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Is MTV Glamorizing Teen Pregnancy?

By June 17, 20094 Comments

MTV has come out with a new show that follows the lives of high school girls who are pregnant. The show is called “16 and Pregnant,” and the following trailer will give you a taste for what this mini-series has in store:

I watched the show for the first time last night, and I have really mixed feelings about it. If you only watch the first 30 minutes, it would almost seem like MTV is glamorizing the idea of teen pregnancy. All you see is young girls throwing baby showers and getting excited about how cute the baby will be.

In my opinion, that’s the last unrealistic message that MTV’s viewers need to hear. Lately the news has been peppered with stories of young girls who intentionally got pregnant for a myriad of reasons. My fiancé’s mother is a high school teacher with numerous pregnant students, and when I asked her why she thought it happened so frequently given the education schools are providing about safe sex, she replied, “Oh, they wanted it! A lot of these girls come from bad family situations where they don’t receive a lot of love and encouragement, so they think that if they have a baby then the baby will love them, or maybe they can get their boyfriend to stick around.”

That scenario is by no means true for all teens, but it is safe to say that when most young people make the fateful decision to have sex before they’re married, they’re not considering the weight of their actions. So is MTV feeding their naiveté?

Surprisingly, I don’t think so. I actually think there is some virtue to this show. (I can’t believe I just said that about MTV. Write it down, people!) First, if you hang on and watch the second half of the show, it follows the young mother after she has the child, and chronicles the hardships that she faces–her dying social life, her un-supportive boyfriend, sleepless nights and all. It’s a realistic look at how tough it can be to have a baby in high school, and it de-romanticizes any misconceptions young women might have about the process. It challenges young viewers to stop and weigh their actions.

But in addition to this strength, I can’t help but wonder if shows like this will de-stigmatize out-of-wedlock pregnancies. That is something the pro-life movement has been talking about doing for years–How do we talk about pregnancy in a way  that values life whenever it comes, and does not produce such crushing shame and hardship that women would rather get an abortion than face the world?

I think this show might serve as a positive step in this direction. While it does portray a realistic picture of teen pregnancy, and in a way that will hopefully educate young women about the consequences of their actions, it doesn’t do so in an armageddon kind of way–ie. THIS WILL END YOUR LIFE FOREVER! The show doesn’t treat babies as a curse upon humanity, but actually highlights some of the wonder of new life as well. While watching the show, I couldn’t help but swoon over how precious the little boy was, and you could see in the young mother’s eyes that she felt the same.

By chronicling the beauty AND the hardship of pregnancy, MTV strikes a careful balance between encouraging responsibility and also valuing life. From what I can tell, each of the girls featured in the show actually carried her pregnancy to term, so there is a subtext of life underlying the entire story line.

But perhaps I am being too optimistic. Anyone else have thoughts on this?


  • Joanna says:

    I haven’t seen the show and doubt it will be shown here but from what you are describing, it sounds like it could be a good thing. Hopefully it will help someone out there make their decisions more carefully.

  • sherri says:

    Interesting. My first thought (from watching the above clip) was that it gave the overall impression that the girls were victims. Which is the only stance you really can take if you’ve already claimed that there’s nothing wrong with pre-marital sex which our socitey (and MTV) do.

    I think like you said, it seems to be showing a fairly realistic picture, but I think it’d be even more real, and far more hard hitting if you showed the babies and parents 10-15 years down the track as well. But understandably, they probably wouldn’t want to go that far, and would lose the MVT ‘now’ or relevency picture in the process if they did anyway.

    So yeah. I don’t think the ‘victim’ portrayal is positive, it fact I think it could do a lot more damage then the good done through the program to be honest. Teaching teens that single mothers are just ‘unfortunate’ encourages the whole concept as ‘normal’ which just engrains it even further into society.

    So overall I think it would be unhelpful because it’s still not showing the full or true picture. But some aspects of it might help by giving people a bit more of a concept of the reality of teen pregnancy.

  • Cynthia Mann says:


    Strangely, I found myself watching this very show last night. I was initially shocked (maybe naively so), but then got down to watching this girl’s reality. I actually felt the show did a great job of portraying the family dysfunction, the fear of being forced to labor alone, the conflict of learning to mother when living with your own controlling mother, the added physical and financial burdens. It also did a good job of showing the love between mother and infant, the beauty of a baby in the midst of the craziness. I have a mixed response to how this will affect young women today…it seems putting something on TV is the final frontier to making it “okay.” On the other hand, if it makes it okay for young women to keep their babies rather than abort them, that’s a good thing, right? I still wish this could be contrasted with the school friend who got through school without getting pregnant, went on to college unencumbered, and in general lived a very different life. You’re right, this show makes a great argument for keeping a baby once pregnant, but clearly the producers aren’t interested in having the conversation about why even having to answer the abortion question is a tragedy in and of itself.

  • Matt's Mom says:

    I’m a mother of one and I have watched MVT 16 and pregnant and from what I have seen it’s telling teens to stay in school and wait to have kids
    not saying it’s fun but looking around you see alot of teens having sex
    it has nothing to do with there family not loving them or if there famly
    is rich or poor you can’t stop a teen from having a baby in this age and time when you are in Church so you look down in the world

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