Glitter and Glam: MTV’s Role in Glamorizing Teen Pregnancy

By Sanai Rashid

It’s another boring Saturday night and you scroll through channels on your television. You stop once you see Teen Mom 2 playing on MTV, knowing you will be entertained for  the next hour. And indeed you are, moms screaat their “baby daddy” and deal with crying babies and the struggle of having to now support two people. “I’m glad I don’t live that way” you mutter as you click the tv off and fall asleep, completely disconnected from the world you just glimpsed into. 

Teen Mom, Teen Mom 2, Teen Mom Young and Pregnant, Teen Mom 3 and Teen Mom UK were released by MTV  with the intention of preventing teen pregnancy. As Senior Vice President of MTV series development, Lauren Dolgen, says “These documentary series tell the honest, unpleasant truth of teen pregnancy in America — the whole truth.” In 2008 Lauren Doglen looked through a magazine and saw the rampant news Jamie Lynn Spears, former star of popular Television series, Zoey 101,  had given birth to her first child at 16. She then felt compelled to do a show on other teen moms in America and make their struggles n=known to greater society. The show was supposed to show the heartbreaking challenges young teen moms face but now it has been swept up into the Hollywood media and turned the mothers on the show into celebrities. Teen pregnancy has been hyped up to be an easy job and these shows are to blame. 

America has one of the highest teen birth rates out of developed countries. According to the CDC in 2017, 194,377 babies were born to females 15-19 and among this American Indian/Alaska Nativ were at the top making up 32.9 %, Hispanics made up 28.9%, African Americans with 27.5%, and Whites made up 13.2%. All of MTV’s teen pregnancies are made up of an almost exclusively white cast and this is not representing who teen pregnancy affects the most, teens of color. If you are a teen girl of color you can’t realte at all to the stories being shown on these shows.You start to think that not even the media cares about the girls in my community who get pregnant, so it won’t matter what I do either way  

Instead, MTV shows how teen pregnancy is cool and you can make money from it. One of the shows infamous cast members, Farah Abhrams, who is always on the cover of tabloids for her outrageous plastic surgeries, has a net worth $1 million. A study done by Indiana University showed that out of 185 high school students interviewed most had an unrealistic view of teen pregnancy after watching MTVs teen pregnancy shows. The part about mothers being on welfare, the struggle of having to go to GED classes because they weren’t able to graduate on time is not broadcasted at all t.v. when that’s the true reality. I’m sure some girls think that by getting pregnant MTV will magically broadcast them and they’ll be a famous celebrity floating in cash, such a serious topic is being made a joke out of thanks to these MTV shows.

It isn’t an uncommon that young and confused teen girls have a child because they want someone to love them unconditionally. Especially if you grew up in a motherless/ fatherless home and never felt that love yourself. It’s great that MTV wants to bring awareness to these topics but the way they’re doing so isn’t helping. With 6 t.v. programs none of them get to the root of why this is all happening, which of course can be from a number of reasons such as : lack of information about sexual education, sexual violence, basic education access, the family environment, etc. Watchers seem to read between the lines while watching this show and end up having the mindset of,  “Yeah she may have a child but she still goes out with her friends and she has her mom to help her.” And that mindset leads to carelessness when it comes to sexual intercourse and other responsibilities. Even if MTV does show some struggles and grittiness of Teen Mom life teens are attracted by the wrong message, the message that you could earn a 6 figure salary, and be on the cover of tabloids for being pregnant so young. 

One of the cast members from 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom 2, Janelle Evans, three friends got pregnant very shortly as she started to gain fame on the show. The reason seemed to be like they wanted to gain fame like their friend and were labeled as “copycat moms”. Teen pregnancy seems to be a trend of sorts and when there are teen moms out there who can’t even afford baby formula every week, have a crappy minimum wage job and are nowhere near celebrities they are brushed up into the dust and merely forgotten. 

Overall, I think MTV might have started with good intentions when they started these teen pregnancies shows but the message has been corrupted and watered down completely. The glitz and glam of Hollywood has once again won over teens hearts and shadowed the true hardships of such an important topic.