MTV’s 16 and Pregnant–The First Episode


Last night MTV premiered its new show, "16 and Pregnant." Watch the first episode here. While the show shines a fairly honest light on how hard it can be for teens trying to live an adult family life, my impression is that it tends to have the ‘Bristol Palin" effect: "don’t get pregnant–but if you do, you’ll get lots of media attention… Maybe even your own MTV show, (scored with hip indie music, with your own voice-over narration and tilted to put you in a sympathetic light.)" Although it’s crucially important not to stigmatize pregnant and parenting teens and offer them full support, I’m not sure whether this show doesn’t inappropriately glorify their difficult existence. It also hews to gender roles–the dutiful, self-sacrificing mom and absent teen dad. While this may also be quite true to these teens’ experience, again, depicting it like a sitcom skirts the line between honestly showing a situation and promoting it.

 

Here is a rundown of the first episode:

"This is not how I pictured my senior year" says Maci, an overachiever and dirt-bike fan who has moved in with her boyfriend Ryan after they get pregnant. The episode features a lot of awkward laughter surrounding the awkwardness of the situation, including an absurd argument between Maci and Ryan over whether the baby (a boy, whom they’ve named "Bentley") will ride dirt bikes or four-wheelers. Maci worries that Ryan is not interested in talking about baby stuff or tying the knot, and tells us that "his attitude sucks.""I know Ryan is dreading this baby, but would it kill him to be supportive?" she asks. Ryan, incidentally, is working the graveyard shift at his job to help support the new family.

She also muses on the fact that her belly is a "big distraction" for other teens around her. And when one of her classmates asks her, obliquely if she considered "not going through with it" she says she decided to make the best of it and declares that although other options crossed her mind, there was never much of a choice for her.

She also indicates that there was so little time between she and Ryan started "doin’ the hokey pokey" and the moment she got pregnant that her mother didn’t have a chance to give her a proper sex talk.

The bulk of the episode (after Bentley Cadence’s birth) deals with Ryan’s difficulty adjusting to teen fatherhood–although he does get a tattoo to honor his son’s birth. Maci says sometimes she feels like she’s taking care of two babies. She tries to give him "cash incentives" to do his fair share.

Maci acknowledges that her days of cheerleading, dirt-bike racing and relaxing are over. She graduates high school, enrolls in college, and faces the frustration of balancing school and work. She can’t afford day care and has to rely on her mom to take care of Bentley. Meanwhile, Ryan is often nowhere to be found, or passing the work on to her.

But she is hesitant to confront him. Ryan’s father urges him to be more present in his son’s life but nothing changes, and Maci considers moving out while Ryan says he’s staying in the relationship just for his son.

The two teen parents have a final argument and acknowledge that if weren’t parents, they wouldn’t be in conflict–probably because they wouldn’t be together. Their outcome is left ambiguous. Next week will focus on another teen mom-to-be.

 

Has anyone else watched the show, and if so, what did you think?

 

Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Follow Sarah Seltzer on Twitter: @sarahmseltzer

To schedule an interview with Sarah Seltzer please contact Communications Director Rachel Perrone at rachel@rhrealitycheck.org.

  • invalid-0

    Well I’m posting a comment on this subject because I did watch the show; & ryan was a duck for not being so supportive at all or helping. I’m 17 now but when I was 16 the girl I’m currently with and have been together since 7th grade; decided that we wanted a kid. And I didn’t mind at all. I love kids. Especially more if its mine. But she started thinking about her mom and etc so decided not to. If it wouldve happened I wouldve not regretted it because I can’t see my self with no one else and its been like thaþ for 5 years so basically ryan couldve been a more supportive dad. Who cares if your a teen. You knew what you were doing. So like the girl had said ” she didn’t want to grow up but had to in a second”

  • invalid-0

    When I was 16 my boyfriend told me if I got pregnant he would work two bussboy jobs to support me – nice ideals he had, but in reality he was an alcoholic who eventually began smoking rock cocaine and eventually went to prison for robbing a restaurant and attacking a police officer.

  • http://myspace.com/otakuprincessyuuki invalid-0

    I’m the product of teens like Maci and Ryan; the weren’t properly educated on sex, and had me. The did everything to take care of me and my brothers. I learned from them; I’m 21 with no babies. I’m almost done with college and I got married not too long ago to a service member. We use birth control; neither of us cannot take care of another mouth to feed at this time. We have the maturity and the money, but not the time.

