The Media And Teen Pregnancy

The other night while I was listening to the radio, the DJ began discussing Jenelle Evans’ and her “video sensation” that continues to spread around the Internet.

Now at this point, you may be thinking (besides, who is Jenelle Evans?), “Internet video sensation huh? Sounds kinda’ sexy.”

Yet I hate to break it to you MSP-readers, this is far from sexy.

Jenelle Evans’ video was not some sultry sex tape that leaked onto the Internet; Jenelle Evans’ video was of  herself (a former reality TV star from MTV’s “16 and Pregnant” and its spin off, “Teen Mom 2″) getting into a fight with another teenager – literally mounting her and repetitively punching her in the face.

Now before I go off on a tangent about this idiotic incident, I should get myself back on track. My issue here is not that two teenagers were fighting; my issue lies with the fact that America obsesses, condones and contributes to this madness growing around MTV’s habit of parading underage mothers around like show horses.

Now don’t get me wrong, I understand that the show initially started out as a way to showcase young moms dealing with the hardships of teenage pregnancy (basically trying to scare them out of having unprotected sex and educate them on the consequences of their actions).

But lets get realistic, after the first seasons’ finale brought in 2.1 million viewers – I’m sure the motive behind the show transitioned from mommy to money in a heartbeat.

To this day I still find it incredibly bizarre that so many people have this fascination with these teenagers; it’s bad enough that the media obsesses over every celebrity who steps into the limelight – but turning pregnant moms into celebrities - isn’t that taking a bit far?

Looking back to when the show first had it’s debut in 2009, an article in the New York Times referred to it as a “documentary-style series about real-life Junos who are not scoring in the 99th percentile on the verbal portion of their SATs” and continued that, “despite its showcasing of the grim, hard work of single mothering, 16 and Pregnant seems calculated, above all, to incite viewers of The Hillsto working-class voyeurism, given how many clichés of lower-income Middle American life are exploited.”

Talk about hitting the nail on the head.

Many viewers find these shows problematic because the show itself is not entirely realistic. Not all pregnant teens are going to have MTV to fall back on - paying them to be a star on their latest season of “16 and Pregnant”/”Teen Mom”. Yet as the seasons progress (“16 and Pregnant” has had three seasons and “Teen Mom” begins the third season this July), the network continues to capitalize off these teenage mothers.

Clearly everyone is entitled to their own opinion and I’m sure the shows have their own lists of pros and cons (pertaining to producing the content); yet I can’t help but find the message it sends out counterproductive. There has to be a better way to get the message out there that contraception is a necessity for those who don’t want to be parents - right?

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About Madeline Haller

Madeline Haller

Madeline Haller is an Assistant Editor for Haller received her bachelor's degree in journalism from Indiana University, with a second concentration in gender studies. When she's not writing for MSP/MH, you can find her running, enjoying a cup of coffee, or searching for the perfect shade of red lipstick.

  • Thomas

    Once upon a time, maybe ten or fifteen years ago, MTV seemed much more socially conscious. When I was still in their target demographic they produced culturally relevant, anti-sensational, forward-thinking, documentary content that was as good or better than any on television.  I remember a series of docs on the Neo-Nazi movement of the late 90′s, several presentations on the dangers of bulimia and the first season of “Real Life” felt much more like a series of exposes than a collection of tabloid headlines.

    Maybe I’m just mis-remembering halcyon days but I wonder when it was that MTV went off the rails.