Josh and I recently had a conversation about Cassie from Skins–well it was mostly me rambling to him about something he said a few months ago on the topic of whether Cassie drastically changes between series one and two of the show, as some fans claim. I posted parts of the conversation on I’m Somewhere Else under the title cassie ainsworth & redemption rejection. Basically, Cassie is a character with psychiatric disabilities–in series one, she starves herself and attempts suicide twice, and in series two, she’s depressed and expresses this with reckless behavior and cruelty toward her friends; and the way she talks and reacts to things is consistently odd throughout the show.
During the airing of series one, in which Cassie comes off as angelic and adorably quirky, she was a very popular character. A lot of fans reacted to series two by saying that Cassie had become a really nasty person after breaking up with her boyfriend, and her character had been ruined. When I watched S2 I originally found the change in Cassie to be confusing, but Josh’s opinion is that Cassie doesn’t really change dramatically. He thinks that “different parts of her are being zoomed in on.” When I thought about this more, I became interested in the idea that Cassie is “covering” for her disability in S1 by playing up an endearing persona and trying to please people, and in S2 she drops this act or is no longer able to maintain it, and openly expresses her sadness and anger.
One of the most well-known scenes in Skins is the scene in 1×02 in which Cassie shows Sid how she tricks people into thinking she’s eating. You can watch it here, but to summarize, it basically proves what I’m saying about Cassie’s S1 behavior being an act. “You have to do a lot of talking. I’m good at talking…You’re not quite sure what I’m on about but I keep distracting you.” Earlier in the episode, the cab driver who understands Cassie tells her, “Don’t give me the smile. Not that smile.” So from very early in the show Cassie’s persona and her smile are set up as being false. In S2 when she stops smiling so convincingly and her strangeness isn’t adorable anymore, this isn’t a change as much as a revelation of who she really was all along.
What does this have to do with clothes? Well, I was going to write about Cassie here eventually because just like everyone else in the Skins fandom, I love how she dresses. But I noticed that her clothes change between S1 and S2 and I thought this was interesting because it kind of goes with how her personality changes. I also think it’s interesting in terms of fandom reaction–most people love S1 Cassie, and most people who love Cassie’s clothes love her S1 clothes.
Cassie’s style at its best is sort of high-femme/fairy-tale-ish, and in her most iconic scenes from a fashion perspective, her hairstyle, clothes, and makeup are really creative, complex, and neatly pulled off. Most of the really cool outfits are from S1. I’m not saying that Cassie never dresses up in S2, but quite often in S2 she wears more casual outfits, and she often looks downright unkempt. She also doesn’t look as clean and her roots are super long. I think these things are intentional touches, given the importance that clothing has always been given in Skins.
In both of Cassie’s centric episodes, we see her getting ready in the morning. In 1×02 she wakes up at Michelle’s house, reapplies her lipstick before she leaves, goes home, and changes into a new outfit and hairstyle, which looks very put-together and neat. I forget if the lunch table scene with Sid is the next day, but if it’s the same day, she actually changes her outfit twice in one day. 2×09 starts with Cassie awake in the morning wearing a pajama t-shirt; she gets dressed to go take her exam by putting on another and skirt, and we see that she doesn’t change her underwear, change her hair (which looks kind of messy), or fix her makeup before leaving.
This is kind of a big change. What does it mean?
On the one hand someone might say that it a stereotype for people with mental illness to be unkempt, and that because Cassie is “worse” in S2, she looks more stereotypically mentally ill and doesn’t take care of her appearance. But I would argue that Cassie isn’t worse in S2. What I think is interesting is that…well, let’s look at Cassie’s really put-together “looks” that people are forever making polyvore pages about, and examine what is actually going on with Cassie at those times.
I don’t have time to do this with pictures but I will later because I’m no more immune to Cassie’s fantastic outfits than anyone else is and I want to do a picspam. But without pictures, here’s what I’m saying:
In 1×01, she looks awesome. She overdoses. In her episode, 1×02, in which she constantly tries to trick people into thinking that she’s eating and gaining weight when she isn’t, she looks adorable in 3 different very neat/cute outfits. I can’t get a really clear screencap of her outfit in the last scene where she talks to the taxi driver and eats something, but her hair is a little messier and she’s wearing a big sweatshirt. In 1×05, she wears my absolute favorite ridiculously cool hairstyle and outfit, while yelling at Sid in what looks to me like kind of a manic episode. Later in the episode, she puts on a really nice dress, pins her hair to the side in a really cool way, binges on a lot of food, and then tries to kill herself. In Michelle’s episode…well, can I just say that if I went to visit someone in a clinic after they attempted suicide, I wouldn’t expect them to be wearing a straw hat, lipstick, amazing sunglasses, and the cutest shirt ever, and have their hair curled?
You get the idea.
Now you could be like, “This is just TV Amanda, people always look good on TV,” but I think Skins always portrays the characters’ clothes, makeup, hygiene, eating, etc. very realistically and as indicating a lot of things about what’s going on with them. Besides, Cassie doesn’t have these fantastically impressive outfits and hairstyles in S2. You can see that she has basically the same style, but her hair’s usually down and more messy and her clothes look like she put less thought into them.
So in S2 when Cassie is supposedly ruined as a character according to some people, and doesn’t come off as sweet and angelic anymore, and doesn’t look as cute and well-dressed… well, isn’t it interesting that in S2, Cassie apparently has less severe food issues, and never attempts suicide? Isn’t that kind of interesting that despite looking and acting “worse,” she’s apparently doing better?