The Teen Mom Phenom


The Teen Moms are everywhere. On MTV. At the Supermarket checkout counter. On TMZ and the other gossip sites. And their popularity tells us a lot about what drives our culture, increasingly ever focused on a tiny demographic: White female teenagers.

I’ve seen teenage girls page through fascinated, by the Teen Mom covers of the various gossip mags: US Weekly, People, Star, and so on. And why not? Teen Mom is not, so much the celebration of teenage motherhood, as it is teenage celebrity.


For those unfamiliar with the Teen Mom phenomena, it all started with MTV. Long gone are the days when MTV ran music videos, these days MTV is the launching pad for “reality” shows aimed at teenage girls. Kim Kardashian got her reality show start, by appearing in the MTV reality show “My Super Sweet 16” which featured rich girls getting extravagant sixteenth birthday parties. Her father, the late Robert Kardashian, of the OJ Simpson trial infamy, threw her a birthday party featuring her entrance on a throne carried by a bunch of shirtless Chippendale’s dancers. Total cost? Around $250,000, as I recall.


Among MTV’s most popular shows, was “Sixteen and Pregnant,” featuring the trials and tribulations of teenagers just so situated. A number of the young women featured were spun off into “Teen Mom.” The Teen Moms get a pittance, only $50,000 or so … per season. But they can leverage the fame into appearance fees, and get paid for magazine covers. The money is better than nothing of course.

But the most important thing about MTV’s reality shows is that they are not in fact, reality. They like nearly all reality shows are heavily scripted. The writers just don’t make union scale and neither do the people playing characters. There are villains, for the teenage girls to hate, and heroes, and most of all, hunky guys. The storylines might as well be lifted from a soap opera, and are as obvious and manipulative as WWE Wrestling, but without the virtue of athletic performance.

If Bristol Palin was an “unlikely” rival to eventual winner Jennifer Grey on “Dancing With The Stars,” it was unlikely only to those unfamiliar with the manipulations of reality shows. Every show needs a villain. A character for the audience to hate, with situations manipulated and lines written for characters to say. Both the British “X Factor” and American Idol have admitted to using auto-tune to make certain singers sound better, and others worse. Everything being driven off character, the good girl the good guy, the bad boy, the rebel, the hunk, and the edgy and hip arty girl or guy.

Obviously, some things are improvised. But the “reality” of the shows are only the reality of cheaper, much cheaper, writing and acting budgets. The fore-runner being once again, MTV with “Real World.” It is important to recognize, the paucity of ideals or ideas or issues that inhabit the universe of reality shows. The show producers do not feel, and have some evidence (the popularity of their approach) that the teen female audience they pursue actually cares about ideas, or ideals, or anything beyond who is the most hunkiest? Apropos of the old Saturday Night skit “Who Is More Muy Macho? Ricardo Montalban y Fernando Llamas?”


This lack of focus on ideals, or anything beyond personality and character, is not unique to the teen female audience either. Older skewing reality shows (and scripted ones) are subject to the same focus on hunkiness versus nerdiness, Alpha versus Beta male, bad boy versus good guy, with divas, princesses, and so on. Even a relatively escapist show like NBC’s “Life” explored ideas and issues: the limits of revenge, how to fight evil without becoming a monster in turn, finding peace and tranquility, overcoming various traumas. All absent in things as varied as “Vampire Diaries” or “Desperate Housewives” or “Teen Mom” or “Real Housewives.”

Which does a dis-service to the female audience. While female viewers may not find the limits of revenge interesting, they certainly are interested in exploring what makes a good or bad boyfriend, husband, and father. What makes a marriage strong or weak, bad or good ways to raise children, and how to balance career, family, and self-fulfillment. That they are female-focused does not make them trivial, nor should women and girls of any age be treated as mere soap opera addicts.

Yet overwhelmingly, the focus is on celebrity, diva-esque behavior, romantic entanglements, and other idiot trivia of a psuedo celebrity culture. Teen Mom focuses on the “bad” (and also fat) girl who may lose her kid, and a “bad” girl with chaotic relationships (her ex, a new boyfriend) and a “good” girl with less chaotic relationships. All of this has led to success.

TVByTheNumbers.com reports that Teen Mom in October pulled a 2.4 in the Adults 18-34 demographic to lead all cable, with 4.1 million viewers. That may seem like nothing compared to American Idol pulling in as many as 30 million viewers during peaks. But most of the viewers are indeed, teen girls. Who just cannot get enough of Teen Mom.

If you look at the show, or the website, you will see the synopsis:

In 16 and Pregnant, they were moms-to-be. Now, follow Farrah, Maci, Amber, and Catelynn as they face the challenges of motherhood.

Each episode interweaves these stories revealing the wide variety of challenges young mothers can face: marriage, relationships, family support, adoption, finances, graduating high school, starting college, getting a job, and the daunting and exciting step of moving out to create their own families.


From a male perspective, this is about as exciting as watching paint dry, but the show cleans up among White teen girls. The tabloids do their part to make this all happen as well.

Is this healthy? Nope. Sixteen year olds are not emotionally nor financially mature enough to provide for children in today’s society, which is fast paced and brutal on those without competitive advantages to put their kids ahead: good neighborhoods with good schools, safe suburban environment, money (generally meaning two high-income earners), and a two parent family with the mother married to the biological father. Teen Mom is focused first on glamorizing diva-esque behavior, by teen “celebrities” but it does in fact glamorize teen age pregnancy as well. Including the fantasy, tellingly, that teen girls can have a kid by a hunky, bad boy and then pay little penalty in raising their kid or with romantic opportunities. Female hypergamy encouraged.

