My Blog__ Teen Mom: The Most Depressing Show On Earth

December 10, 2009

Teen Mom is the MTV series sequel to 16 and Pregnant, a show that profiled six young soon-to-be mom's through out their pregnancies and births. I finished the entire season on Saturday because I was hung over. Laying in the bed with three blankets, half a watermelon and a spoon, I watched as MTV compiled clips of Farrah, Ebony, Maci, Catelynn, Whitney and Amber into a pretty honest series about becoming a teenage mother. With each shovel of watermelon I stuffed into my face, I became more and more wrapped up in each girls tale. I found myself raging at their shitty boyfriends or frustrated with their family members. And when Catelynn gave her baby away to the creepy-nice Christian family I cried. I cried for way too long.

Yesterday was the premiere episode of Teen Mom.

MACI from Chattanooga, Tennesee

Maci got pregnant by the boy she lost her virginity to. His name is Ryan. They decided to keep the baby and get married. He didn't help her as she juggled pregnancy, work and school. They almost broke-up until they realized that they should stay together for the sake of their child. In Teen Mom things haven't changed much for Maci, except that her and Ryan are now rock-paper-scissoring the baby chores instead of her doing all the work. Maci and Ryan seem to laugh and kiss more in the new series and that's good, since the pressure to get married is heating up. "Aren't you glad we're getting married now that we get along?" Maci asks Ryan one day over french fries. He kind of nods.

FARRAH from Council Bluff, Iowa

Farrah ditched her cheerleading and shopping to stick it out and have her baby, Sophia. With zero help from the father (who we find out is an over-bearing, verbally abusive douche bag), Farrah decides to keep the baby. Oh, fuck. Did I say "decide"? I meant is forced by her anti-choice, Bible thumping mother. Although we don't see this side of her mother in 16 and Pregnant (except when she accuses Farrah of having an "anti-Christ attitude" for crying about not having a car) the truth about Farrah's options becomes very clear in Teen Mom.

Farrah gets bummed because her baby is making it hard for her to go to modeling casting calls and have ice cream with boys, so she puts her foot down and goes on a date with Cole, a fellow model who she is set up with by her very tanned, very gay friends, Brad and Tyler. (Tyler is amazing by the way. When Farrah needed his advice about her pregnancy, he made her sit outside his tanning bed to talk while he tanned instead of just canceling his appointment.) Farrah brings Cole home to meet her mother. She grills him, invites him to church and then insists that in this family, they believe in abstinence until marriage. In the end, it turns out Cole is a cheater, so Farrah plots an embarrassing set-up to catch him. She dumps him over pizza. Scenes from next episode? We find out Farrah starts dating a dude named Shack.

CATELYNN from Algonac, Michigan

Catelynn has a complicated life. Her mom re-married her boyfriend's father, so now the father of her baby is also her step-brother. Catelynn and her boyfriend/step-brother, Tyler decided that they wanted more for their baby's life than they were able to offer, so they looked into adoption. They ended up choosing a straight laced, middle-class couple and the whole episode reeks of Juno. Catelynn and Tyler clearly love each other and understand that is all they have (or at least the editing process frames their story that way). Tyler's father, Butch, disowns Tyler when he finds out they are giving the baby away because "real men take care of their families." Ironically, Tyler's father wasn't able to take care of him as a tot because he was in jail. Butch even noted this irony himself, but does not come to any personal epiphany. He also laughed at Catelynn when she broke down in tears about her changing pregnant body.

Catelynn and Tyler agree to an open adoption but still have a tough time giving away their baby girl. I lost it when the adoptive mother gave Catelynn a silver charm bracelet and said that she will wear the same one and when the baby is old enough, she will wear one too. They will always be connected. Water works.

The Teen Mom episode focused on the relationship between Tyler and Butch which has yet to be mended. We also see Catelynn and her mother slowly becoming friends again.

Teen Mom is the most depressing show on television, but it is also brilliant.

Depressing because it reminds me that women have little to no control over their own bodies, access to health care and an open-minded sexual education to converse with. Maybe some of these girls are sincerely happy with motherhood. I don't want to victimize any of them. I'm just saying that I think they all deserve realistic access to the options and being taught strictly abstinence-only in sex ed is not what I consider "the options".

On the other ovary, Teen Mom is brilliant, if the viewer is critical. The content is diverse, showing a variety of teens from different socioeconomic backgrounds, family situations and body types. It raises a lot of questions about privacy and exploitation, like what will these kids think when they grow up and see the episodes? The editing process and story lines allude to the current issues about choice, abortion, poverty, consent and female sexuality. For example, Farrah's mother says she was devastated the day she found out her daughter was pregnant for two reasons. One, she had to be a grandmother. Two, this meant that Farrah had to deny the Miss America Pageant offer she had received in the mail the very same day. I'm thinking of a procedure that starts with an "a" that could have really changed things for Farrah. And no, it's not abstinence. For a viewer like myself, a feminist who lives in a society with a health care system that provides contraceptives, medical aid and accessibility to abortion, it solidifies the idea that these options should be equal to every woman, everywhere. Teen Mom teaches us that this is not the current case.

It's a fucked up time for women. It's a fucked up time for television. It's a fucked up time for everything everywhere, but when has it ever been good for everyone?

Last weekend I listened to Pamela Cross talk about the dangerous implications of Bill C422, a bill that if passed in Canada will make it nearly impossible for women leaving abusive husbands to break contact with their abusers due to mandatory joint custody. A bill that views domestic violence as an "additional" concern when dealing with custody rights. Yesterday I read about the "Bo-Tax" debates that are flying around feminist circles in the U.S. And today Teen Mom made me realize we need feminist discourse to spread now more than ever.

Watch Teen Mom and 16 and Pregnant on MTV.

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