(This post has been brewing inside me for a while and it’s about damn time I spit out the words.)
Week after week, I sit there and watch the trainwreck that is MTV’s “16 and Pregnant.” And each week I find myself asking the same question: Are we somehow glorifying teenage motherhood?
While I both believe and hope the show’s creators didn’t aim for young girls to watch this show with awe, wishing that they could become next season’s stars, that exact thought continually crosses my mind.
Despite the producers/editors likely best efforts to depict the hardships of teen pregnancy and thus optimistically prevent it for countless other girls out there, I imagine there are dozens of high schoolers who tune in each week and begin longing for a baby of their own. They watch the struggles of teens and instead of thinking, “I never want to be in those shoes,” they begin plotting their road to stardom as a character on Season 3.
As teenagers, we’re all impressionable. You tell us not to hang out with George* and ten minutes later, we’re in his bedroom doing who-knows-what. You beg us not to drink and we’re so sloshed that Friday night that we can’t even spell our name. That’s how it goes, and yet someone out there decides to toss 20 episodes of prego-teens on the tube and seriously expects girls not to quickly jump on that bandwagon? Why do I find this all hard to believe?
It’s easy for me to look at each episode and critique the passing moments, which are nearly the same every week:
- Naive girl meets “nice” boy.
- They fall in love.
- They do the dirty.
- Uh oh, someone’s pregnant.
- Boy is a jackass.
- Heartbreak hotel. Girl cries A LOT.
- Push. Push. Happy birthday baby.
- Teen parents are poor.
- Life sucks.
Season 1 practically followed this as if it were a script, and yet somehow, we still had Season 2. And I undoubtedly believe a Season 3 will soon debut. Why? Because teens don’t always see the negative in these scenarios and learn from their peers. Rather, many share the same mistakes as their skewed eyes see the good outshine bad. They watch something on TV and duplicate it in their own lives, which is why this show may last for more seasons than I can count on my fingers and toes.
When comes the time to step back and realize that maybe, just maybe, this one show – albeit popular – could be causing more harm than good? Sharing a few Web site addresses each week does little to prevent pregnancy. Shit, if telling teenagers that unprotected sex could produce a baby doesn’t scare them enough to choose abstinence or find birth control, then what makes anyone think for even a moment that slight warnings squeezed between “I can’t wait to be a mommy” or smiling faces will do the trick? I’m not fooled, that’s for sure. And I bet you aren’t either.
Yes, I will admit any day that I watch the show. But I’m 24 years old and I didn’t have sex in high school because I knew its dangers. I didn’t want a baby. I was not about to mess around with anything that would’ve caused one.
Not everyone is me though and I’m quite aware of the naivete that exists when you’re in high school, assuming no wrong will ever occur in your own life. “It won’t happen to me,” and then BAM, nine months later the legs are in the air as a bowling-ball-sized human comes flying out. Why any young girl would want that is besides me, but some do, and I fervently believe that at least a handful of teens in this world are looking at “16 and Pregnant” saying, “I wish that was me.” Doesn’t that mean it’s time to hit cancel and move on to the next reality series?
Perhaps it’s time for “16 with HIV.”
* Yes, George. Don’t ask questions.
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