    I’m so happy I was properly educated by those teenagers I had for parents who aren’t even in their 40′s. The delayed their bachelor degrees to work more so the could have enough money to support me and my brothers. They finished college eventually (when I started middle school; they already had associates by the time I was a toddler so they had nice paying jobs to support us).

  • invalid-0

    I totally agree you. This show totally glorifies teen pregnancy and the fact that being a pregnant teen can get you your very own episode of an MTV show. Showing Maci attempt to finish high school and graduate nearly 2 years early before the birth of her son totally glorified the super hard work of taking double classes during the year and classes through the summer instead of hanging out with her friends. Really now, that can’t be an honest depiction, can it?? She should have dropped out like most teen moms so she could totally depend on her parents and/or fiancé Ryan or even better, the State! Showing Maci getting a job and preparing for the birth of her son, glorified how much fun it was for her to give up her active, typically teen lifestyle to focus on her thrilling new responsibilities as a mother. She should have realized that even pregnant hanging out with her friends, dirtbike riding and partying was waaaay more fun. Getting a job made no sense (??) and I’m sure she did just so she continue to show other teen girls the glorification of working and supporting a child on $7/hour instead of cheerleading or dirtbiking with her friends. Totally hilarious!

    Also, the focus on Maci’s unhappiness with Ryan’s attitude and inability to take responsibility (oh, wait he makes a paycheck, sorry, Ryan’s ALL IN this situation!) his efforts completely equal Maci’s efforts (school/job/mother)) totally makes other non-pregnant teens so jealous of that adult relationship and responsibilities! I’m sure Maci’s friends will be joining her in motherhood very soon! That tattoo of Ryan’s was way cool though, who wouldn’t think a $2000 tattoo signals total commitment as a parent. Stupid Maci, all she wanted to do was work, go to school and care for Bentley. What sort of commitment is that compared to a tattoo of your child’s name on your body. This show is a total loser, it’s just going to convince more teen girls that having babies in high school is cool and we’ll have more and more babies having babies. For shame MTV!

  • invalid-0

    I totally disagree. I watched the episode on tv and I felt really bad for maci. it shows her giving up everything to stay up and take care of the baby while ryan goes out with his friends almost every night and when he’s not with them he’s working out. they even show one night where she is trying to do homework and he won’t feed or change the baby. I don’t see where that is glorifing anything. maci even tries to be on a dance team but ends up quiting because ryan isn’t helping her and when she tells him he says “well what are you going to do we all your free time now?”. the only thing I got out of watching that episode was that I felt sorry for maci. I don’t see where it would make a girl want to run out and get pregnant after seeing what that girl went through.

  • invalid-0

    On topic, god, that episode was tiring just watching. I don’t think it was horrible- it could have been worse. The complete glamorization of parenting in mass media now seems to be “so and so’s pregnant! Look how cute she (and her boyfriend) is. now she’s a mom! Look how cute they all look!” with no real look at how hard being a mom can be, even without the hardships of being a teenager with a dead beat boyfriend.

    I do like that they added the part with Ryan’s dad basically yelling at Ryan for being a deadbeat. This could have been handled a lot better it there was some sort of authoritative speaker on parenting, teenage sexuality, relationship building, etc. etc. Seriously, why can’t we HELP these people instead of just putting them on display? If you’re trying to “teach” people with these shows, then actually teach them something.

  • invalid-0

    I know first hand some of what they went through. I was 15 when I first got pregnant. I unfortunitly was in an abusive relationship and didn’t have the baby. But even from those three months I was pregnant I grew up. I;m much older now and i have friends with kids and I can not fathom having a kid at 15 or 16 let alone 18. but you have to remember teenagers do explore and they want to be grown up faster then they can. I do indeed watch the show and I think it some-what glorifies teen pregnancies but they do also show how they struggle. I think they should gear the show more towards the reality of teen pregnancies and the real affects on friends and families ect.
    I can’t understand why kids that age want to have kids of thier own so young. they don’t realize how its going to drastically affect thier lives.

  • invalid-0

    To those who dont believe this show glorifies teenage pregnancy. I have a quote from an episode

    “I would not take anything bad .. Shes made me a better person.. allowed me my independence”

    What teenage girl does not want some means to gain independence. What person doesnt want to be a better person.

