Teen Mom II is the second incarnation of MTV's number one rated reality series 16 and Pregnant. The show documents the lives of four teenage mothers as they struggle to cope with the burden of childrearing in a financially demanding society while trying to navigate through the journey of adolescence. Once catering to a music oriented teenage consumer, MTV has reinvented itself as a teen reality television powerhouse, with many of its reality shows, including Teen Mom II, consistently dominating in the ratings. Although advertisers eagerly race to gain the attention of the much sought after 18-49 demographic, critics question the stereotypes that may be reinforced through the television program and the negative sociological effects, the show could have on its viewers.
The debate on the effects the mass media has on adolescences, has been occurring for many years. The Teen Mom franchise is just the latest subject in the discussion. With the recent influx of reality television programming targeting young people, Teen Mom II has come under increasing scrutiny. In the first episode of the season titled “Nothing Stays The Same,” Jenelle Evans, one of the teen moms featured on the show, is seen shoving her mother in a fit of rage during a heated argument over a custody of her son Jace. Not long after the episode aired, tabloid magazines featured Jenelle on the cover with the headlines referring to her as a “star.” Is this an example of the media rewarding bad behavior?
Unfortunately outlandish behavior is nothing new for the series, as multiple episodes featured frequent incidents of domestic violence, verbal abuse, and family infighting. In an episode titled “Slippery Slope,” Chelsea is heard being referred to as a derogatory term by her not-so loving boyfriend Adam, who is also the father of her child. He then continues to berate and degrade her when he explains that if she was more friendly, he might have not cheated and besides “everybody cheats.” Sadly these type of verbal exchanges between the teen moms and teen dads is common nature. In episode seven of the series, “Switching Gears,” teen mom Kailyn, is desperate to attain some sort of independence from her baby fathers family and decides to move out on her own. When she makes her announcement, Jo the father of her baby, responds with cruel messages filled with vicious and horrid words by way of text message. He states, using many four-letter words, how he regrets having a child with her.
The behaviors portrayed in Teen Mom II while horrendous, makes for great television. Martin Kaplan, media professor at the University of Southern California school of Communication, states “the appeal of these shows is that the producers and casting directors have figured out we have reptile brains, and that there is stuff that we can’t resist because of the species we are.” While the entertainment factor can’t be denied, the stereotypes reinforced by Teen Mom II and the effects it may have on viewers...