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The perverse incentives behind MTV’s Teen Mom

So, as I mentioned yesterday, I am turning anti-Teen Mom/16 & Pregnant, the wildly successful (and highly entertaining) MTV franchises that follow the exploits of teen moms, and soon-to-be-teen-moms, respectively. While I love watching these shows, I’m starting to feel sort of dirty supporting them with my viewership, because I think they’re creating perverse and dangerous incentives for teenagers. Although the stated message of both shows is that getting pregnant while you’re in high school is extremely difficult and thrusts you into adulthood before you’re ready, effectively ending your blissful childhood, the practical message of the show is: get pregnant and get paid (and famous)!

The reality behind Teen Mom and 16 & Pregnant is that, while MTV claims the shows are meant to educate us on the dangers of teen pregnancy, the real reason they’re aired is because they are lucrative for the network.  MTV has an incentive to groom its pregnant teens so that they stay on for several seasons, and we can follow their exploits from month to month, year to year, thus increasing viewer loyalty to the franchise. I know that I feel invested in the original crop of teen moms – Farrah, Amber, Maci and Catelyn. I mean, aren’t we all curious about whether Amber’s going to get a giant tat of her next baby (yup, she’s pregnant again) to match the tasteful one she recently got of her firstborn Leah?  http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1339894/Teen-Moms-Amber-Portwood-tattoos-daughter-Leahs-lifesize-face-waist.html And don’t we all want to stay abreast (ahem) of Farrah’s latest aesthetic enhancements? (Gross).

Since MTV wants these girls to stay on for more seasons of Teen Mom (supplemented by frequent “specials,” which are always earnest fireside chats with Dr. Drew about the ups and downs of parenting), it’s going to pay them and probably provide other perks to ensure their continued presence on the network. Although the reported salary for each Teen Mom participant is somewhere around $60,000 to $65,000 per season (no small sum, especially considering that these people are in high school – that’s quite an allowance), Amber recently revealed that her yearly salary is $280,000! http://amygrindhouse.com/amber-portwood-salary.html That’s right, $280,000. That is almost TWICE what I make per year and I am a Harvard-educated lawyer. Think about that for a sec….  Um, isn’t there something kind of effed up about that? This show is telling teenagers (who are notoriously stupid, by the way) that a good way to strike it rich is to get knocked up.  So if you’re a 16-year-old named, say, Kaeylee who doesn’t have a whole lot else going for you, maybe being preggers doesn’t suddenly seem like such a bad option.

On top of the cold, hard cash that MTV is handing over to these babies havin’ babies is the instant fame and media attention that comes with the gig. The teen moms are often featured on the cover of gossip mags, and not just the trashy ones (hi, Life & Style). I mean, even the revered People has gotten in on the Teen Mom bonanza: http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20449708,00.html This is serious, guys.

In response to scrutiny over these very concerns, MTV claims that the show “increases awareness” about the issue of teen pregnancy and is thus doing a public service. I’m willing to concede that the show probably does raise awareness and likely has prevented some pregnancies. But it has probably spawned other pregnancies, and has definitely created some really weird incentives for teens who just might be stupid enough to get pregnant on purpose.

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Farrah’s mom snaps?!

Okay, so I was (sort of) joking in my previous posts when I said that if I were Farrah’s mom, I’d slap the crap out of her, but apparently Farrah’s mom felt the same way, and then some. My lovely cousin Catie Rose alerted me to this little piece of news:

MTV ‘Teen Mom’ Allegedly Choked by Her Mother.

Violence isn’t the answer, Deb. But I see where you’re coming from.


Gamber & Tatelynn

Gamber is the celebrity name for Gary and Amber, one of the most disastrous couples on Teen Mom — and that’s saying something. They are, in a word, a mess. Also, they’re both so irritating that I can’t decide which one to hate more, which is a dilemma. Their baby remains cute. Too bad she has no chance of growing up normal. Also, while I applaud Amber trying to go out and get a job, does it bug anyone else that she was complaining about the color schemes in the apartments she looked at while using “government assistance” to pay for the rent? Glad my tax dollars can help Amber live in a place with a remodeled, white bathroom instead of an ugly green one. Did I mention my bathroom is ugly and green?

Tatelynn (i.e. Catelynn and Tyler), on the other hand, are my favorites. They are so adorable, and I do hope they end up together eventually. I just hope that Catelynn gets to go to college and get her life together, and Tyler gets to join the Air Force first, because I think it’s important that they both get to do their own thing before settling down. They’re teenagers, for goodness’ sakes! But yeah they’re the best. I want to adopt them.

Farrah’s celebrity name would be Nightmarrah. She is horrifically bad. I take back what I said last week about her getting better, because this week she’s totally back to being a terrible person. She’s such a brat, bitching to her mom that she doesn’t like living with her, when her mother is raising Farrah’s child and putting a roof over both of their heads.  Her mom bugs me, too, though, mostly because she lets Farrah pull her bratty B.S., but also because of her voice. Just saying.

Macy and Ryan’s celebrity name would be Racy. Not too much else to say about them, except that I strongly disapprove of Ryan. He’s already a deadbeat dad and he hasn’t even gone through a messy divorce yet. Gross.

That’s all for this week, peeps. Keep it real.

PS. There is a new season of 16 & Pregnant coming in February. Bring it!