Episode 23: Heaven is Other People

Sheely and Wrather discuss The Sid and Maxxie/Anwar episodes of Skins, focusing on false autonomy, post-Soviet Russia, realist and transnational views of the international system, and child brides.

Ryan Sheely and Matthew Wrather, on hiatus from Gossip Girl and Glee, discuss Skins Series 1, episodes 5 and 6, focusing on the 20th century social history of coming of age stories, E4 and Sixth Form, false autonomy, Soviet and post-Soviet Russia, the social institutions of liberal democracies, realist and transnational views of the international system, and child brides.

There will be no spoiler warnings and there will be many naughty words. If either of those things bothers you, don’t click!

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Michel Foucault, Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison

The Gossip, Standing in the Way of Control

Lucy Walker (dir.), Devil’s Playground

Steven Mazie, Consenting Adults? Amish Rumspringa and the Quandry of Exit in Liberalism

The Hold Steady, Heaven Is Whenever

Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers

John Gerard Ruggie, Constructing the World Polity: Essays on International Institutionalisation

Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order

Christopher Morris, Four Lions

16 Comments on “Episode 23: Heaven is Other People”

  1. Pasteur #

    I was pretty positive that the show Anka learned English from was in fact, “Friends”.


  2. Timothy J Swann #

    I got excited then realised it was the other UK Tim. Darn. Still, another great episode, I’m going to miss the Summer School.

    The A-Level they are doing is History. We don’t do specificity, though the syllabus may well have a module on the Soviets.


  3. Matthew Wrather #

    Also psychology, right? I mean, it’s not relevant to the Russia field trip, but we’ve seen Chris, Jal (reading a paper about the Kubler-Ross stages in ep 1) and Sid in psychology, and that’s the teacher Chris is hot for.

    This may be of limited interest, @timothy j swann, but what is the average level of education completed by those who teach sixth form?


  4. Timothy J Swann #

    Oh yes, I’d forgotten about that or repressed it – clearly my own psychology A-level simply did not live up to it. In general, high school teachers have to have a bachelor’s degree and a one-year graduate teaching certificate, some learn on the job but are required to have a degree first. Some may have a master’s, a couple at my school had doctorates, but you’d only see a couple of those at each school at most.


  5. Timothy J Swann #

    Which means they’re probably doing two more each at this point, but I can’t remember what. Aren’t some doing sociology (very much seen as a soft subject, no matter how unfairly, in the UK)? Wikipedia did not have useful lists…


  6. Matthew Wrather #

    Sheely often refers to the social sciences as the “soft sciences” which I think is unfair and also hilarious. But I now can’t help but imagine the sciences placed on a continuum of “hardness” from mushy to rock-like, with sociology and the more theoretical flavors of psychology on one end and something like physics or engineering on the other.


  7. Sheely #

    My love for saying the “soft sciences” comes from this Tobias quote from Arrested Development:
    “You know Michael, if I may take off my acting pants for a moment, and pull my analrapist stocking over my head, George Michael has been acting strange lately. I think he may have developed what we in the soft sciences refer to as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, or the O.C. Disorder.”

    But even before that, this hierarchy was in fact drilled into my head in one of my first Political Science grad school classes, in which one of the profs led us through ranking the social sciences in order of “scienceyness” with Econ at the top and Anthropology and Comparative Literature at the bottom. When someone asked what is below Comparative Literature, he said “Pizza Delivery”. While the conversation may have been aimed at poking fun at the hegemonic discourse, I think it mostly served to reinforce that discourse among my cohort.

    Speaking of hegemonic discourses, the rhetorical move used by the “softest” of the sciences (and the political scientists/sociologists who identify with anthro/critical theory) is to claim that the study of politics/culture/society isn’t a science at all, it is falls under the humanities, and should be analyzed with tools that prioritize meaning and interpretation.


  8. Timothy J Swann #

    You mean like this, Wrather? http://xckd.com/435/

    I’ve spent three years having to insist Psychology is a science. My faculty is so insecure about, they renamed themselves Experimental Psychology. And I’ve waded through enough experiments, statistics and cut-open monkey brains to know that I’m definitely a scientist. The scientific method should presumably determine what is a science, making Psychology, say, the softest science, and sociology/economics the hardest humanity. Of course, where the boundary between the softest humanity and the hardest art lies, I can’t tell.


  9. Megan from Lombard #

    After listening to the description of the school that the characters are in I think that it’s what the US considers a junior or even a community college, people go there before moving on to a four-year institution or a trade.

    Also I was slightly let down that you guys didn’t briefly talk about the racial profiling that was going on in the episode; Anwar was hauled away because of his Middle Eastern look (the Russians thinking that he was a terrorist) and thinking that he might be body-packing drugs or explosives while Sid, who *was* body-packing, hardly got a second glance because he looked like everyone else.


