Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Slate Magazine (Double X): Does MTV's 16 and Pregnant Keep Girls From Getting Pregnant?, by Jessica Grose:
Or does it just exploit the teen moms on the show?
Jenelle, the young subject of the latest episode of the MTV reality show 16 and Pregnant, which aired on Feb. 16, is a spectacularly surly new mother. Before she gives birth to son Jace, Jenelle says in her thick North Carolinian accent that she imagines motherhood will be like "dressin' up a doll every day." But when the baby comes, it's not like her fantasy at all. Jenelle's "alcoholic," ex-model boyfriend refuses to visit and calls her a "piece of crap" repeatedly, and her mother is constantly haranguing her for going out clubbing and leaving the baby at home. Toward the end of the hourlong episode, Jenelle openly regrets having a baby while still in high school. She says to a friend, "Imagine bein' in prison. That's what [motherhood is] like, bein' in prison."
If Jenelle sounds like a cautionary tale, it's because 16 and Pregnant explicitly intends to portray her as one. The extremely popular show, now in its second season, and its spin-off, Teen Mom, are designed to deter adolescents from becoming mothers—a relevant issue as teen-pregnancy rates are up for the first time in more than a decade. The shows, which follow adolescent mothers as they struggle to raise their children, are produced in partnership with the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. The organization distributes free copies of the first season of the show along with discussion guides to put the drama in context. . . .