Reality Television Gives Insight, not Limelight, to Teen Motherhood

by Kristen Magers

After last week’s blog about Charlie Sheen, I thought this week I should spend my time writing on a much more deep, meaningful topic. When I thought about things I could write about that are deep and meaningful, my mind turned to one of my truest loves: reality television. I’ve already covered RuPaul’s Drag Race and highlighted why I think it’s an important piece of pop culture today, so I thought this week I would talk about a show that maybe isn’t so obviously productive to society. This week, I’m talking about Teen Mom, more specifically, Teen Mom 2 which had its season finale last night. Before you roll your eyes and cast off the show, hear me out. It has its positives and, if you’re still not convinced, I know we all love a good train wreck.

The Teen Mom series is a spin-off from MTV’s self-proclaimed “ground breaking” reality series 16 and Pregnant. I am not exactly sure what drove me to watch 16 and Pregnant in the first place. I’m almost twenty-three so I have no chance of becoming a teen mom and quite frankly the whole idea of pregnancy, childbirth, and even raising a child makes my skin crawl. I have never wanted to experience the morning sickness, the financial strains, and the downright pain of child bearing. But still, I couldn’t help but be fascinated. So, of course I jumped at the chance to follow the lives of these young women beyond their one-hour episodes of 16 and Pregnant.

The girls of Teen Mom and Teen Mom 2 have gotten a lot of bad press lately, and I’m not even talking about the drug charges (Janelle) or assault charges (Amber). Lately a lot of critics of the show, even celebrities, have spoken out against the show claiming that it glamorizes teen pregnancy because these girls have gained almost celebrity status. I disagree with this notion for a lot of reasons. The first is that although the girls have gained some status and can be found on the covers of magazines, the headlines are not usually positive. Amber of Teen Mom made the cover of many tabloids when she assaulted her on/off boyfriend Gary in front of not only MTV cameras, but also daughter, Leah. What is so glamorous about that? Is there anything glamorous about Janelle’s arrest for possession or her loss of custody of her son, Jace? I don’t think so.

Anyone who watches an hour of any of these shows will know otherwise. If the girls are making money from these shows, it’s not made apparent in their daily lives. Kailyn had to borrow $600 from her baby’s father, Jo, to be able to go to college. Money aside, there is still nothing glamorous about these shows. These young women constantly face challenges that are anything but glamorous. I can honestly say that they made me thankful that I have no chance of becoming a teen mom. Whoever thinks that young girls will see these women and want to live their lives has not been watching the right shows.

Instead of bashing these women, maybe the fingers should be pointed at Bristol Palin. News leaked on Wednesday of Sarah Palin’s daughter reportedly accepting $262,500 from Candie’s Foundation. The non-profit group only put $35,000 toward actual pregnancy prevention (whatever they consider that to be). Not many would put the Palin’s on a moral pedestal and I guess it’s a good thing. I’m not even sure what Bristol Palin has done for the prevention of teen pregnancy. But I do know what the girls of 16 and Pregnant, Teen Mom, and Teen Mom 2 have done, and that’s display their lives for anyone to see what they deal with on a daily basis. No magazine covers in the world can make that glamorous.

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About Ohio U Women's Center

The Ohio University Women’s Center serves and responds to the needs of OU women students, faculty, and staff, as well as members of the community. Founded in 2007, the center is dedicated to creating an inclusive and welcoming campus climate for all members of the community through programs, resources, referrals, advocacy, and education. Located in Baker University Center 403.
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One Response to Reality Television Gives Insight, not Limelight, to Teen Motherhood

  1. Jeanna says:

    I must admit I’m not a fan of these shows, but I have to agree that they certainly are not glorifying teen pregnancy or these girls’ lives. Thanks for another great post, Kristen!

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