One of the byproducts of having virtually no cable T.V. channels is the fact that I have never seen many of the pack of reality television shows currently burning up small screens across America. Of those on top of the reality show heap are MTV’s “16 and Pregnant” and “Teen Moms.” Sometime ago, I watched an interview Matt Lauer conducted with two of the teen girls featured on these shows. With baby in tow, the girls attempted to explain why they believe these shows do not glamorize teen pregnancy, but rather highlight the struggles pregnant teens face. Nevertheless, reluctantly, each girl admitted that they have gained some fame and notoriety resulting from their appearance on the show, including landing on the cover of a leading magazine. Similarly, CNN reported on the charge by some that the attention teen moms receive on these shows may lead some teenage girls to become pregnant, seeking the fame and notoriety of previous show members.
At the center of the latest controversy involving the show “16 and Pregnant” is the casting call MTV issues to solicit soon to be teenage moms to appear on the show. Before getting to the casting call itself, I must admit that I was dumb struck to learn that a casting call was issued for this show. Perhaps naively, I believed that the show was cast by going to high schools where there happened to be pregnant teens, or maybe a specific teen pregnancy program in the community. However, there is an official casting call that is issued by MTV which in part states,
Having never watched either of these shows, I decided to log onto the MTV website to see what all of the buzz and fuss were about. On the website, I watched 2 1/2 episodes of “16 and Pregnant;” I couldn’t get through the third episode of “16 and Pregnant,” and there was little chance that I would continue onto watching “Teen Moms.” My reaction to “16 and Pregnant,” well, I hardly know where to begin. First, let me begin by stating that I do not believe that this show is purposely trying to glamorize teen pregnancy. I think most would agree that dropping out of high school, being socially isolated from ones peers, and struggling daily to get sleep and provide for a baby is not glamorous. That being said, the girls featured on the episodes that I watched came from extremely supportive families that were willing to help with things such as food, shelter, and occasional babysitting. For most teen moms, this is a luxury, not a given. The truth is that a great majority of teen moms go on welfare, have unstable living arrangements and struggle to find childcare for their children. Not to mention, that most of these girls receive little to no monetary or emotional support from the father of their children.
Potentially, I believe that there may exist the opportunity to present a hard-gripping documentary chronicling the life of teenage parents. However, I think that this needs to be an organic process. By that I mean, no cheesy, borderline disturbing casting calls, and no Usher and Rhianna tracks strategically placed in various scenes throughout the documentary. Now, I realize that the current crop of teenage parent docudramas are on MTV and as such the call to play popular music is deafening. Nevertheless, a “gritty” and “unvarnished” look at the reality of teenage pregnancy kind of loses its edge when “Umbrella” by Rhianna is playing in the background.