Wednesday, October 27, 2010

'16 and Pregnant' Second Season Returns

The latest season of MTV’s “16 & Pregnant” kicked off Tuesday night with an episode about Brooke, a 16-year-old high school junior from Texas, and her boyfriend-turned-husband Cody.

It seems like MTV is attempting to address concerns that the show, and its spinoff “Teen Mom,” have
glamorized the issue of teen pregnancy. 

The show followed its normal formula, following one teen mom and her respective challenges from pregnancy until a few months after the baby is born. At first glance, what makes Brooke stand out is her love for racing. After her wedding, complete with a groom wearing a racing jumpsuit and a tire-shaped wedding cake, her family heads to the race track for a mini-honeymoon.

But what really makes Brooke stand out from the other teens on “16 & Pregnant” is that she has access to a lot of information and services that other teens haven’t. In a candid talk, Brooke’s mom tells her she doesn’t know how she got pregnant since she showed her how to use condoms and provided them to her. Brooke just shrugs.

Before the baby is born, Brooke visits a group for teen moms at her school to get an idea of how she will juggle school with being a new mom. These are advantages a lot of teens and teen moms don’t have.

Brooke also has the advantage of having parents who are willing to offer support, as well as a partner who wants to be involved in raising the child. Of course, these relationships aren’t perfect, and their maturity level shows at times, like when Brooke says, “Cody would NEVER leave me, or his baby.” Clearly Brooke has not seen "Teen Mom," where Dad-turned-ex-drama is often front and center. 

They name their son Brody (Brooke + Cody, get it?), and in what might be the only televised IUD insertion I’ve ever seen, Brooke gets the longer lasting form of birth control from her doctor just weeks after the baby is born. While many of these scenes are fascinating, none of them seem like they would be very alluring to teens watching.

Brooke cleans her parents’ house in place of rent, but finds it overwhelming with Brody and school work. In one of the best and least sentimental quotes from the episode, her mom tells her, “I should not have to pick up a breast pad. ... Ever.” 

If anything, this episode was anti-glamorous. The couple looks into buying a pre-fabricated barn to move into, but decides they can’t afford it on Cody’s part-time pay check from a local convenience store. They argue about school and working, which leads to Brooke tearfully explaining that she would rather live at home with her parents for another year than have to drop out of school.

Even with family and partner support, there were lots of uncomfortable talks, financial issues and tears. Upcoming episodes will focus on different teens and their decisions, but so far I don’t think any teen could watch this episode and come away with a romanticized view of teen pregnancy.

By Elizabeth Benfield, graduate assistant at the SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, MPH student at the University of South Carolina's Arnold School of Public Health
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