Video: Does ‘Teen Mom’ glamorize teen pregnancy?
Transcript of: Does ‘Teen Mom’ glamorize teen pregnancy?
AMY ROBACH, co-host: From domestic violence to custody battles, MTV has found ratings gold with its reality show "Teen Mom." The series, at times controversial, is an unprecedented look at the harsh realities of being a young parent.
ROBACH: From the ups and downs of young love to the consequences of teenagers having sex , this is "Teen Mom," MTV 's hit reality series . And it's making teen mothers like Amber Portwood both famous and infamous.
Dr. BROWN-HOLLOWAY (Psychologist): Certainly there is exploitation that's occurring. These young ladies, I'm sure, leave the show, their lives no better for it.
ROBACH: "Teen Mom" is a spin-off of MTV 's "16 and Pregnant," which follows the stories of high school girls struggling with having a baby. Some critics have called the shows educational and realistic. But others say they may be sending the wrong message.
Dr. BROWN-HOLLOWAY: Unfortunately, anytime you portray an individual in the media or on television, it does glamorize it to a certain degree.
ROBACH: Many of the young mothers have become celebrities, appearing on magazine covers. And at a recent court hearing on assault charges, Portwood reportedly told the judge her salary for the show is $280,000. MTV declined to say exactly how much the teen mothers are earning, but in a statement said, "We can tell you that the number being reported in the media is completely inaccurate."
ROBACH: What is accurate is that these young mothers and their kids have become pop culture phenomenons. Stacy Kaiser is a psychotherapist who has worked with teen mothers and is the author of "How to Be a Grown Up " and Lola Ogunnaike is a freelance entertainment journalist and pop culture expert. Ladies, good morning.
Ms. STACY KAISER (Psychotherapist): Good morning.
Ms. LOLA OGUNNAIKE (Entertainment Reporter): Good morning.
ROBACH: Lola , let's talk about this pop culture phenomenon. "Teen Mom" was second in MTV 's ratings history, I guess, just behind " Jersey Shore ," number one in its time slot on Tuesdays. What is it about this show that you think resonates so much with the viewing audience?
Ms. OGUNNAIKE: Well, I think it's a complete backlash to the shows like " The Hills ," those scripted reality shows . This is uber reality. People want to see the grit. They want to see the harsh realities of what it's like to actually be a teen mom. Historically, teen mothers have been marginalized by society. These girls are really putting a face on what it's like to be a teen mother , and I think people are riveted by just the realities of their life.
ROBACH: Harsh realities, Lola , but some critics say that this also glamorizes teen pregnancy .
Ms. OGUNNAIKE: See...
ROBACH: What do you say to those critics?
Ms. OGUNNAIKE: ...I disagree. I think the show is actually an unvarnished, warts-and-all look at what it's like to be a teen mother , and I think it's a great cautionary tale. That said, I do think there's a whole celebrity cottage industry that's been built around this show right now.
ROBACH: Yeah. And, Stacy , you're a therapist who's worked with teen moms. Do you find that the show is an accurate representation of what it's truly like to be a teenage mother?
Ms. KAISER: I really do think it's an accurate representation. What we're seeing is the struggles in relationships; the feeling that these girls are not going to be able to grow up as girls anymore, they have to be women; and that there's challenges with their extended families. That's what we see in teen parents in real life and that's what we're seeing on the show.
Ms. OGUNNAIKE: Mm-hmm.
ROBACH: And, Stacy , one of the stars that has come out of this show, Amber Portwood , her behavior on the show, however, at times was unbelievable, and that aspect was a concern to you at first.
Ms. KAISER: It really was a concern for me because I was afraid that that aspect was going to be glamorized and that she wasn't going to be having consequences for it. So, as much as I'm sorry that a teenage girl is going through assault charges and having her child taken away, I think it paints the portrait of what really happens in real life .
ROBACH: Right. Lola , what about this? With so much attention put on these young women now, like I said, number one in their time slot , are you concerned at all about what happens when the cameras go away?
Ms. OGUNNAIKE: I am concerned. And I 'm concerned that they'll actually start to make even more bad choices to keep the spotlight on them. Will they have more children? Will they go out and commit more crimes or do things of that nature just because they think any headlines are better than no headlines at all.
ROBACH: Bad behavior has been rewarded almost in this culture.
Ms. OGUNNAIKE: Across the board. It's all about train wreck television, unfortunately.
Ms. KAISER: Mm-hmm.
ROBACH: And "Teen Mom 2," Stacy , begins this week. You have two teenage daughters. Would you let them watch that show?
Ms. KAISER: You know, it's not something that I would advise people and say 'assign your children to watch as educational TV .' My girls watch it, but I watch it with them. If your kids are watching it, you want to talk to them about it to make sure that you're answering questions and teaching them correctly.
ROBACH: All right. Stacy Kaiser , did you want to say one other thing, Lola ?
Ms. OGUNNAIKE: I would say I encourage parents to watch it with their children.
Ms. OGUNNAIKE: It's a great way to start the conversation about teen sexuality , you know, teen parenthood and all of those things. It's a little difficult for parents to broach that conversation.
Ms. OGUNNAIKE: This is a great way to get into it.