The hypocrisy of MTV

SarahBeth Caplin

For strict research purposes only (I swear!), I watched a few episodes of Teen Mom. Back when the show began, it didn’t seem all that likely that Farrah, Maci, and Amber’s fame would sky-rocket to Kate Gosselin and Octomom status. They’re not the only teens to get pregnant, after all. The show was intended to portray the gritty, real-life struggle that the average teen mom faces. I actually thought it was well done, but the hard truth is that the average teen mother doesn’t have the boatloads of money from MTV to cushion the blow of financial distress that often comes with raising an infant.

MTV has made it loud and clear that having a child before graduating high school with an on-again, off-again partner is no picnic. For what the girls (Maci in particular) have had to give up for their kids, even when they clearly didn’t want to, I can respect them. But what I can’t respect is the assertion that all teens, even ones with babies, are still expected to continue hooking up.

Considering that sex is how the babies got born in the first place, why was Farrah commended for seeking birth control after the birth of her daughter? Encouraging any teen with a sex drive to do the same isn’t a sales pitch MTV can sell without being hypocritical. We all know that no form of birth control is 100 percent foolproof. Except, God forbid, abstinence.

The issue of teen pregnancy being out of control goes beyond the fact that abstinence-only education doesn’t work. The producers of MTV, as well as parents and teachers, need to consider the implications behind the saying “They’re going to do it anyway, so let’s show them how to be safe.” Yes, teenagers have hormones. Yes, they’re difficult to control. But it’s the mindset of “everybody’s doing it,” popularized by networks like MTV, that decreases the effectiveness of abstinence.

Distributing condoms like Halloween candy isn’t a way to look out for teens, it’s a cop out to replace the difficult task of teaching self-control; a virtue that is just as relevant now as it was in the Puritan era. Why aren’t more teens offended by the assumption that their ability to make decisions in light of how they will affect their futures is unlikely, if not impossible?

It’s easy to believe that the majority of teens are lazy, selfish and irresponsible, but I’d like to have a bit more faith in them than that. Most teenagers actually don’t get pregnant before they graduate. Is luck the only reason why that is, or is there a more substantial reason?

MTV can’t have it both ways. The makers of the show can’t paint teen motherhood as the less-than-ideal life path and still make hooking up with little concern for the consequences seem cool and normal. Not every teen mom in America can become a reality star to cover the cost of food, diapers and medical bills. So until MTV and the villages that help raise children start changing their tune, expect more teen moms…and poverty.

SarahBeth Caplin is a senior English major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].