Friday 18 February 2011

Skins US - You would always be in bed if it weren’t for me.

Skins: 1x05 Stanley.

Stanley is going to fail his junior year if he doesn’t show up in class. He has made a profession of making up ridiculous fake excuses (“Our cat gave birth to kittens and Stanley is the only one who knows how to use the video camera.”) After failing to get up on time again the next morning, Stanley steals his father’s care and, with the help of Tea and Tony, makes it into class on time (“Did you do your homework too?” / “No.”). Tony decides that Stanley should pick up Michelle in his stolen ride and take her to Tony’s choir concert, where he makes out with Tabitha. Michelle storms out, starts a catfight with said Tabitha (who would have “blown him”, if it had been “artistic”) and then leaves angrily.
Stanley: Let’s go, Tony. You can fix it in the car.
Tony: Believe me, there is nothing I would love more than being in a contained space with that right now. But I have the finale, so why don’t you drive her home and comfort her.
Stanley: She’s your girlfriend.
Tony: Who you love.
Stanley: What the fuck are you doing?
Tony: I’m giving you a gift. Go open it.
This whole scene actually works differently in the context of Skins US because this version of Tony isn’t just manipulative, he doesn’t do this to bring chaos into a boring order or to make a point: he is entertaining the notion that someone else is a better match for him, but that someone is doing everything to avoid him. He’ll “go and fix it” (and it really is as easy as Stan makes it sound) later, when Tea once again rejects him, but at this point in the story he is perfectly comfortable with the idea that he might lose Michelle to someone else, so he might as well make a big scene.
Michelle, on the other hand, understands that she is in the car with Sid because Tony set them both up.
Stan: He told me to take you there so I did, and then he told me to take you home, so I did. This wasn’t some kind of big plan.
Michelle: Oh, sure it was. We don’t want to disappoint, do we.
Michelle recognizes that they are just Tony’s playthings, and she has a very clear idea of who he is; and still, she goes back to him later (her mum seems to be trapped in an even worse dysfunctional relationship, so she might be repeating patterns she learned at home).

Stanley almost makes the right decision in a couple of scenes in this episode, and every time something goes wrong. He almost makes it to school in time, but then he doesn’t. He almost talks to Cadie, but then, Tony calls and tells him to pick him up (Tony never asks for things, he demands them) from Tabitha’s. In the scene in the car, he goes from telling Tony that he isn’t going to follow him everywhere anymore to taking his advice on a short-cut, which gets him arrested for grand theft auto by the military police and leads his dad’s car to blow up.

Tony: You know what your problem is? You don’t appreciate everything I do for you.
Stanley: I’d be in bed right now if it wasn’t for you.
Tony: Yes. You would always be in bed if it weren’t for me.
Tony seems to intend to be broken up with Michelle and have that talk with Tea from a position that is less saturated with guilt, but Tea doesn’t comply, so Tony gets Michelle back – and takes the first meaningful and sweet moment Stanley has with Michelle away like it is completely meaningless.
Stanley: What was that for?
Michelle: For forgetting that you and Tony are different. You don’t think like he does, you’re nice.
: One of the nice guys. Awesome.
He only goes to Cadie when things with Michelle have failed. She is always the second-best option.

“I need someone to talk to. Can that be you?”

This was my favourite scene from this episode. It turns out that Cadie, swallowing all those pills at the end of her episode, has ended up in a clinic for troubled teens. Her room is decorated with painted trees, and the small, colourful dots on them are birds, recalling the scene in which she hunted with her dad – whatever she does, she can never escape those birds.
Stan: Nothing bad ever happens to Tony. He’s got the cheat codes to life everybody else can’t have. Chelle’s a disaster, Tea’s getting weirder and weirder, and you’re in here, my parents hate each other, and I’ll probably be sent to juvie.
Cadie: You should plead insanity and join me in here.
Stanley: I’m really sorry. About everything.
Cadie: Sorry for what?
Stanley: If I was the reason that…
Cadie: You think I’m in here because of you? Think pretty highly of yourself, huh.
Stanley: I didn’t mean it like that. It’s just, if you’re thinking about me or whatever, then I’m sorry.
Cadie: I’m sure plenty of girls would kill themselves over you, but I don’t… think about you like that, sorry.
Stanley: Oh, well. That’s good. I guess.
Cadie: You guess?
I love this conversation. One of the reasons why Cassie isn’t my favourite character is that it always seemed like Sid was, somehow, the centre of all her issues, when she was already troubled before. He made things more complicated, but he wasn’t exactly the reason, more like just another trigger. I love the fact that Cadie tells Stanley that he wasn’t the reason for her suicide attempt, and that her feelings for him – whatever they might be – are more complex. This is what Marks tells him later, that there is almost never just one reason why people are the way they are.
Stanley: Mrs Campbell, how did she, how did she get here?
Mrs Campbell: Well. You get a call from the school in about the third grade, it’s a teacher and they say, we love Cadie, she’s so creative, we just got a few concerns about her behaviour, and then suddenly she’s in the system. And from then on it’s not if she sees them, it’s when, and it’s not if she takes something, it’s what and how much, and years go by and you think, she was just in third grade.
Stanley: I think my parents got that call from the school about me. My dad just yelled at me a lot and told me to be less weird.
Mrs Campbell: Good dad.