    There is also the fact that in the same episode the teen girl also received a NEW car from her grandfather. How many average teenager do not receive a NEW car to them being pregnant appears a step forward.

    http://remotecontrol.mtv.com/2009/06/30/video-secret-life-star-talks-about-being-16-and-pregnant/

    What teenage girl doesnt want to be a star.

    Alot of the negatives potrayed in the series are so minimal and common to teens who arent pregnant like arguing with parents about problems.

  • http://www.zevkli-forum.com/ invalid-0

    16 and Pregnant I obviously did not like

  • invalid-0

    How does this show glorify teen pregnancy? It shows how much of the girls life changes because of the baby and shows how hard to was going to school and taking care of a baby. It gives an unbiased llok about teen oppsies. Some guys stay with the girl and some don’t, that’s a fact of teen pregnancy. I think more people would watch this show, especially young girls, as it would show them how hard being a teen mom is…

    • http://www.replicahandbagsnow.com invalid-0

      Well IMO such kind of shows only glorifies teen pregnancy. Now don’t we all know that it is so difficult for any teen mom or do some people have a different opinion. I do not see the need to give something like this so much media hype only to project something that should be avoided in very first place.

    • http://france-grenoble.blogspot.com/ invalid-0

      Undoubtedly, each of us conducts intense struggle against a reality, but only becoming the parent, we rise to the place of our Mums, that is it is not difficult to present, remember, that our children will sometime read all previous bosh and to nod a head, being indignant on injustice of your claims.

  • http://www.viptravesti.net invalid-0

    I know Ryan is dreading this baby, but would it kill him to be supportive?” she asks.

  • http://www.shootdontshoot.com invalid-0

    I’ve heard about it, but haven’t seen it yet. I’m not sure I agree with it to be honest.

  • http://www.forumson.com invalid-0

    How does this show glorify teen pregnancy? It shows how much of the girls life changes because of the baby and shows how hard to was going to school and taking care of a baby. It gives an unbiased llok about teen oppsies. Some guys stay with the girl and some don’t, that’s a fact of teen pregnancy. I think more people would watch this show, especially young girls, as it would show them how hard being a teen mom is…

  • http://www.travestisohbet.net invalid-0

    Maci worries that Ryan is not interested in talking about baby stuff or tying the knot, and tells us that “his attitude sucks.
    The praises of the most visited Turkey and the travesti pictures, videos and chat with a large portal.

  • invalid-0

    WOW! i can tell from SOME of these messages that some ppL are NOT parents. i am a parent & had my son during a hard part of my life as well. no, i wasnt 16, but it was a struggle. i think that this show has it’s good (very little of it) & its bad. it shows that there is a lot of responsibility to having babies, which these days, MOST teenage CHILDREN think is so0o0o awesome & cooL! but what it doesnt show you is that mommy & daddy arent always gonna be there to help you out… there isnt always a babysitter to help you or a family member that is there for you & supports u in some way, shape , or form. it isnt all peaches & cream – life is not handed to you on a silver platter just bcuz u are a baby with a baby… lets me realistic here. most of these episodes ooze SPOILED. come on now, its a sad sad thing. i feel maci, she is a young woman who has made the sacrifice of being a mother (yes it is a sacrifice, but it should be a GOOD one). she isn’t a 30 year old with all her ducks in a row, so no she doesnt realize the reality of being a mother… not yet, but she is trying to. but that ryan… i’d like to take a nice steel toed boot to his balls!! WTF is wrong with him? a child is not a “show and tell” day @ school, is he serious? if i were maci i wouldnt hv second guessed it, i would hv left him in a heartbeat… he isnt doing anything to help her!! plz. it is a sad sad story of babies raising babies. yes their cute & cuddley, but then they run havic on ur refridgerator & make you want to change ur name from mommy to “super-cali-fra-jewlous-the-expialidoscious” … however you want to spell it. it isnt something to play with, motherhood… u are responsible for another human being, a life, another heartbeat – just think about it… is sex worth all of that? is it worth goin to jail because you couldnt contain your anger of a crying infant & slammed it around, or got sooo depressed from school, parents, social life, AND a baby… that you considered suicide???? well, i see it everyday as a nurse & NO… it isn’t worth all of that when u are 16!! wait til you are grown & WORTHY of having such a beautiful gift.

    thats my story & im sticking to it. *smiLe* take care of yourselves out there…