Why TV Does Not Glamorize Teen Pregnancy

As many of my readers know, I’m a bit of a reality TV junkie. While I miss the music videos on MTV as much as the next person, I have made do with the wide variety of reality shows the station has to offer (even some of the more embarrassing ones, like Jersey Shore, which has become my guilty pleasure!).

And yes, I will admit, I watch the teen pregnancy shows. Because the original cast of 16 and PregnantΒ featured girls my age, I thought it was interesting to see how having children affected them and think about how different my life would have been if I had made different choices. Over the years, I kept up with them as they graduated to Teen Mom, and while it isn’t the most groundbreaking show on television, I still thought it was intriguing to see how their lives turned out.

In the time since the shows first began to air, 16 and PregnantΒ and Teen MomΒ have received a lot of criticism throughout the nation. Many people suggest that such programming only glamorizes teen pregnancy and encourages teenagers to have unprotected sex so that they can have the fairy-tale endings they see on TV.

When I hear this, I have to ask: do these critics actually watch the show? Every week when the show airs, the four girls all have to deal with very serious issues: custody battles, financial problems, difficulty balancing school and work and raising a child, decisions relating to adoption, etc. Not one of the girls has it all completely together. Even Maci, who seems to have adjusted the most to teen motherhood, has been in and out of court with her son’s father, and her schoolwork has suffered so that she could care for Bentley. Meanwhile, Amber Portwood endures postpartum depression early on, and faces legal issues of her own.

Maybe it’s just me, but none of those scenarios sound particularly appealing. When I watch a show like this, it makes me think of how lucky I am not to be in the situation myself. Although I am not knocking motherhood and or trying to disrespect teen mothers, I do think that the show demonstrates very well that being a parent is hard. Being a parent when you’re only sixteen, seventeen, eighteen years old is even harder. I never doubted that, but when I watch this kind of thing on television, I see challenges I might never have even thought of.

To make matters worse, some of these girls have also had to deal with the pressures of fame on top of teen parenthood. Their every moves are documented in the latest issues of OK! and Us Weekly magazine, and people across the country are judging their actions. Yes, they chose to be on television, but I doubt if any of them expected to have gained celebrity status so quickly.

The show might give some of these girls a leg up in their future careers, but it has never depicted their lives as easy or perfect. Any viewer with half a brain will see the many difficulties the cast faces, and realize that nothing about the show ever promotes teen pregnancy or makes it seem particularly desirable. When I watch shows like Teen Mom, I am thankful for the decisions I have made, and I know that if I were to get pregnant at even twenty years old, the road ahead would not be an easy one.

What do you think about these types of shows?

4 thoughts on “Why TV Does Not Glamorize Teen Pregnancy

  1. Kalehli says:

    Personally, I am not a fan of reality shows, if I’m going to watch TV, I want to escape reality. But, I have to admit, I’m somewhere in the middle on this one.. I neither agree nor disagree with the show itself, it is with the younger viewers that I find fault. Yes, the show portrays what is going on as a teen mother, but a good portion of any reality show is staged. Viewers want to see drama, they want to see their favorite characters fighting against all odds.. they want to cheer for the underdog. However, their problems are not financial. Any reality show star is paid, how else could Snooki and the Pumpkin Patch travel around doing whatever? The average salary for Teen Mom/ 16 & Pregnant is about $60k a season, which, with responsible budgeting is a great income to raise a child on. How come that isn’t shown in the show? Also, while in court, Amber from Teen Mom revealed her salary to be in the 6 digit range (http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/40853908/ns/today-entertainment/t/teen-mom-amber-earns-k-year-mtv/#.Tj-lLmiF_ug). Probably because she’s in and out of the news the most and draws the most attention back to MTV.

    However, I digress, the point was that TV does not glamorize teen pregnancy; which I agree with. It shows girls in an unfortunate situation and how they choose to deal with it. The idea in itself is good. And for the viewers who have a good head on their shoulders, that is exactly what it is. Like you said, “Any viewer with half a brain will see the many difficulties the cast faces, and realize that nothing about the show ever promotes teen pregnancy or makes it seem particularly desirable.” It’s the viewers with less than half a brain that draws the criticism. While I hardly think that a majority of girls are going “oh, if I get pregnant I’ll get on TV and be famous!” I think that it shows them that they can raise a baby because ______ on TV did! Well, ______ on TV is getting paid to do that. Also, I think it makes it seem more mainstream and acceptable, because it’s on TV. And for those who want a break into TV they see it as their 15 minutes of fame. The casts now, that have gained that quasi-instant celebrity seem alluring to someone who wants to be famous. And to a teenager who wants people to like them, it must seem like if they get on that show then they’ll have a nation of people watching them. Which isn’t how it works.

    I’m not knocking you in the slightest for being a reality show junkie, everyone has their “vice” of sorts. I just feel that reality shows are well and good… if you have common sense and are intelligent enough (which you are!) to recognize the elaborate staging that many shows have. Unfortunately, not all of America shares that common sense with you.

    • Valerie says:

      I definitely agree that some of what we see on TV is staged, and that the financial stuff has to be taken with a grain of salt after the first season, but that the situations themselves are never made to seem appealing. If we take away the girls’ celebrity status or look at the show as based-on-reality, the financial issues are more believable (and I totally agree with you). I also agree that not all of America has common sense, and can see where you are coming from there. But I think the show does have some merit and I think most of all our country needs to give less importance to the glamour of celebrities in tabloids.

  2. melaniedahling says:

    When I was a teen I wanted more than anything to live in a shitty apartment in New York as a starving artist. Something does not have to be appealing to be glamorized. Look at all the girls who rushed out to see Titanic a 3rd, 4th, or 100th time in the theatre. Sometimes living a difficult life seems romantic, especially if you get attention for it. I think seeing the struggle of being a teen mom is beneficial for those who are watching it with a logical point of view, but some teens are just plain angsty and there’s not a lot we can do about it. I’m sure the makers of the show were well aware of this phenomenon when they set out to create it.
    In the end anything is what you make of it and if people are enjoying “Teen Mom” I see no reason to take it off the air. I never actually ran away to New York and I’m sure a lot of the girls who watch that show and romanticize it don’t actually go out and get pregnant. If they do, “Teen Mom” may have contributed to that decision but I’m sure they have deeper issues.

    • Valerie says:

      I see what you mean… I definitely forgot to take teen angst into account. I do think that there are a lot of girls who, like you said, have those deeper issues and might make poor decisions regardless of television or media influence. I think some teens will always be drawn to making bad decisions because they seem romantic, but I think that while TV might give them some ideas, they would have come up with other ways to make their lives difficult if they didn’t have TV.

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