Is this the same Mrs Campbell we met in Cadie’s episode, a woman who has seen her daughter struggle all her life and never felt competent to really support her (not that much unlike Anthea’s “beautiful bomb” speech?) Maybe she has changed now that Cadie has demanded to be taken seriously in such a brutal way, but this doesn’t seem like the same character from the last episode, the woman who told Cadie to maybe take some more pills so she could be more presentable. She still doesn’t understand a thing though if she really believes that Mark’s approach is the right one, or maybe she is blaming herself for allowing the doctors to always take the easy way out with all the pills.

“Mr Lucerne, I’ve been doing this for a while and parents like you never cease to amaze me.”

Mark insisted on letting Stanley’s grand theft auto charge stand, and he increasingly disappointed and enraged his wife in the course of this episode. It’s hard to interpret the ending of the episode – Stanley probably embraces the “sensibility” his dad demands of him (a sensibility that is somehow symbolized by the fact that he decided to buy a reasonable car when he was in college and is now riding a bike in the most ridiculous outfit imaginable), while his dad has to admit that his aggressive approach to everything has cost him his marriage.
Mark: Listen. You can drive yourself crazy trying to find a reason for why people do what they do, but it’s almost never just one reason. Marriage. Relationships. They’re complicated. You shouldn’t blame yourself.
Stanley: I don’t blame myself, I blame you.
Mark: One day, down the road, you’ll find…
Stanley: Shut up. Call her.
Mark: It’s no use, she won’t answer.
Stanley: She’ll answer mine. Fix it, dad. Fix it. Fix this, dad. Fix it. Fix this, dad, okay. Just fix this.
Mark might be a bastard, as the judge says (even though “knob” is and will always be the best way to describe the father of a Sid or Stanley), but he is also the parent that stays around – Stanley is afraid that he has left too, when he finds the living room empty, but his response is “No, never”, and the two of them finally do get a moment in which they understand each other. There’s a sense of awe in Mark’s voice when he retells Stanley’s adventures, and he admits that he was wrong when he insisted that Stanley should be charged – and Stanley admits that the sensible, ugly car his dad chose instead of his dream-car, the Corvette, actually was a good car and he just “drove it wrong”. Mark says “I should have bought the Corvette” at the end of the episode – probably admitting that it is sometimes better to be adventurous than to be sensible, because his own close-mindedness and stubbornness has driven Stanley’s mum away.
Stanley: I hate to say it but I’m late for school.
Mark: Well, I suppose I’ll have to write a letter. You’re the expert, what should it say?
Stanley: How about: Stanley was late for class this morning cause he was required to appear in federal court facing charges for grand theft auto.
Mark: That’s good. He was recently in a high speed car chase with a police officer into a secure military base.
Stanley: He might have escaped if the stolen vehicle had not caught fire and exploded.
Mark: Additionally, his mom left this morning because Stan’s dad is a pigheaded dildo. Regrettably, Mark Lucerne.
Stanley: It’s not piece-of-shit dad. Well, it is now, but it wasn’t. I just drove it wrong.
Mark: I should have bought the Corvette.
Random notes:

This is probably the right moment to mention that Mark Jenkins is one of my favourite minor characters of the first generation, and Mark Lucerne doesn’t come close. I also didn’t understand the ending, at all. HIT ME WITH YOUR INTERPRETATIONS, Y’ALL.

