According to the report at ABC--and there will be more on Nightline tonight at 11:35 p.m.--one of teens featured on "16 and Pregnant," Whitney Purvis said that her turn on the show turned her into a celebrity in her town of Rome, Georgia. Purvis said that the movie, Juno, our least favorite movie of all time, make pregnancy look "cute." Right, she said, cute, and that made her want to participate in the original show on MTV.
The MTV producers go on an on about how "16 and Pregnant" was supposed to be a cautionary story--to prevent teens from getting pregnant, but you know, add a dash of that smart-ass-oh-so-cute-movie Juno, and you end up with girls...getting pregnant to become small town celebrities. When the movie came out I had an email discussion with a young woman who should know more about adoption--her mother was adopted--but I had the feeling that I was fighting an uphill battle to convince her that having a baby was so far removed from what the despicable script by Diablo Cody portrayed. (So far, so good; she's on the dean's list at college.)
Purvis blows MTV's we're-just-trying-to-do-a good-thing-here statement to smithereens:
"Now I meet people who are wanting to get pregnant just to be on the show....I know how it changes your life and then I meet people who are changing their life just for what I did," she said. "There's actually two girls who got pregnant just for that and they went to the same school and MTV had to wind up picking either one of them," Purvis added. "And so they picked one of them and then the other one, you know, is just sitting there."Similar rumors of copy-cat teen moms captured headlines in recent weeks. Two pregnant girls who are friends with a current "Teen Mom" star said they got pregnant by accident. I mean, we who gave our babies away usually got pregnant when we did not mean to (call it an accident)...but today there is so much more ease of obtaining birth control, so much more education, that it is somehow doubly said when someone who is still in high school has a baby--to be a celebrity. Only half of them finish high school.
Purvis, now 19, says that the producers manipulated her and her boyfriend during the filming:
"They would take you in separate rooms and then they would film me with my friends and my boyfriend with his friends and just get you to talk about the things you don't like about each other," she said.Purvis, who says she was paid $5,000 for the whole series, now works as a waitress at a local pizza joint, trying to make ends meet to support her baby son. She loves her son, she says, but regrets the timing. Not sure what happened to her baby daddy.
"They want you to argue ... they want you to talk about each other, they want you to get where you want to break up with each other to go stay at separate place. "
As the show went on to be a hit, the girls on the show are now rumored to make five and six figure salaries; it's right below the obnoxious Jersey Shore in popularity with the demographic it aims for.
While television glamorizes babies having babies, teen birth rates declined 6 percent between 2008 and 2009, reaching a new low, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Yet the U.S. still has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the developed world; twice as high as the United Kingdom, and three times as high as Canada. One in six girls will become a teen mother. And while the conservatives and religious right cavil about teaching sex education (including OMG, birth control) in high school, and want to cut any funding for Planned Parenthood and similar services, the annual cost to the public, through the subsidizes teen mothers need, is estimated at $9.1 billion. That's right, annual. Just cutting down the teen birth rate would save some of the money the Tea Party folks and rank-and-file Republicans are so hot to cut from the budget.
I have never been able to watch any of the teen mom or give-away-your-baby shows; I have a visceral reaction to the whole idea of glamorizing what is such a traumatic event. Hell, I can't even watch any labor-room scenes in movies. I close my eyes and, if called for, cover my ears. Some four decades later the painful memories of my own labor are still too fresh of what was the worst thing that ever happened to me. I gave birth to a daughter I felt I had to surrender to the cold unknown of adoption. It has stayed with me always.--lorraine