Sunday, July 26, 2009

MTV's 16 and Pregnant

There has been some hype about MTV's 16 and Pregnant, a reality show featuring 1-episode stories about pregnant teenagers from across America. They show clips from the teens' lives from the early stages of pregnancy to a couple of months post-birth.

I watched this show out of curiosity and because I wanted to make sure that it wasn't making pregnancy seem too cool*; I was satisfied to find the show to be interesting, somewhat realistic about the difficult aspects of teenage pregnancy, and not disgustingly voyeuristic**. I watched one episode: one about Farrah, a cheerleader estranged from her baby's father and one about Amber, a girl who moves in with her 3-years-senior boyfriend after discovering she is pregnant. Both girls commit to raising their babies; while this is not a choice I would make, perhaps especially because this is not a choice I would make, I found it interesting to see the preliminary execution of these decisions. The show satisfies my curiosity by seeming to do a pretty good job of conveying a (sensationalized, MTV-ized) sense of what it may be like to be 16 and pregnant.

Of course, 16 and Pregnant has the expected cringe-worthiness in that the footage is extremely edited to convey what MTV wants to convey. An example is that they portrayed Farrah's mother as "controlling" and "hot-tempered" for telling Farrah to get her life in order and for fighting with her about wanting a car while she could barely afford the baby. I had found her to be surprisingly supportive of her daughter's decision to keep a baby, especially one fathered by a boy whom Farrah found too immature to even inform of the baby's existence. I also found it amusing that she was fully made up for the delivery even though her water broke at 2 am. :o Despite this, it is still interesting to dig through the layers and imagine what these teens' lives might actually be like. As someone who went to a small all-girls school where I didn't know any pregnant teens and had a deep fear of teen pregnancy, sex, pregnancy, and the opposite sex instilled by even more fearful parents***, I find teenage parents' lives fascinating.

One interesting question is how much being on this reality show affects the lives of these teen parents. From the shows I watched it seemed like the girls, their families, and other people in their lives were trying hard to keep it together and be supportive; no doubt being on TV had something to do with that. Perhaps this helped set a more solid foundation for something with an otherwise tumultuous beginning.

Given that this is a reality TV show about pregnant teenagers and that it's on MTV, it is much less terrible than I initially anticipated. They have some of the episodes online, so if you find yourself in the same situation of wanting to watch something while ironing clothes, I would recommend checking this out.

* It seems that Angelina Jolie has made pregnancy cool. When I used to read trashy magazines in the gym, they would have at least one spread of pregnant celebrities. Teenage girls seem to think it's cool to be pregnant--in the extreme case there was that girl on Maury and there was the pregnancy pact.
** My threshold for what is acceptible is probably way too high, thanks to reality TV pollution of ambient voyeurism.
*** I used to wake up with nightmares about being pregnant or about knowing pregnant people even though I rarely even saw, let alone interacted with, non-faculty, non-family member males.


darci said...

I agree - this show really isn't as bad as it sounds.I just channel surfed upon it the other day, and was pleasantly surprised. I think Dr. Drew makes a lot of good points in these episodes, and does a good job of not glamorizing teen pregnancy like some talk shows do. I only saw the reunion episode, but I think that was enough to sum up the whole season for me.

Also, this is MTV, so I was paying attention to the music they used, and they actually made some really good song choices in this episode - I love Tokyo Police Club and so glad they featured three of my favorite songs, "Graves," "Juno," and "Nursery Academy." Good job, MTV!

Anonymous said...