MTV’s 16 and Pregnant
“At least I’m with the guy I lost my virginity with!”
So said Amber, one of the young expectant mothers on MTV’s 16 and Pregnant. The reality show, with it’s Juno-esq playful animation, premiered in June of this year and quickly become a success… and not because it shows emotionally mature teenage moms-to-be. The show is everything the title promises, the first season featured six teenagers dealing with unplanned pregnancies, clueless boyfriends, freaked-out parents and gossiping classmates. The show itself is in the same vein of True Life, MTV’s, documentary -style programming, combined with the equivalent of voyeur crack rock; I’m a sucker for real stories from people who’s lives are vastly different from my own, as is most of America, judging from the ratings 16 and Pregnant has generated.
The girls struggle with the conflict between their previous aspirations and the new realities of parenthood. A struggle clearly felt by the parents, as demonstrated by Farrah’s mother in the special “Unseen Moments Special”. While getting a pedicure with her daughter, the new grandmother describes her conflicted feelings to the (surprisingly nosey and engaging) manicurist, explaining how as a parent you pour your hopes and dreams into your children and how hurtful it is when those dreams are destroyed… like when the your sixteen-year-old daughter gives birth THE SAME DAY that an invitation to participate in the Miss America Pageant arrives. Way to aim high lady, way to aim high. While Farrah’s personal aspirations to be a model or pageant queen were dashed didn’t inspire much sympathy in me, when Ebony put her dreams of graduating from high school and joining the Air force on hold, I got a little choked up…what happened to the idea that girls could have it all? Or does that reality only exist for educated and older women?
Two disturbing trends in the series are the guys utter lack of readiness and the parents, soon to be grandparents, involvement in their daughter’s lives. The parents seem to fall into two camps, coddling or neglectful, they’re either tying their teenage daughter’s shoelaces for them or practically shooting up on camera (hello Catelynn’s Mom who looks like a tall glass of crazy). Which makes me think that these girls are either having unprotected sex and getting pregnant because they’ve been forced to grow up too fast due to an unstable home life or because they’ve been babied their entire lives and have no concept of real consequences. And don’t even get me started on the boyfriends, when they weren’t out buying game systems instead of diapers, they were bitching and moaning about not being able to party with their friends. Although one or two guys were shown taking an active part in their new child’s care, the rest were uninvolved or M.I.A.
MTV seems to be going after the complete 16-34 female demographic, there’s My Super Sweet 16 for the children of the privileged and 16 and Pregnant for the blue-collar sect. If this were a facebook quiz, “Which MTV show are you?” the telltale question would read:
Which scenario describes your typical Friday night?
• Barefoot, pregnant and yelling at your Meemaw in the family trailer.
• Out at an amateur fight night with your baby’s daddy because that’s the most exciting thing to do in your small rural town.
• Anywhere other than around your dysfunctional and crazy mother and her ex-convict husband, who happens to also be the father of your long-time boyfriend.
• Out shopping for your Sweet 16 present, a new Range Rover.
If you answered anything other than “D) Out shopping for your Sweet 16 present, a new Range Rover” you fall into the 16 and Pregnant category.
With teenage pregnancies on the rise for the first time in years, it seems like MTV will have plenty of material for many seasons to come. And with their announcement to air a second season, it looks like they’ve come to the same conclusion.