Teen Mom Teaches the Truth
Over winter break, thanks to MTV, I was reminded how glad I am that I didn’t get pregnant in high school.
I’m referring, of course, to MTV’s new brainchildren, “16 and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom.” These sister shows are a part of MTV’s brilliant idea to explore the lives of pregnant American teenagers in the hopes of teaching young people the consequences of acting on their sexual desires and that the pull-out method still doesn’t work. It’s a new kind of reality show born of the post-“Juno” generation — a world where kids having babies is no longer taboo but rather a desperate point of discussion. Gone are the days when parents could escape the dreaded sex talk. Now, pregnant teens’ lives are being broadcast on cable television, and America is loving every minute of watching these irresponsible young ladies get a talking-to from Dr. Drew.
At first, I was bothered by these baby shows. I was brought into this world at a time when MTV was a network for debauchery, music and “Beavis and Butthead.” But that was almost 20 years ago. MTV hasn’t been cool for a long time. It’s good to see that after 10 years of shit shows — think “Room Raiders,” “Parental Control” and the last 15 seasons of “The Real World” — they’re doing something valuable with their time.
Not only do these shows make the cast of “Jersey Shore” look like the more responsible group on the network, but they also shed a negative light on America’s out-dated and almost non-existent approach to sex education. These shows are not just for the benefit of teens, but also serve as a wake up call for naïve parents who think their kids could never be sexually active.
I hope it’s not too late. In 2007 when Jamie Lynn Spears and Ellen Page made eating for two look cool, I knew that the glamorization of it all would have drastic consequences. According to The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, our teen birth rates are 42.5 births for every 1,000 girls between the ages of 15 and 19. This number is two times higher than the U.K, which holds the top spot for teen pregnancy in Europe, and almost 10 times higher than Switzerland, whose rating is a low 4.3. Even worse, on January 14 of this year Fox News reported that there are almost 90 pregnant teen girls enrolled at Frayser High School in Memphis.
And we thought the French were oversexed.
These new baby shows are like high-quality public service announcements. They last 30 minutes and by the end make you feel connected to the characters. So connected that after three hours of watching a “16 and Pregnant” marathon, I found myself wanting to punch these girls’ baby daddies in the face, explain to their mothers where they went wrong, and raise the babies myself.
My favorite teen mom is Jenelle Evans, a 16-year-old free spirit from the North Carolina coast, who finds it hard to give up her surfer girl ways in order to grow up and raise her child. Jenelle parties, surfs, dates a dead-beat, and constantly tells her mother to get the fuck out of her face. She is a teen tragedy and I can’t help but feel for her and every other girl who has to grow up in the duration of their 30-minute episode.
I just hope that these shows aren’t adding to the glam of it all. It’s easy for me, someone who survived teenage girlhood, to see how sad they really are. I couldn’t imagine having to give up my life for someone else when I was only 16 and I hope teenagers are learning exactly what will happen if you’re stupid: life stops being about you. At least that’s what I’ve learned.
I love these shows because they affirm the fact that I did get things right back then and, hey, even if I don’t get a job after I graduate, at least I didn’t get knocked up by some 17-year-old boy who can’t decide whether he wants to come see his newborn infant or play “Call of Duty.” But I really hope I’m not the only one who sees the lesson behind the diaper changes. I’m proud of MTV for stepping up and saying what so many adults have a hard time spitting out: protect yourself. Protect your childhood.