the characters.

I'll have to watch certain episodes again though it really does seem you are right about Chris always being linked to women. I can only think of those relationships in my mind so I have to go back. I wanted to comment soon is all.

flame gun for the cute ones said...

I think you are right about Cassie's problems, there isn't really any coherent portrayal - like with many storylines, some writers did a better job than others I guess? It's also complicated because Cassie's perspective on the world was so... Alice-in-Wonderlandish (like with the "magical garden" at the hospital). On the other hand, the facts are that she has a severe eating disorder, is possibly suicidal and has spent quite some time in hospitals, and I think that this alone should warrant a different treatment by her circle of friends than the flippant "skinny bitch"-thing she gets most of the time.

See, I come up with a shaky theory and you take it to the next level - the more relevant and interesting question of how these characters try to find a place to fit in, and negotiate their right to occupy a particular space. JJ is extremely aware of this because he has an entire wall dedicated to trying to become normal, and he perceives everything as extremely fragile.
The shed is an interesting place in general. Remember when Cook argued that Effy only had a place there if she shagged any of the boys? And then Katie gained entrance because she did just that? In the end, it became the place for the unlikely group scene already missing a person. I think I might be able to write pages about spaces and who occupies them and who makes the rules about in/out...

Chris - the only scene relating to aggression I can come up with is the guy that moves into his house and eventually throws him out, but that's probably not a very good measure for his level of aggressiveness.

(Also, on an entirely different note, I am starting to suspect that the third gen might be a freaks/geeks vs. popular kids kind of thing? Which sounds intriguing, but could also go terribly wrong)

Also also, thanks for the comments, they contribute incredibly to the process of working through the reviews. :)

junkster199 said...

At first I was going to say that your outlook on Cassie and her friends merited a the questions of how long had they known her and on what level were they close (this being a story before the show) but then I rewatched the first ep and yeah it's pretty clear they've known of her problems, the specifics of them and still aren't really protective of her. I guess that's then left me with nothing really to remark on that.

Idk, at times when I'm having a conversation with someone and its one that pushes you to actually think of alternatives and I end up agreeing with stuff theyve said, it somehow feels like the conversation can't go further than that since youre both in agreement. So it's like thats it. That's how it felt above. Especially since I had nothing else to put for that after rewatching.

Regarding JJ, doors, all of that bit- Idk, you summing all of this up in a question works. It just does, and can be said for the show and just beyond it, for us. I think it's something people question possibly on a day-to-day basis especially the ones that are hyper-aware of things other people might consider small.
In that sense I can see myself in JJ.
And the thing with Katie is funny because just as soon as she was let in, she was out by the end of the episode. That window was just so brief because he really didnt love her.

Why do you think that would go wrong? I think it felt like that a bit in the trailer (the outcast feel) but I like keeping myself in the dark as much as possible. I don't even know their names, I do think I read something along the lines of someone being a jock type some months ago and found out the girl who is either transgendered or something in that area is named Frankie. So if you answer, nooo spoilers.

And honestly Im really happy I stumbled on your blog to begin with, I think it's one of the things that have helped me to actually think about what I've just seen, or read instead of just taking it as it's given to me on screen. And accept that as that.

Happy New Year Cellar Door.

flame gun for the cute ones said...

I don't actually have any spoilers about the next generation, and they've done a pretty good job at keeping completely quiet about them. The only thing I've seen so far is the trailer and the opening sequence, and I've read the descriptions on the e4 page, which are probably not the most relevant thing considering how inaccurate they sometimes are for previous characters. In a way I just feel like wildly speculating on the tiny bits and pieces given to see whether I am even remotely right. It passes the time! Only three weeks left!!!

ohwowlovely said...

Hi again, I just noticed (may have half noticed before, not sure) Effy saying love is good for nothing, then later saying it made her go mad and in the end got Freddie killed so yeah...

Also, the art project you called it, the literal art piece and her project of sorting Sid's "soap opera" made me think of her other project, the whole list dare, which even Freddie said started the whole triangle trouble. Gosh and as you said, landed her in the same soap opera...this show freaks me out sometimes, in a good way!!

Just want to say something regarding the comments about them kind of ignoring Cassie's issues. I hate to say it, but when you have those issues for so long, people can kind of get into "oh not this again" thinking. Or they just "forget" I'm Cassie in this case, sadly. But I do understand people have their own problems and it must be hard to understand mental illness if you someone hasn't experienced. It's hard enough even when I have! It's sad, I think so many people just slip through the cracks/radar? What's the right word? For so many reasons, it's hard to see, it's hard to tell people, just, hard to know what to do really. So people often do nothing. I see I'm like 6 years too late here but maybe that helps?!