Teen Mom is a reality television show that first aired on MTV in 2009. It follows the lives of four teenage girls – who were originally featured on the show 16 and Pregnant – in the years following the birth of their children. The struggles of teen parenthood are portrayed by documenting their evolving and challenging relationships with family, the fathers of the children and other boys.
Do you think this show is educational? Does it prevent viewers from becoming “teen moms” themselves? Does it encourage them to become teen moms?
Why would MTV produce a show like “Teen Mom”? What does it say about MTV’s target audience and its goals for television production?
Class ideology generally dictates that white, middle class girls should only reproduce later in life, after they have completed compulsory education and preferably after settling down in a heterosexual relationship. The Teen Mom girls’ behaviour is typically presented as lower class by virtue of their deviation from this norm, which is also evident in the way the show portrays the family conflict and drama that understandably occurs at this period in the girls' lives. One can also read a moralistic tone within the show, which is made clear in each season’s finale special with Dr. Drew. This might alert the viewer to the exploitation of the girls, their children and their families for profit by MTV. On the other hand, some consider these girls to have postfeminist agency and benefit from the fame and material benefits of participating in the show. Others have also critiqued the show for presenting teen parenthood as glamorous.