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?