TV

MTV Must Stop Glamorizing Dysfunctional Teen Parents

| by Kate Wharmby Seldman

MTV's "Teen Mom" recently showed a physical altercation between teen mom Amber and her on-off boyfriend, Gary. In the clip below, Amber flies into a rage after Gary accuses her of being a bad mother to their bay daughter, Leah. She screams at Gary to get out, calls him fat, and punches, slaps and kicks him.

MTV's producers probably believe that airing this kind of behavior will scare teens straight. Faced with an example of the life-shattering stress that often besets teen parents, surely more teenagers will decide to take measures to prevent pregnancy, right?

The problem is, for every teen who watches "Teen Mom" and decides to avoid getting pregnant, there will be ten kids who think this is great entertainment. The dangerous thing about reality TV is the distance it affords the viewer. Watching in the comfort of your own living room, it's easy to think that what's happening to the cast members could never possibly happen to you. It's also easy to forget that the people on screen are real, not scripted characters.

Another problem: the teens on "Teen Mom" agreed to be filmed. Even though many of them are having an incredibly difficult time as new parents, they're also very aware that they're becoming famous. In a sense, they're being rewarded for their bad decisions. Teens watching the show may get the idea that even if they wind up pregnant too, there'll be a similar "out" for them, if they can just milk their situation to find fame. Of course, this is highly unlikely to happen, but teens aren't known for being the most rational of people. 

Teen mom Amber and ex-fiance Gary are natives of Anderson, Indiana. The Herald Bulletin, the local paper, published an article about their fight on its website. One commenter pointed out perhaps the only positive angle to this story: it's good that viewers will see domestic violence isn't always confined to male-on-female fights. Amber's treatment of Gary is abhorrent, and he is to be commended for refusing to fight back either verbally or physically. However, MTV could find a way to educate viewers about female-on-male domestic violence without implying that teen parenthood could lead to fame.

Police have since opened an investigation into the incident after show viewers sent them emails alerting them to a possible assault: MTV producers never reported the incident.