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Kids Today: 16 and Pregnant

I’ve really been looking forward to MTV’s new reality series, 16 and Pregnant. As you well know, I heart MTV reality. I know it’s bad for me, but…I know that ice cream is bad for me too. Deal with it. I was very fond of Engaged and Underage when that first began, though I was always a little disappointed that the couples were not really “underage.” The youngest couple was 19, some were as old as 22 or 23. Really, it was just Engaged and Immature. But…they couldn’t really have a series on MTV about underage marriages, right? As Chris pointed, out, that would be way too depressing and not really all that entertaining. So how about a show that actually shows teenage girls going through pregnancy, birth, and raising a child?

I’ve only seen the first episode so far, and it was a little bit depressing. But it was also pretty tasteful for MTV. And I wanted to watch the entire hour-long episode to find out what would happen to this young mother and her baby. It was a lot less drama-centered than Engaged and Underage. The main drama is not really centered around the pregnancy, but rather on the relationship between Maci (the mommy-to-be) and Ryan (the baby daddy). The two moved in together after she found out she was preggers, and he even proposed (no wedding date had been set, though). Ryan is, of course, a jerk. Maci manages to graduate high school at 16, works part time for her father, and attends college, and Ryan doesn’t seem to do much of anything. Of course I ended up getting pretty angry with Qualler over Ryan’s attitude, even though Qualler insisted that he was not neglecting his responsibilities, and that it was just on TV, but MTV reality has so blurred my own line between reality and television that I didn’t understand and continued to be mad at him.One thing I really didn’t care for were the aesthetic similarities I noticed between this first episode and Juno (see the above Juno promo and the 16 and Pregnant Promo). The transitions between scenes would turn into little sketch book type drawings, of Maci and the baby or whatever had been happening in the previous scene. Each section was narrated by Maci, and ended with a sketch in a notebook...which sort of took away from the realism of the episode. However, despite these annoying segues, it was more "realistic" than most MTV shows.

In the end, Ryan just kept acting jerkier and jerkier, and Maci was becoming more frustrated and overwhelmed. At one point Ryan actually said that he was totally fine with the responsibility of taking care of Bentley (yes, they named their son Bentley), but he couldn't handle her nagging him all the time. Really? Being with your girlfriend is more difficult than taking care of your newborn son? Though Maci should have moved home with her parents, the show ended with the two of them deciding they would try to work it out for the baby's sake. I'd really like an update in six months to see if that wedding ever happened.

In the previews for the next episode (airing this Thursday) we see the mother telling her daughter that the most loving option would be to give the baby up for adoption. I wonder how many of these episodes (there are only 6 scheduled) will showcase a young girl who chooses to keep her baby and raise it herself. It certainly wasn’t romanticizing teen pregnancy, though the episode did show a girl who had the support of her parents, her boyfriends’ parents, and who was able to finish high school early and begin college while her mother helped her out with free babysitting. Yes, is still showed how difficult it was to be a 16 year old mother, but…will all the girls on this show be this lucky? She was a popular, overachiever at her high school, and it looks like this Thursday’s episode is also about a popular cheerleader from an upper-middle class family. So I guess MTV still doesn’t want things to get too depressing.

Author's note: While looking for some photos from the series premiere, I ran across Maci's MTV blog, which you can check out here. I wonder how "real" this is...

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  1. Blogger chris | 8:32 AM |  

    A couple of my grad school peeps wrote comments on Facebook. Thought I'd transfer them here...

    Agree, MTV reality is like crack. It gives you a high and leaves you feeling somewhat empty inside as if you've lost part of your soul.

    Disagree, Ryan didn't seem like that big of a dick. Considering we don't know what was left on the editing room floor, he did pretty well for himself. Was he self-centered? Sure. Was he working from 4 in the evening to 5 in the morning? Yes. Put me at his age in his situation, I might not be the nicest guy on camera either.

    -Jim

  2. Blogger chris | 8:32 AM |  

    Being a mom now myself, I was completely intrigued by this show... I don't know how those young girls do it!!

    Sorry, Jim, but I've got to disagree about Ryan. Yes, he was immature and self-centered, but nothing was going to make him more responsible. Not Maci, not his parents...not even his child. Putting the baby in the bed and rolling over to go to sleep while the baby cries? Seriously?! Good thing Maci was such a good mom for a 16-year-old. (And, yes, the editing room floor must be considered, but if he was like that on camera, what was he like off, when no one else was watching what he was like with his son?)

    Too bad so many people are like this teenage couple...only they're not 16 anymore.

    -Mandy

  3. Blogger Papa Thor | 1:23 PM |  

    I would like to see a six part show about EPS (early pregnancy syndrome):
    - a girl who had an abortion and it worked out fine
    - a girl who had an abortion and regrets it terribly
    - a girl who had the baby and gave away and it works out fine
    - a girl who had the baby, gave away, and regrets it terribly
    - a girl who had the baby, kept it, and it works out fine
    - a girl who had the baby, kept it, and regrets it terribly.

    Of course "works out fine" is as subjective as "regrets it terribly", and we would want to check in on them many years later, but if done as a true documentary with no agenda it would be fascinating. Any sociologists out there who want to tackle this?

  4. Blogger Lady Amy | 1:31 PM |  

    I would watch that show, Papa Thor! Sounds amazing.

  5. Blogger chris | 3:46 PM |  

    You've intrigued me Chris....I just set my DVR for tonight. :)
    -Andrea

    I told her it was you that wrote it, not I, Brigitte...haha though I should take credit; this was a good review!

  6. Blogger qualler | 3:48 PM |  

    Papa Thor - you should check out the "Up" documentary series. It's a series of documentaries that started with a group of British students at the age of 7, then updated us at 14, 21, 28, 35, 42 and, finally, 49, which came out a few years ago. Interesting stuff in terms of watching what people envision themselves being as children and then what they end up being as older people.

  7. Blogger qualler | 3:51 PM |  

    Also, this show would be great if it wasn't so twee! "Aw shucks, ain't havin' a baby charmin'?" (I'm not sure why twee = Southern charm, but I'm gonna go with it.)

  8. Blogger Papa Thor | 12:59 PM |  

    Hey Lady Amy, maybe this would work as a one-woman show? You'd have to have 6 distinct wigs, or maybe four wigs and two different style glasses?

    That's a good question: what is more informative? A real documentary? A reality show? Or a novel/film/mini-series?

  9. Blogger Lady Amy | 1:05 PM |  

    Plus the same woman could play all the jerky boyfriends if she just puts on a baseball cap.

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