Teen Mom: For Lessons or for Ratings?

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Throughout the years, MTV has thrown some bizarre ideas for reality shows our way.  Some catch the attention of the nation while others fall through the cracks.  While watching MTV (daily) I find myself screaming at the TV, “WHAT is the point of this show??”  Entertainment value, usually.  That is if you can call watching guys pick a date based on the underwear a girl has in her drawer, entertainment. (Thanks, Room Raiders).  However, what about the shows that may have actually been created for a real reason?

Let’s rewind.  Teen Mom.  Yes, like most people, I am obsessed.  I am still trying to figure out what Catelynn has that I don’t (besides braces, a trailer, and a 1995 JCPenny homecoming dress) that makes Tyler choose HER over me.  SO unfair.  But back to my point: as I watched the finale of Teen Mom last week and gear up for tonight’s reunion episode with Dr. Drew, I’m really starting to wonder what MTV was trying to do with this show.

Was it for entertainment value? Sure, listening to Gary recite a definition of the word “empathy” during the finale was extremely entertaining, but teen pregnancy is a huge issue; is MTV trying to take a stance? Are they trying to educate teens about the horrors of teen pregnancy? Maybe trying to prevent it? You would think by airing this show, MTV could position themselves as advocates to prevent teen pregnancy and use the show as an education tool, while also providing entertainment. 

And if that was the intent, I have a couple issues with how it was seen through.

Personally, I did not find the show realistic.  Throughout the season, Farrah was the only teen mom who did not have the baby’s father in the picture.  I’m not implying that the other moms are leading ideal lives with their outstanding boyfriends, but Catelynn, Amber, and Maci all got pregnant by their boyfriend at the time.  These were guys that they were having consensual sex with regularly.  Although Gary and Ryan may go down in history as two of the worst boyfriends ever, throughout the season they are shown trying to make their relationships “work” in the best interest of their new child.

Farrah, on the other hand, although not with the father of her child, lives at home with her mother and father.   It is evident that Farrah has grown up pretty fortunately and has an extremely comfortable living situation.  The “hardships” Farrah faces include not being able to party with her friends all the time, and not being able to find a boyfriend who is ready to date a girl with a kid.  Yes these things might be difficult for her, but in the scheme of teen pregnancy they are quite trivial.  Her parents are always there to help out, and support her both emotionally and financially. The same is true for the rest of the teen moms on the show.

If MTV was trying to educate about teen pregnancy and the perils of dealing with it, why not show girls who are even less fortunate?  What about the ones out there who are really on their own?  There are plenty of girls who come from uneducated, broken families, who get pregnant and have no escape, and no chance at a better life.  Some live their whole lives on welfare and in many cases do not know who the father is.  My feeling is that MTV chose these specific moms because the typical viewer could relate to them better than a girl whose life has really been ruined by teen pregnancy.  If this is the case, then why didn’t MTV even show how truly hard raising a child as a teenager is?  There is not one clip throughout the whole season of one of the moms staying up the whole night with a crying baby, or cleaning up vomit.  I don’t want to go as far as to say that MTV “glamorized” being a teen mom, but I don’t think the show will leave any viewers thinking “Oh my god, this CANNOT happen to me, I better take precaution.”

And speaking of precaution, MTV never hit on the topic of prevention.  I don’t remember any of the girls being interviewed as to why birth control was not used during sex. Was it a one time slip-up with no condom?  Too afraid to ask their parents? No resources? These questions never surfaced throughout the season.  And furthermore, I find it extremely unrealistic to not mention abortion on the topic of teen pregnancy.  The a-word was non-existent throughout the series, but in reality, it is an option.  Most people have strong opinions on the subject, being either completely against it or for it.  But just because it would have stirred up controversy, does that mean MTV should have ignored it completely? If they wanted to use their power to educate teens and lay all the options on the table, why wasn’t it even mentioned?

So besides making me fall in love with Tyler, what was MTV’s purpose in producing this show? Do you think they portrayed teen pregnancy realistically?  Share your thoughts, peeps!

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