Like many Skins fans, I was traumatized and heartbroken at the start of series 3. I realize that the paradigm of changing “generations” every two series is probably for the best, but I missed the characters I had grown to love. The one comforting thing was Effy. I was intrigued to see how Tony’s kid sister would carry the new generation. So imagine my delight when she turned out to be the new crazy.
Effy is mysterious and she knows it. She is loved without having to make an effort to love back. Although I can’t relate to being a femme fatale, I understand the belief that needing people makes one weak. Throughout series 3, unfeeling seems to be Effy’s only dysfunction. She’s a darker version of the manic pixie dream girl. In fact, I see Effy in a way as being the black to Cassie’s childlike white. Cassie cares about others very obviously while neglecting herself. Effy appears to neglect others in favor of an internal life. This unsurprisingly turns out to not be true, but I digress.
It’s interesting to me how both Effy and Cassie have control issues. Cassie feels like she can’t control her world, hence series 1’s anorexia. When she doesn’t have that coping mechanism, she falls apart. Effy, however, controls her world without even trying. But slowly Effy’s cool facade begins to crack. She allows herself to get close to people, namely Freddie. In the beginning of series 4 she even seems “normal.” Then shit gets real.
Effy gets very dark (well, darker), very fast. She becomes obsessed with death. Freddie armchair diagnoses her with psychotic depression, a condition I had honestly not heard of (thanks Skins). She attempts suicide. Compared to Cassie’s suicide attempts, Effy’s is violent. It’s representative of the characters’ M.O.s in general. Cassie is out there, sure, but her self destruction is usually slow and subtle. Effy’s is Grand Guignol. I observed a common thread, though. Both Effy and Cassie have a side that desperately clings to childhood and innocence. There are two scenes in which Effy, small, naked, and weeping, is given a bath. Despite her aloofness, she really just wants to be taken care of.
Effy’s mental illness is harder to relate to than Cassie’s, but I still think Skins deserves praise. So much of the show’s press criticizes it’s portrayal of wild teen behavior, but ignores the brilliant nuances of straddling the line between childhood and adulthood. At the end of the day, that’s probably the most important thing a show about teenagers can deal with.