University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Glmaorizing Teen Pregnancy
Media, specifically television has taken the issue of teen pregnancy to a whole other level. The shows 16 and Pregnant, Teen Mom, and The Secret Life of the American Teenager document the lives of young teenage girls facing the issue of being a pregnant teenager. Originally created to show the controversial subject of teen pregnancy, all of these shows soon began to change. As the seasons continued in all three of these shows, the controversial subject of teen pregnancy soon became a glorifying concept. What was first viewed as just a fantasy is now becoming a reality for many teenagers.
Viewers of these shows are now seeing that teen pregnancy isn’t all that bad; it may even be considered normal according to MTV and ABC Family. The “teenage celebrities” on these shows are making it through life just fine; portraying that anyone else can too. Yes, these teenagers may have faced hard times in the beginning, but at the end of the day, their lives are unrealistically viewed as ordinary. Both MTV and ABC Family depict the lifestyle of being a pregnant teenager to be somewhat glamorizing. The reality television show 16 and Pregnant was first aired on MTV on June 11, 2009.
This show follows the stories of four pregnant teenage girls [Farrah, Maci, Amber and Catelynn] that are in high school dealing with the hardships of teenage pregnancy. “Each episode follows a five to seven month period in the life of a teenager as she navigates the bumpy terrain of adolescence, growing pains, rebellion, and coming of age; all while dealing with being pregnant” (MTV. com). During the first few episodes of season one, the struggles of dealing with teenage pregnancy seemed difficult and nearly impossible.
MTV portrayed each girl as if they were not going to make it through this crisis they were about to face, and their lives were soon coming to an end because being a pregnant teen was not acceptable. As the show continued and episodes passed, these so called “hardships”, no longer seemed to be that difficult. With all the support from their families and/or boyfriends that they received, these teenage girls were able to get through this bump in the road pretty well. Not only did they get support from people they knew, they received the most of their support from MTV.
While teenage pregnancy might have started out rough, becoming an MTV celebrity could not have been too bad. According to Arienne Thompson, author of “16, Pregnant … and Famous: Teem Moms Are TV’s New Stars”, “All four women are mainstays on USA TODAY’s Celebrity Heat Index, which measures media exposure; Portwood [Amber] topped the list for October, beating out Angelina Jolie and Prince William. The moms are regularly on the covers of People and Us Weekly and have Facebook fan pages dedicated to them” (USA Today).
Putting the stars of these reality shows on a magazine cover puts them in the same place as any other famous person. The message that is being sent out to girls is that if they get pregnant as a result of being sexually active, then they too can end up on TV or on a magazine cover. Being sixteen and pregnant may not be the most ideal lifestyle, but becoming more popular than an experienced, well-known actress at the age of sixteen is another story. Viewers of 16 and Pregnant now see that if they become pregnant at a young age, they also can have the chance to become famous alike Farrah, Maci, Amber and Catelynn did.
MTV did not decide to stop there though. As if these girls were not famous enough, as a continuation of 16 and Pregnant, MTV aired Teen Mom on December 8, 2009, only six short months after the broadcast of 16 and Pregnant took place. This show takes the four teenagers from 16 and Pregnant, and documents their first few years of motherhood. Receiving more attention than before, MTV has millions of viewers watching Teen Mom each week, making these “teenage celebrities” even more famous. Teen Mom executive producer Morgan J.
Freeman says, “The concern for teens, however, is what else they may see in the show. While the Teen Mom stars have their share of struggles on the small screen each week, paparazzi shots and tabloid covers manage to rip them out of the context of MTV and place them in the realm of celebrity” (USA Today). Even celebrities agree that the characters on these shows are becoming too idolized. “Kim Kardashian boldly states that “It seems like shows like ‘Teen Mom’ are all of a sudden making teen pregnancy look cool in the eyes of young girls.
She even goes a step farther and says that the girls from the shows “have become almost like celebrities, but girls these are not people you should idolize! ”” (Jadebt13). Along with MTV, ABC Family decided to air a show following the life of a pregnant teenager. On, July 1, 2008, ABC Family aired the show, The Secret Life of the American Teenager, which became the network’s most watched series in the 12-34 demographic (McKay 1). This show follows the character Amy Jergen through her pregnant life, and also through her life of being a mother.
In the first season, Amy realizes that she has become pregnant, and does not know how to tell her friends or family. This season shows the struggles that Amy faces while being pregnant, but as the season comes to an end, life become simpler to Amy. The Secret Life of the American Teenagers glamorizes her teen pregnancy by having the schools marching band play their instruments as Amy first returns back to school after finding out that she has become pregnant [which is a little unrealistic].
Not only does this event take place, but also Amy’s boyfriend, which is not the father of her soon to be son, proposes the idea of getting married and helping her take care of the baby. At the start of the second season, Amy has her baby boy, named John. With the birth of John everything soon turned into a fairytale ending, and her life completely turned around; her boyfriend problems fall into place, and she started to receive support from her family, friends and community.
This season sent out the message to its viewers that if you become pregnant as a teenager, you will have support from surrounding people, when that is not always the case. In conclusion, television is glamorizing the lifestyle of pregnant teenagers. The shows 16 and Pregnant, Teen Mom, and The Secret Life of the American Teenager all have different story lines to them, but in the end, they all show that some good can come out of being a pregnant teen. 6 and Pregnant and Teen Mom are both reality television shows that idolize the glamour of being pregnant by the publicizing these girls not only on MTV, but also in outside sources such as magazines. The Secret Life of the American Teenager on the other hand, is a scripted television show that depicts teen pregnancy as being a joy, fun, and simple by showing how great life can be having a baby at such a young age. Both MTV and ABC Family chose to air similar concept shows around the same time period that glamorized teen pregnancy when realistic having a baby in your teen years is not ideal, nor a pleasure.