But just as toxic, is the idea that being famous, or a junk celebrity, is a substitute for having professional skills that pay well, being careful and cautious in personal judgments and behavior, and that adopting diva-like behavior is something that pays off. An entire generation of teen girls are getting exactly the wrong messages. To pursue the hunky bad boy without reservation. To abandon education in favor of chasing fame. To act like a princess or diva. Disastrous messages to young women who need the unvarnished truth. That their youth and beauty will quickly fade. Choosing a father for their child is the most important thing, not the least. That children need a father, and a mother, who can both earn money to support a safe and prosperous suburban lifestyle.

About whiskeysplace

Conservative blogger focusing on culture, business, technology, and how they intersect.
This entry was posted in cable television, culture, hypergamy, more, teen mom. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to The Teen Mom Phenom

  1. Anonymous says:

    The solution is simple: replace the show with "Teen Shotgun Marriage," in which pregnant teen-agers are forced to marry (without the possibility of divorce) or to face summary execution.

  2. Vincent Vega says:

    ^^That's great^^Hope that you and yours as well as the faithful readers of this blog had a great Thanksgiving.

  3. Anonymous says:

    The psychology behind "teen mum" and surviving is the 2010's equivalent to the bravery of drug addition and the heroism of heroin in the 1960s and 1970s. All the self-manufactured difficulties celebrated in cinema and novels.Soon, me thinks, the real world will descend to these people's discomfort.

  4. Zeta says:

    I think the teen mom phenom offers us a glimpse of the kind of world we would have when females are in charge and the female mating instinct is allowed to run rampant. Funny enough, that world is becoming reality. Not exactly an encouraging prospect, and Whiskey is right in asserting that this focus on hunk-or-bust is inherent in all women, not just teen girls.

  5. madmax says:

    Why do these girls not get abortions? My guess, is that religion is still guilting them into going through with the pregnancy. I agree that there is nothing as mindless as a teenage girl. But if abortion were not so heavily stigmatized then my guess is that very few teenage girls would ever become mothers. Yes, this means abortion as a form of contraception. And yes, I could give a shit what relgionists and conservatives think about that.

  6. Anonymous says:

    The problem isn't that teen are getting pregnant, it's that they aren't married. We need to lower the age of consent for females back down to a more sensible age.

  7. Madmax, the only stigma that needs to be lifted is the one on marriage. So all these girls should have abortions? Why? So they can go to college to become marxist sluts and then get jobs in the wealth destroying public sector?Nothing wrong with teen pregnancy as long as the tax payer doesn't have to foot the bill. If the father runs, tough. Not only will the girl learn the value of a beta provider but will also be a warning to other girls to curb their slutish behaviour.The last thing collapsing western demographics needs is more abortions. Besides, it's murder!!

  8. peterike says:

    Why do these girls not get abortions? My guess, is that religion is still guilting them into going through with the pregnancy… Religion? What religion? They become pregnant because they want to. They know all about contraception and abortion. They get propagandized about it since third grade or whatever. It's everywhere around them. Yet they freely choose to have a baby because it's an emotional indulgence. They are too short-sighted to see the implications. Plus, they see celebrities everywhere proudly having babies with no need for daddy.They get propagandized about that, too, by the way. Single motherhood is just another lifestyle choice. But if abortion were not so heavily stigmatized then my guess is that very few teenage girls would ever become mothers. Stigmatized??? Where have you been hiding the past thirty years? Abortion is portrayed everywhere as heroic. Only creepy old white male oppressors are against it.

  9. **** ***** says:

    i'd tried writing some posts on why this f'ing show is so toxic (and shows like it), but this is by far much more articulate than what I'd tried to put together. people shrug this off as fluff, until you hear the way some girls idolize these teen moms, and mtv washes its hands with a 4.5 second flash of a website about how to not get pregnant. Yeah, how about "Teen Honor Killee" about how this is handled in other countries.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I completely agree with peterike, and I'd just like to add one thing. Pregnant women don't need to be told that abortion is wrong, they know it in their guts – quite literally. In addition to that, it's an incredibly invasive and unpleasant procedure. To say something like "Why do these girls not get abortions?" is unbelievably dumb, and quite possibly the mark of a sociopath.

  11. ray says:

    perceptive commentary on amerikan kulturebeen obvious for a couple decades that the ruling swath of u.s. kulture is commanded by sub-25 femalesthat's who is spending the money, esp the disposable income, that's who have been affirmative actioned into college, careers, etc. and that's who is pampered through egomaniacal "weddings" whose financial build-outs (called wedding planning) last many, many months and give the women yet another opportunity for solipsistic excess and fake dramamen? who cares? plenty of prisons and the backs of cars are pretty comfy these dayspsuedo-celebrity (ie w/o merit or effort) and diva-status (again, w/o merit or effort) is the poisoned apple here,and those apples sell v well in amerika, a nation whose controlling spiritual and material motif is the female worshipping herselfwhen i look around at what's left of "families" — almost always controlled by a woman — i consistenty see masses of money and interest being spent on white female kids and teens … the demographic with the smallest long-term return in productivity (whether creative or monetary)truly, a self-consuming nation, pass thou quicklyray

  12. Anonymous says:

    This is likely my tenth comment on Teen Mom, as I knew when I first saw it that it would be a petri dish in which to study feminist 'empowerment.'Firstly, Amber is horrific on so many levels. Dumb as a bag of bricks but which a devious knowledge of what feminist tools to apply.The Caitlen girl who gave her baby up for adoption is an attention whore navel gazer.Farrah is borderline psychotic, just observe her eyes for a minute.Then there's the one who is so rebellious, calling her own shots, but one can see the facade slipping as she realizes that one has to earn that privilege.

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