Thursday, 14 October 2010

A Reflection on The Inbetweeners

Believe me, I never thought I'd write this post. In fact, even the thought of trying to be straight-faced about The Inbetweeners is enough to give me a jaw-ache.

Yet here I am.

Some of you may have heard of The Inbetweeners. Some of you may be fans who watch it religiously for the endless laughs. For those of you who have no idea what this is, in short, it's a British TV show about four teenage boys at the end of their high school lives. It's also about four teenage boys who swear, drink, and seem to talk almost constantly about sex. It's also a BAFTA award-winning show, which means somebody has found something to admire in it.

The most important thing you need to know about The Inbetweeners, though - and the thing that I notice most about it - is that there are no lines. The show doesn't take itself seriously. It's not supposed to be taken seriously. It's about silly fun, cheap laughs, and the odd moment of 'aw that was quite sweet' where the characters (sort of) redeem themselves. Just about every Naughty Word has been used in just about every episode. We have seen testicles. We have heard about a million different words for parts of the female (and indeed, male) anatomy. We've seen and heard about various bodily functions. We've seen, for Christ's sake, a squirrel being deliberately run over. And as someone who once watched her younger brother try and fail to save an injured squirrel that fell off our roof, I did not enjoy that.

The other thing you should probably know is that I'm not generally the blushing damsel type. I was raised by a family who didn't believe in censoring anything. I had aunts who loved to squabble (colourfully), an actor father who got me to run lines with him from scripts sometimes filled with profanity and sex, and a mother who is so liberal that the only thing she wouldn't let us read or watch was The Exorcist because she was afraid it would scare the tonsils out of us. Fair.

And when I was in high school, I was pretty much known to most of my friends as the one whose mind was in the gutter. Someone said 'long', I usually finished the sentence with a euphemism for boys' private parts. Someone said 'hard'... you get the idea.

Yet in spite of this upbringing and this high school career, I, Sangu Mandanna, Mind in the Gutter, spend most of The Inbetweeners episodes cringing. And blushing. And wincing.

Which goes to show you just how far the show goes.

I'm sure there are thousands of people who claim the show goes too far. Way, way too far. Sometimes, I even agree. Last week's squirrel-killing episode, for a start. I hated that bit. Steve, who derives immense amusement from the cheap laughs and the silly gags, didn't like it either. In fact, I wouldn't even call myself an Inbetweeners fan. I probably wouldn't notice missing an episode, and I certainly don't clear my day to watch it.

But for all that, I admire it. I admire the writers. The producers. The actors. Everyone who lets the show air exactly the way it is.

Why? Because The Inbetweeners is a rare example of something that's rapidly vanishing: the lack of boundaries. I might not agree with or enjoy everything I see in an episode, but I admire it all the same because there are no lines. In a world where books are being banned from libraries and TV channels censor out kissing (yes, this happens), I think a show like this is a nice, nice thing.

As someone who writes for young adults, whose YA novel is out on submission to publishers right now, I worry all the time. I find myself censoring myself when I write. Is this too politically incorrect? Will someone kick off if they read this line? And I wish I could stop doing that, because there's enough being cut out and chipped away out there already.

That's why I admire The Inbetweeners. It's a show about young adults that doesn't hold back. It airs late in the evening, so that children aren't unwittingly subjected to the swearing or sexuality, and it gives us a choice. If you find it offensive, don't watch it. If you like it, you can watch it, no holds barred and all that. We get to choose. And I love that. 

I'd love to know what you guys think.


  1. I haven't seen it myself, but it made me think of the movie 'Jackass' and it's spin offs. I'm a prude, I'm afraid, but I don't believe in sensoring either. I let my teens watch stuff I find offensive, but we discuss it as well. We live in the part of the world where we have the choices, and I won't be the one to tell everyone else they have to live my way. People died to give us that freedom - I'm not going to try and take it away because I simply don't agree with something.

  2. It doesn't sound like something I would want to watch, but I think my son would probably get a kick out of it. As long as it's on late and kids aren't likely to run across it, as you say, those who are offended by it can turn it off.

  3. I agree with Cinette up there. I'm a bit squimish sometimes, but I respect a right to express yourself the way you want, as long as you're not forcing your views on someone else. That's a sentence full of contradiction, though, we try to force free speech on people, sometimes... it's tricky. Interesting post!

  4. I’ve not seen any of the current season but I’ve seen most of the first two and although caricatured it rings true. I reviewed a YA novel a few months back and one of the things I criticised it for was that it was unrealistic in its portrayal of its fourteen-year-old protagonist; she was like something out of Enid Blyton, twee and innocent. At one point she ends up on the back of a motorbike with a film star and not a single lascivious thought. I don’t think so. Also no slang. I mean, as if.

  5. I can't watch it. Not for any great moral reasons, just because I can't bear watching programmes that make me wince/cringe/go "la la la" at the more excruciating moments. I just can't enjoy them properly.

    Good on them for making it and not pandering to anyone though.

  6. I love it - but I agree it makes me wince at times, evn my hubby has "oh no" moments where we just look at each other!

    Sal xXx

  7. I love it, too. I'm a big lover of the excruciating comedy style. I haven't seen this series, I like to record the whole lot and have a comedic overload. xxx

  8. Oh I find myself censoring too, which I'm not sure I should. Why should I compromise the work for conventions, yet at the same time AM I going to far? tricky questions, they are.

  9. Never heard of it.. I guess I need to look up some eps and see what's what! ; j

    Have you ever watched any Monkey Dust?