MTV’s third season of “Teen Mom” debuted last week. The show is a popular extension of “16 & Pregnant,” which features young girls’ struggles up to the birth of their children, while “Teen Mom” is an extension of this premise with the same people and issues, just a slightly older kid. The show was so popular that it has already gone through two cycles of young women. In its first episode of this current season, there was an attempt to present a more realistic look at teen pregnancy than in its other seasons.
This season, Briana DeJesus, Alexandria Sekella and Katie Yeager expose their lives to cameras and try to show America the struggles of young moms. The first episode did a fairly good job showcasing the breadth and depth of these problems, such as financial strain, an absent father and the difficulty in finishing education.
These young moms also faced difficult father situations, including a drug addict recently released from rehab and an ex who used cyber bullying to try to shame the mother of his child.
I appreciate this season’s efforts to be more serious and realistic than the last. Unlike the disturbing drama in previous seasons with the infamous Amber Portwood or Jenelle Evans, who both spent some time in jail. However, the show is still sending the wrong message. The lesson to be gleaned from the series is that lucky young women from small towns can suddenly become celebrities with massive Twitter followings and the details of their personal lives plastered on magazines in grocery stores across America.
Young mothers can take solace in knowing that other people are experiencing the same difficult circumstances, and see it receive national attention. It should not, however, serve as a general inspiration to teenage girls. Every girl is paid a large sum for each episode. In August 2011, TV Guide reported that previous seasons received as much as $3,000 to $5,000 per episode.
The show’s premise is intriguing: show the negative consequences of teen pregnancy. Yet, the format is wrong. Why not use the concept and channel it into a hard hitting documentary or a powerful memoir?
A show that should be about warnings and cautionary tales has been engulfed by the cult of celebrity. Why should we care what Mackenzie McKee’s wedding dress looked like or what kind of cake she had? Instead of showing hardships, the newest season continues to glamorize teenage pregnancy.
I had some hope for this season to shift to a more serious and realistic portrayal of teen moms, instead of a manual for how average people can become famous.
However, the opportunity for a widely popular teen television show to remind young women about the importance of safe sex and completing their education was lost. Instead, it continued as a platform for randomly selected women to become celebrities. Another chance for the show to redeem itself, but MTV just couldn’t deliver.
Teen Mom 2 star Amber Portwood in one of her handful of mugshots (Photo courtesy AP).