16 and Pregnant and Almost True

| Wed Apr. 21, 2010 9:00 AM EDT

If you're reading this, you've probably never seen an episode of MTV's new reality show '16 and Pregnant', the latest in Dr. Drew's collection of quality family entertainment. Reality, yes, but Jersey Shore it ain't. Instead, 16 and Pregnant purports to show the 'reality' of teen pregnancy in America by filming the every simper and pout of pregnant teenagers from about the second trimester through the first few months of their new baby's life. That means baby-daddy battles, lots of (teenage) temper tantrums, and distraught soon-to-be grandparents. 

The show is heartrending, its genre of 'reality' closer to True Life than Real World (though Reality TV production values give it a vague air of the latter). Watching teen-mom-to-be Lori respond to the suggestion that an open adoption is 'the best of both worlds' by name-checking a Hannah Montana song really drives home the point that kids shouldn't be parents. My first instinct was to applaud MTV's unflinching portrait of one of the country's most persistent problem--after all, we have the highest rate of teen pregnancy of any industrialized nation. Seeing the true cost of teen pregnancy and it's aftermath up close and personal might make some viewers reconsider the pervasive (in some circles) perception of baby-as-teacup-Chihuahua-alternative. Better still, MTV does an excellent job of directing its teenage viewers to resources that might help them avoid pregnancy in the first place. Are we witnessing progressive, public-minded programing here? 

Eh... some of '16 and Pregnant''s more glaring omissions make me think perhaps not.  

Consider the audience. The reason I'm guessing you haven't seen '16 and Pregnant' has everything to do with the ads. MTV clearly knows where its eyes are coming from: GED and Internet accreditation courses dominate in ad minutes, followed closely by mail-order acne systems that 'really work'--not New Yorker readers, these. 

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