We all have our guilty pleasures, right? Mine are the 16 & pregnant/teen mom/teen mom 2 shows on MTV. I suspect that the majority of viewers watch them because it's like a trainwreck and they are simultaneously repulsed and inexplicably intrigued at the same time. While most people enjoy watching and criticizing, I enjoy watching and empathizing. I watch it because I've been there. And not 15 or 20 years ago like some people. I started on my track about 2 years before MTV's first round of preggo teens, so I was still in the thick of it when the shows started.
I watch it still because being a teen mom is one of the most isolating experiences: you don't really fit in anywhere or have anything in common with anyone. People don't want to build you up (you're an example now!) and they're quick to tear you down (you're an example now!). Your emotions, priorities and often times even your personality changes. I could go on and on. I watch it because, though I am well into my twenties, I am still frequently isolated because my life still doesn't match up with others' lives and I get what these girls are going through. It's a reminder of what I've come through, to be grateful for the blessings I have, and it's a kind of kinship. I want to see things work out for them because I know how hard it all is.
Again, as I've said, I'm well aware that this sentiment is not the norm. A quick glance through the comments on any of those shows will give you a flood of damning judgment from people who usually have no idea what it's like or what they're talking about.
I see a lot of the same kind of comments week after week, show after show, and while I cannot speak for them and I don't expect to actually change anyone's opinions, I thought I'd address some of them because in classic cowardly fashion, these things are posted online and said behind their backs, not to their faces, so that they don't have an opportunity to address them and defend themselves. I have some experience in this as well. The two top comments I see (and coincidentally, two of my biggest pet peeves):
1. It annoys me to no end when people complain that the show "encourages" teen pregnancy rather than prevents it. First of all, you're incredibly naive if you think that MTV created this show as a public service. They created it because it makes for good television. Come on, immaturity + adult responsibilities + hormones = drama. They do encourage safe sex quite frequently, and I think that's about as much as anyone could expect from MTV. Seriously.
Do they glorify it? Mmm no, I'd have to say they don't. Sure most of the time, these girls look better put together than the average girl. But remember we're only getting facetime that's considered interesting. When they're sick and look like crap- it's not tv worthy. When they're in they're jammies on a Saturday watching movies all day, we don't see that. When they're in jeans and tees studying for hours on end, we might get a blip of it. We primarily see them when they're going somewhere or meeting up with someone, which yes, oftentimes includes looking presentable.
Sure some of them have fake nails and other luxuries that most teen moms don't have. But these girls are on tv. Realistically, they probably get some kick backs. Whatever the situation do I think that any teen girl watching the show takes away from it: "Her nails look so cute! If I get pregnant, I'll have cute nails too"? Mm no, not so much.
2. "I can't believe these girls are getting married and having more kids!" well yeah, that tends to happen, statistically speaking. But on a personal level, as the saying goes, "having a baby changes everything." It really does. It doesn't change everyone the same way, but I can speak from experience. When I was seventeen, my biggest priority was getting out of my parents' home and being independent. After I got pregnant I still wanted those things, but they were under the bigger umbrella of wanting my own stable family. Getting pregnant with my daughter changed the way I looked at life and the way I looked at myself. Even though it looks like they're just desperate for a husband, they're really desperate for normalcy. We're not designed to be doing it on our own, though we can. It's supposed to take a woman and a man. More than the financial and childrearing support, it's the the emotional support that matters most. They want that partner for life, and while many of us are looking for that too, it becomes a lot more crucial when you're raising a child. At the end of the day, you just need your spouse there with you, exhausted too, to laugh together and cry together, to hold each other accountable and encourage each other.
Not to mention, you feel an overwhelming need to catch up. You can't go back to being a teen and the average twenty-something experience has been forfeited. Naturally, they're trying to acclimate themselves with an age group that has kids and whose priorities are family and stability, hence marriage, more kids, buying houses, etc. You may think they're moving too fast and it doesn't make any sense, but their needs and wants have changed. They don't match up with their peers anymore, so you can't judge them on what an average 16, 18 or 23 year old is doing. They're not the average 16, 18 or 23 year old.
Okay, that's my two cents. I'll probably have more loose change later.