His car was a really nice homage to Mark Jenkins’ though, even if it is now no longer part of the story. RIP.

“Once more and he’s toast, I’m afraid.”

Mark Lucerne: You know who retakes junior year, Stan? You know who? Methheads. Morons. People who can’t read. Kids in water sport accidents. Heroes with set-backs. Not lazy little shits who can’t get out of bed in the morning.

Mr Weir: You know who used to cut class? Jimi Hendrix. You know what happened to him? He died! Choking on his own vomit.

“It’s just hard to take you seriously when you look like you’re from the future.”

Daisy: He’s just gonna put you to sleep. Like a cat.

Mark seems legitimately concerned that his son might be in the first stages of serial-killerdom though (“You don’t… I don’t know, get off on stitching small animals together, do you?”). TEDDY BEARS SEEM TO DO THE TRICK THOUGH.

Michelle: Bye, mom! I’ll be out late with dangerous men. Probably do a gang bang, then maybe a pregnancy pact with the girls.
Mrs Richardson: Sounds fun! Text me later!


“Michelle would never, never blow a horse.” – I was too scared to google “blowing a horse” to find out what Tabitha said exactly though.

Daisy: Stan, we came to take your mind off it.
Tea: We wanted to do something for you.
Stan: I appreciate the thought girls, but I just not have the energy for a threesome.
Daisy: Damn
Tea: Crap.
Daisy: Why don’t we take you to a party instead?
Tea: Oh, come on. Chris planned it for you. Drug-fuelled benders are his way of expressing his feelings.


Tea is building sandcastles with Betty (“That’s a really shitty sandcastle. Doesn’t even have a flag.”) instead of dealing with Tony’s puppy-eyed sadness.

Defendant: You could probably sell locks of your hair to guys who miss their girlfriends and stuff.
Stanley: Please stop.
Defendant: Can I touch it?

HE REALLY COULD. And I wish he would because that would make Stanley-Michelle scenes less weird. I am not exactly comfortably with their eerily similar hairstyles.

Diary (Cadie's)

Frustrated rambling, etc.

So here it is: I really liked Tea’s episode. I enjoyed the first part of Cadie’s, up to the point at the party when it fell apart. While Chris disappointed me, it was mostly because of the things that were missing, things that I might have not noticed had I not seen the original episode. Stanley is the first episode that left me, for the most part, kind of bored. The episode might have worked if Stanley was a character I could unabashedly root for: someone who, because of bad decisions or general passivity, always ends up in horrible situations and hasn’t managed to surround himself with reliable friends. Sadly, he’s not. He’s not the clueless, slightly pathetic guy who can’t see anything through the literal mess in his life and the figurative one in his head, he’s the guy who, while being cheered on by his friends, asks the girl with a known substance abuse problem for drugs, the guy who jerks off on the bed of the girl he claims to love. I’ve never been a fan of Sid, but at least his shortcomings weren’t too big for redemption. I can’t really stand this constant “look how gross Stanley is” (he isn’t just gross though; he’s disrespectful, way out of line, and he isn’t the only one – I understand what the routine between Abbud and Tea is supposed to be, but it makes it impossible, at least for me, to like Abbud, because he constantly objectifies his best friend) that is always immediately followed by an “oh, but look how endearingly hapless and adorably clueless he is” because I don’t buy it, even though Daniel Flaherty makes him softer and less abrasive than Sid ever was. The really unfortunate thing is that this doesn’t seem intentional – I think that I am actually supposed to root for Stanley, and this is the result of a kind of over-the-top humour that doesn’t really work and sabotages the characters. Maybe I should just get over it already, and give these scenes the same benefit I extend to other episodes in which characters who are not at the centre of the episode seem slightly off, but it’s really getting frustrating now. The scene with Stanley and Michelle at the beach was nice, and friendly, and would indicate that they might actually work as a couple (more than Cadie and Stanley). I really did like the tiny bit in the car – “Is this dress too slutty for a private school?” / “No. Just slutty enough I’d say.” – because they seem to be on the same wavelength and genuinely make each other laugh. But then I remember the TEDDY BEAR AND ALL THE FLUFFY FEELINGS GO AWAY. I need some Topher-tech to remove that from my permanent memory.

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