There are few shows I find myself hopelessly addicted to, which is good because I only get like 10 channels. But, there are a few reasons I miss cable. One of them is my fascination with pregnant teenagers. I can’t miss an episode of Teen Mom or 16 and Pregnant.
When 16 and Pregnant first came out, I thought to myself, They have enough pregnant teenagers willing to put their pregnancy on TV to make a whole series out of this? As I’ve now learned, there’s no shortage of teens who find themselves preggo and proud enough to be on MTV, and that’s a good thing: What else would I do on a Tuesday night at 9?
The recipe for every episode of 16 and Pregnant is almost always the same:
- Teen gets pregnant. Oops.
- Teen tells boyfriend, who:
A. Runs away screaming
B. Sticks around until the kid is born, and then runs away screaming or
C. Asks her to marry him, at least attempting to make an honest woman out of her. (This usually ends catastrophically.)
- Teen tells parents, who either:
A. Freak out and disown her or
B. Support her
- Teen has kid
- Teen realizes raising kid is harder than she thought
- Show usually ends in tears
Teen Mom basically picks up where 16 & Pregnant leaves off, illustrating the way the young moms’ lives haven’t gotten any easier.
The shows are intended to be a form of birth control, providing a raw perspective into the unglamorous life of a teenaged mother. But many of the girls’ lives seem anything but unglamorous since their launch to celebrity status, featured on entertainment TV shows and in magazines. I can’t walk down an aisle in the grocery store without seeing headlines like “TEEN MOM’S PREGNANCY SHOCKER” and “SEE TEEN MOMS IN BIKINIS” (which, if I didn’t know better, might prevent me from opening the magazine).
As if we don’t get enough of drama-filled pregnancies between the tabloids and TV, each of the Teen Moms has countless Facebook fan pages, some official, and some … hardly. Hey, you go, girls. I’ll admit I’m a fan of them — I couldn’t do what they’re doing even in my early 20s. But these pages have grown to several thousands of fans who swarm every post the teen moms write with hundreds of comments, which usually turn into in virtual fan catfights. Meow.
The teen moms act annoyed with the amount of prying these fans are doing online, constantly sending them messages asking them to confirm or deny rumors they see in the tabloids. (And I hate to say it, but it kind of makes me think, Come on, you’re sorta asking for it.) In any case, the fame must not seem too bad, since others are jumping on the bandwagon.
In a recent incident, Jordan Ward, who was featured on the first episode of this season’s 16 and Pregnant, has just announced she’s pregnant with her and her husband’s second child … at 18. And her husband was just deployed with some branch of the military — or maybe he’s just gone for training. It’s hard to know for sure because she recently took down her official Facebook fan page that declared what she was doing every second of the day. (The link above is to her identical twin sister’s Facebook fan page … All of these things contributing to my point.)
Chelsea Houska, a South Dakota teen featured on 16 and Pregnant and later Teen Mom 2, battled baby daddy drama with the very public help of her friend and roommate Megan Nelson. (Who, by the way, gets the award for Friend of the Year. The 18 year-old not only lived with Chelsea and her baby, she helped out regularly, even occasionally giving up her weekends to babysit.)
Fans apparently enjoyed Megan on the show so much that they prompted her to create a Facebook fan page. Megan must have really caught baby fever living with Chelsea and her daughter because, not long after her rise to “fame,” it came out that Megan is pregnant herself. Her page now has over 23,000 fans, who clamor for every detail of her pregnancy, from the sex of the baby, to the name ideas, to details about the baby shower and where she is registered.
Megan’s dad now even has a Facebook page with over 1,000 fans, as well as other “randoms” who may or may not have appeared on the show for like 10 seconds. Some teen moms and fans have even set up fan pages for their babies.
But the really troubling thing is when average high school girls get pregnant and create fan pages for themselves. Since I first noticed this happening last fall, the teens have refrained from labeling them “fan pages,” making the fame whores a little harder to spot. (This was probably due to the blatant ridicule they endured by others on their public pages. I wish I had taken a screen shot.) A few girls placed themselves on the 16 and Pregnant Facebook page before the season started, tricking fans who thought these girls would be featured on the show into becoming fans of their personal pages.
Since then, teen mom “fan pages” have developed a semblance of a community support forum rather than a place to gain fame. Even Megan Nelson’s page now includes a disclaimer in the info section declaring that her page is NOT a fan page. (Although it used to proclaim it was in the page’s title.)
Of course, there are still countless pregnant teens who sneakily seek the kind of attention MTV’s teen moms are getting, like this couple who posts every detail about their pregnancy on their page, and frequently comments on the pages of the girls featured on MTV to gain traffic.
The fact that teen parents have a way to come together and support one another online is fabulous. And I’m not saying MTV is causing the teen birth rate to explode. (It’s actually doing the opposite.) I’m merely observing with surprise that a general air of “Meh, oh well,” has gradually increased toward the phenomenon of publicizing teen pregnancy. When I was in high school, people treated the few pregnant girls like they were diagnosed with a terminal illness — and that was only 3 years ago. But after 16 and Pregnant, girls in the situation can think, She did it. So can I. Still, I’m both loving and hating that the show has made teen pregnancy seem a little less scary. Especially since the days when this was preached: