The following ramblings are based on real-life experiences, mishaps, and downright screw-ups. Names (of past, present, and future boyfriends) have been changed or omitted to protect the innocent. And the guilty...

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Trash Talk Tuesday

Welcome to Trash Talk Tuesday!  Every Tuesday, I will render my sometimes scathing opinions on a variety of pop culture phenomenon, including such media outlets as trashy television, pop music, Hollywood starlets, and political icons.    

Note:  The opinions expressed below DO, in fact, represent those of Musical Musings and its management and affiliates.  If you do not agree, argue via comment, or start your own damn blog.  (But really, don't do that.  I don't need any more competition for readership...) 


This week's topic: Pregnant Teens on TV

There are only two types of reality TV that are capable of sucking me in: stories of pregnant teens, and documentaries on child beauty pageants (stay tuned for next week's installment of Trash Talk Tuesday to read my enlightened view on Toddlers & Tiaras.).  I don't know what's wrong with me, but I can't seem to get enough of these two genres.  And, their nation-wide popularity has increased exponentially as of late, and has prompted a multitude of chat rooms, polls, and general public debates regarding their impact on society.

With respect to teen pregnancy, there are three shows that grab my attention: (1) 16 and Pregnant; (2) Teen Mom; and (3) The Secret Life of the American Teenager (I've already humiliated myself in my prior post by admitting I watch this garbage, so I will shamelessly include it in my analysis).  I shall discuss each individually: 

16 and Pregnant

This little gem premiered last year, and followed the lives of roughly 10 teenage girls who found themselves knocked up.  Subjects ranged from veritable trailer trash to stuck-up, upper-middle-class cheerleaders.  All the girls decided to go through with their pregnancies, and the show followed them through being preggers, giving birth, and beyond.  At times, 16 and Pregnant was difficult to watch.  Some of the girls weren't your favorite people by the end of the episode (see last week's episode, for example, starring a surfer girl with no apparent interest in caring for or even knowing her child), but some really pulled at the heartstrings (for me - Maci, Catelynn, and Whitney were particularly gut-wrenching).  

What they all had in common though was that life got really, really tough as the result of a careless and stupid decision to engage in unprotected sex.  None of the 16 and Pregnant girls really glorified teen pregnancy, and in my humble opinion, MTV did a pretty decent job of showing just how badly Teen Mommydom can suck.  I can understand why people are getting riled up about this topic being the center of so many (relatively speaking) TV shows today, but I don't necessarily think 16 and Pregnant is doing a disservice to our youth.  In most cases, the girls that the show follows are extremely disillusioned at the start of their pregnancies, believing wholeheartedly they will marry their respective boyfriends and live happily ever after.  Unfortunately, they're generally forced to face some seriously harsh realities as their bellies expand and their due dates loom.  If I were a teen, watching some of the following crises would really make me think twice before jumping into the sack with a guy (even if I was SOOOOO in love with him, as all but one of the girls claims to be): 
  • Maci: A smart, cute, active, and involved young lady.  She gives up SO much when she gets pregnant - from drill team to high school to her family.  All to have a kid with a total douche.  
  • Whitney: Naive doesn't even begin to cover it.  Sweet, innocent, spoiled, and ends up with a kid with a rare and debilitating disease.
  • Ebony: Her biggest dream is join the Air Force with her boyfriend.  She finds out that both teen parents are not allowed to join the military at the same time, so she has to give up her dream to take care of the baby.  Meanwhile, boyfriend enlists and will get stationed wherever the military sees fit (with or without Ebony and baby in tow).  She didn't finish high school.
  • Farrah: Snotty, spoiled, selfish, and beautiful Farrah decides to go it alone and not get the baby-daddy involved in her pregnancy.  In his place: psycho grandma. See: http://starcasm.net/archives/32070
  • Amber: I feel more sorry for Amber's boyfriend, Gary.  He's a total dolt, but she treats him like crap.  They're a pretty sad couple... 
And the list goes on.  Check out MTV for more.

Teen Mom is the spinoff to 16 and Pregnant, and follows new moms Maci, Amber, Farrah, and Catelynn.  The show really delves in to the trials and tribulations of the first year of motherhood.  Single Farrah just wants to go out and party, but has to deal with her crazy mom's constant guilt-trips (though I think they were well deserved).  Poor Maci is trying so hard, but baby-daddy Ryan is the spawn of Satan.  Amber falls into postpartum depression, and goes so far as to beat up moron Gary in the midst of one of many of their fights.  Basically - teen motherhood blows.  And really takes a toll on high-school sweethearts.  Again, not really seeing how this show would make me want to run out and have a kid at 16...
While I don't believe 16 and Pregnant or Teen Mom glorify teen pregnancy/motherhood, I was surprised at just how much they both blatantly advocated adoption.  Don't get me wrong - I think adoption is a fantastic option for pregnant teens.  A loving family gets the kid they can't, for whatever reason, have on their own, and the teens can finish growing up before they delve into parenthood.  But both shows, and Teen Mom in particular, almost made it seem like putting a child up for adoption would actually improve your life.  Or at the very least, your relationship. 

The show's one couple who chose adoption, Catelynn and Tyler, despite living in a trailer with their trashy parents (Catelynn's mom is married to Tyler's dad, who incidentally JUST got out of jail. It's not incestuous though - Catelynn and Tyler were together first.), are a functional, loving, and lovable pair of level-headed kids.  Yes, giving up their first-born poses a tremendous struggle, but through it Catelynn and Tyler grow so close and are so sickeningly happy with one another, that the show ends with their delightfully charming engagement.  Make me puke/cry.  All I know is - every female viewer in the country, regardless of age or relationship status, wanted her own Tyler by the end of the season.  

Daughter Carly is placed with a lovely couple in North Carolina who, although remaining somewhat anonymous (they won't tell Catelynn and Tyler their last name), keep the teenagers well-apprised of Carly's development and lifestyle.  They send pictures, emails, and sentimental letters, and have agreed to allow Tyler and Catelynn to visit with Carly once or twice a year, finances permitting.  In return, the couple gets to finish high school, fall head-over-heels in love, and even live together (though I wouldn't wish their families on my worst enemy).  They claim they wouldn't even be together if it weren't for having gotten pregnant, and giving Carly up for adoption.  That's a little disconcerting to me, in that some girls might believe that they too can be happy if they just get pregnant and give the baby away.  Teen girls - don't go getting ideas that having a baby and then subsequently giving her up is going to land you the man of your dreams.  Though it worked for these two, the likelihood is that the experience would tear your average teenage couple apart, and result in serious, permanent emotional scars for both...

If there are actually warped perceptions on teen pregnancy and motherhood resulting from television shows, this rubbish is the culprit - and not just because of its horrendous writing and equally terrible acting.  (I know, you're wondering why I watch it.  So am I, honestly.  I think it must be subliminal messaging.  Flash back to the episode of Saved By the Bell where Zack gets all the girls in school to fall in love with him by putting hidden messages in a "Beau Revere" tape.  Yep, I went there...)  

Secret Life totally glamorizes teen motherhood.  No only does Amy get knocked up by the cutest guy in school, the richest, and equally adorable, kid in the class falls madly in love with her at first sight, and supports her through her pregnancy and first year of child-rearing.  Her parents are frighteningly (and very unrealistically) supportive, and her friends get over the audacity of her 15 year-old self getting pregnant - at BAND CAMP for God's sake - FAR too quickly.  Sure Amy has to work after school and forgo some of the fun stuff (but really...not really) to take care of baby John, but otherwise, her life is pretty damn good.  And, as a result of her bad decisions, every girl in school (or at least in the show) decides sex is THE way to go.  Even the bible-beating Grace, who's head of the Chastity Club (like in Glee - only without the humor or subtle irony.  Or talent, for that matter...) jumps in the sack with her idiot boyfriend, and finds out she absolutely LOVES doin' the nasty.  

Even though sex ultimately destroys most of the kids' already precarious and sophomoric "relationships", true consequences are few and far between.  Although I'm hooked on it like John Edwards on extramarital sex, I think Secret Life is a travesty.  If not for atrocious lines like "If anyone says anything to you, I'll stick a rocket in their pocket and send them to the moon", then Secret Life should be cancelled solely for the fact that Bristol Palin will guest star as herself this summer: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35539881/ns/entertainment-television/   


Bristol Palin: Acting Debut on 'The Secret Life of the American Teenager!'     

Help me, dear friends.  I need a "BAD TV" intervention...

Thoughts??  Discuss!!  


Kristin said...

I can't help watching Secret Life either. You better believe I'm setting the DVR to see Bristol on there!

Anonymous said...

Great thoughts on bad TV! You've discussed shows that are *about* teen pregnancy, which of course made me think about other portrayals of teen pregnancy on TV. Then you included the clip from glee, which is just what I was thinking-- I wonder what you think about TV shows that include teen pregnancy as one of their plot lines and how the presentation is similar or different. Is Secret Life reality TV or totally fictional? I couldn't tell. Anyway, the question still stands.

Stolen Sentiments said...

Secret Life is TOTALLY fake. It's a "family drama" (aka total crap). The MTV shows are real, though. I thought about including Glee above, because I love it so much, but I didn't want to analyze away any of its charm. :)

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