Photo Credit: Courtesy of MTV
Conventional wisdom? MTV's 16 & Pregnant and Teen Mom are cautionary tales.
Their message couldn't be more hit-you-over-the-head obvious: Irresponsible teen baby daddies don't stick around! Cute babies rob you of fun! Parents will eventually lose patience with your needy self! And yet the show goes on. The first four pregnant teens gave way to four more. And then a third group of immature, unprepared young women were featured on 16 & Pregnant. On Monday, this third cast will continue to publicly live out their stories on Teen Mom 3 (MTV, Mondays, 10 p.m. ET).
Except that... it's the same story. The faces are different, but the narrative hasn't changed. The girls -- Mackenzie, Alex, Katie and Briana -- are each seen yelling at or crying over the non-committal father of her child. Check out the trailer:
"I'm sitting here working three freakin' jobs, and he doesn't even have one!" says Alex. (By the looks of it, even one job might be asking too much of this guy.)
"I thought he'd be here, and he's not," says Mackenzie. Cut to her boyfriend, who is literally gallivanting around on a horse.
"Stop acting like you wanna be a father when you don't!" yells Briana at her boyfriend, moments before her mother kicks him out of their house.
And so on. There are screaming babies, slammed doors, tearful apologies to burdened family members. Aside from the fresher pop song the drama is tracked to, there's nothing new here. The formulaic turmoil might actually be funny if these weren't actual girls on screen, who are actually heading down the same path that led Amber Portwood to jail, Jenelle Evans to rehab, and Farrah Abraham to the porn industry.
Many a news story has asked whether the franchise glamorizes teen pregnancy. But the show's existence certainly hasn't correlated with more pregnant 16-year-olds. In fact, teen birth rates are declining in this country.
If Teen Mom is damaging anyone, it's not the viewers. It's the girls whose lives are bankrolled by the show. The Teen Mom 2 cast members have reportedly earned $240,000 over four seasons, and that doesn't include cash received from endorsement deals and appearances. What does MTV ask for in return? Drama. Talk about enabling bad behavior!
Jennifer Graham Kizer is an Atlanta-based writer who covers pop culture and watches too much TV. Luckily, iVillage gives her an excuse to watch even more. Follow her on Google+.