I am currently obsessed with MTV's "Teen Mom 2." I didn't watch the first season of "Teen Mom 2," but I did catch some of the moms from "16 and Pregnant" who make up the "Teen Mom 2" cast, and so I couldn't help but wonder--like everyone else--what happens next.
Well, what happens next is basically a big train wreck. And this is not the funny, "Oh, I can't turn my eyes away from [insert reality tv show such as Real Housewives of Whichever County/City] trainwreck." This is a tragic trainwreck.
I know I am not alone in wondering these things, and I am sure if I did some research, I could find out some of the answers, but for now, I am left in a state of befuddlement about the following:
(1) Why do I watch this show? I might be suffering from a currently undiagnosed syndrome in which pregnant women in their late-20s to early-30s can't stop themselves from watching disturbing shows such as TLC's "I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant" or any of TLC's other dramas re: child birth, child rearing, and/or any show involving the birthing, raising, or rearing of multiple children at once. With most of these shows comes a sense of relief--at least I know I'm pregnant. At least I haven't gone through that (yet). At least I have a plan for my future, a partner, an epidural in my near future. But that really doesn't completely explain the draw...there have been many times when my husband has literally yelled at me to turn off an episode of a show where, for example, a woman's epidural isn't taking and she is screaming in pain, or a particularly cheesy re-enactment of "IDKIWP." TM2 offers a different kind of viewing experience, however...one that makes me feel comfortable in my current state of being/mind/affairs because it makes me feel sorry for the poor teenage girls on the screen. Which leads me to my second question:
(2) Are these girls really poor, and should we be pitying them? Undeniably, they have made some really stupid decisions. But you have to admire the resolve of Kailyn as she refuses to move in with her boyfriend and instead opts to work a 2nd job so that she can eventually move out on her own and continue to go to college. Yes, you know her plan is doomed (just like her as*hole boyfriend tells her), but you have to admire the doggedness of her resolve. And all of the Teen Moms are struggling with money (except for the girl from South Dakota, whose Daddy continues to support her in spite of her inability to finish school or pick a non-abusive partner). But don't they get paid for this show? Does the show purposefully hold off from paying them until the end of the season so everyone can watch and pity/enjoy/sympathize/empathize with their financial suffering? I've heard the cast of the original "Teen Mom" gets at least $20,000+ an episode (or something along those lines), so watching Jenelle struggle to pay for college and an apartment or Kailyn struggle with 2 jobs seems strange, considering that their financial suffering is being filmed by one of the biggest networks out there for profit. Is that why we can bear to watch, because we know that there's at least a financial happy ending in store for these girls, even if their personal lives are crumbling around them? Which leads me to my final question:
(3) What is the long- and short-term impact of this show? Does the PSA at the end of the show urging teens to go to MTV.com to find out more about preventing teen pregnancy do its job? I've seen articles claiming that teen pregnancy is down, partially due to this and other similar shows. I've also seen articles suggesting that the show glorifies teen pregnancy and so is detrimental to reversing teen pregnancy trends in the U.S.
I don't think there are straight answers to any of these questions. I will continue to watch, and I will continue to be entertained even as I am puzzled and disturbed by my ability to be entertained by the sadness of these girls' lives. And I know I'm not alone in my watching (I hope).
**A few more random thoughts: Do the producers ask the girls to narrate in a monotone and without feeling, or is that just a coincidence? And why do none of these girls and their friends/boyfriends look at each other when they are fighting? Kailyn and Jo are the guiltiest parties when it comes to this, but it drives me crazy. Is this a function of them being uncomfortable while being filmed, a characteristic of their generation in general, or what?