"People always think of teen pregnancy as what they see on TV.
It's not like that at all."
In December of 2009, MTV produced a spinoff of its popular show 16 and Pregnant called Teen Mom - the spinoff drew in more than 3.65 million viewers. The producers (one of whom is Morgan Freeman) and MTV claim that the series is meant to educate teens on the realities of teen pregnancy. After each episode, the network provides information and a link to its website to get more information on contraception and teen pregnancy.
16 and Pregnant premiered on television when I was 15. As someone who grew up with the show and its characters while my fellow classmates in high school were beginning to experiment with one another, the "reality" of the show contrasted with the reality of life was quite different. I struggled to see the humanity in the show - it seemed like every single action was simply a reaction for dramatic effect. When I had the opportunity my freshman year to spend 8 months to follow a person (or group of persons), learn their story, and understand how it was representative of a broader story and important issue, my mind instantly jumped to teen pregnancy.
A television show on MTV, despite its best intentions, is meant to entertain rather than educate. When I met Amber in November of 2011 for lunch at a Panera Bread in Arlington, Massachusetts to talk to her about the project, the importance of the project began to hit me. Here was a real live person, not followed by an MTV crew but still going through very real things and coming out above it all just fine.
The problem with television shows like 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom is that it produces stereotypes. But in reality, it's not like that all. This project is meant to break down those stereotypes: to share the reality of a teen mother so that people can hear her story in her own voice.