  10. Timothy J Swann #

    @Megan – Did Tim not do a description of sixth-form college? I thought he did… It’s more like a college for the last two years of high school, and many of which are still attached (I attended one attached to my high school. Also, I get a lot of stick for calling it a high school, because it ought to be a ‘secondary school’ except mine sort of wasn’t, but people don’t like that Americanism more than any other that I’ve picked up).


  11. Megan from Lombard #

    @Timothy- He did, it’s just that’s what it sounds like to me.


  12. Timothy J Swann #

    Oh, that’s alright then, I was wondering if I was losing track of reality.


  13. Megan from Lombard #

    Re-watching Sid’s episode you can really see the relationship between Michelle, Sid and Tony during the pub scene; Tony messes with both Michelle and Sid while enjoying it and Michelle and Sid trying to comfort each other the way that friends do while at the same time still going back to Tony in the end when he weasels his way back in.

    It’s getting easier and easier to hate Tony as the series goes on because he manipulates people for the hell of it and doesn’t really care about the end results.


  14. Gab #

    Small detail: Jal’s dad’s poster was on the wall in the pub. I think that shows he’s successful, right?

    And just a side, I really enjoy Portishead and Massive Attack- trip-hop is relaxing, imo, and kind of exploratory. I was a fan of the latter’s “Teardrop” LONG before it was used as the theme song for _House_. ::self-important puff::

    I don’t think they’re expressing any greater independence as Brits ON TV as any Americans on TV would. They may not *show* the parents in _Skins_ much, but I don’t really think the parents in shows on American TV necessarily have more demonstrable authority. Take _Boy Meets World_, for example. Cory and Sean run around getting into all kinds of shenanigans, and they don’t get held accountable every single time- yeah, sometimes, but not always. _Saved by the Bell_- do we *ever* see parents? I can’t remember. The very notion that they could always meet up at that burger joint and have the extra $$ to spare to do whatever else always baffled me (similarly to how the _Friends_ characters were always in that coffee shop and such). Were they clearing the meetings with their parents? It’s never shown, as far as I’m aware.

    Underthinking reason: time. It would take up at least half of every episode if they chronicled the teens asking permission every time they were about to enter a situation one would expect them to need permission to enter in the first place.

    A Little More Thinking: entertainment. Watching the teens ask to borrow the car every time would be bloody boring.

    I *really* liked the montage at the end because it was a catalyst of Sid as a person. In the end, he tries (at whatever), even if we don’t know the outcome. It was more an allegory for his own personality than the assignment itself. He did the same thing with his dad, to an extent, when he said, “I hope you’re alright,” or whatever when Dad was in the room- he wasn’t just apologizing in the subtext, there, and we don’t really know what happens later. With Cassie: he goes to the hospital, but we never really get a resolution in the episode. With Tony and Michelle: he’s trying to get what he wants, and he’s eventually able to do it, but we can’t tell if it makes him happier or not.

    @Sheely: Oh, man, you’re totally speaking my (hegemonic) language in re: political “science.” I earned a B.A. in “Politics,” not “Political Science” because the courses at my college are so theory-based (and the faculty/administration is so pretentious) that they felt calling it “science” wasn’t “true” to the way politics get studied there or something like that (it’s explained on the homepage to the Politics Department, I read it once, years ago). And I see why- there was very, very little practical application to the theories I studied. The professors called themselves professors of “fake-” and “pseudo- science” classes, but they did so with a rather pleased, warm-fuzzies kind of feeling, affection and happiness with the label. The most relevant (and I use the term loosely) politics courses I took were more like history classes using political theories as the lenses with which to analyze. We may have been told, “Apply suchandsuch theory to a topic in the news,” every so often, but that was rare and never the *focus* of the class as a whole. (So I wonder how “prepared” I really will be this fall when I start my own graduate degree in a program actually called “political science.”) Which is why stuff like politics, anthropology, etc., are considered “soft” sciences- you’re studying stuff, but using it in the real-world gets more and more difficult as you go up the scale. And any results are not 100% testable because there is always at least some level of interpretation in the humanities and soft sciences, whereas things like mathematics and physics can be tested and proven or dis-proven objectively (even if we don’t actually have the right methods of testing some of the theories involved yet) (I’m thinking of stuff like theoretical physics, maybe).


  15. Matthew Wrather OTI Staff #

    You should go study with Sheely. I hear he’s an easy A.


  16. Maria S. #

    Hey guys, great job on the podcast. Just wanted to mention that I think the American show that Anka used to learn English was friends because at one point she actually says “How you doin’?” and then she also talks like the friends characters haha


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