The grocery store where I shop has a checkout line that has been deemed “family friendly.” What this means, of course, is that there are no magazines or candies displayed next to the register. That’s a nice idea, but ultimately kind of worthless. Because no matter what line you stand on, the stuff you are trying to avoid is never more than a few feet away.
And what I am trying to avoid is the magazines. Saying no to candy is easy. But I resent having to explain to my fourth grader what a Snooki is and why she’s famous. Ditto for Brad allegedly cheating on Angelina and Paris Hilton’s supposed drug bust. My daughter doesn’t even know who these people are, but thanks to these prominently displayed tabloids, she thinks she knows what they did to get famous.
If she were to read some recent magazine covers, she might get the idea that getting pregnant as a teen will put her on the fast-track to celebrity. Because for some kids, that’s exactly what has happened. The stars of Teen Mom, a reality show with a self-explanatory title, recently graced the cover of US Weekly. And some other teen parents (I don’t know who they are) were featured on another magazine cover, lamenting having given up their baby for adoption.
To avoid these magazines, I always send her off to check out the movies in Red Box while I check out the groceries. Because while I am not really concerned that she will think getting pregnant at sixteen is a great way to get famous, I am concerned that she will think getting pregnant at sixteen is perfectly normal and as glamorous as it appears to be on these glossy magazine covers.
Because, as someone who knows from experience, getting pregnant at sixteen is neither normal nor glamorous.
But Lara Cohen, a news director at US Weekly, told CNN that teen parents are “compelling.” And making celebrities out of them by putting them on television and magazine covers is just good business. In fact, she says the issue featuring the Teen Mom stars did as well as The Bachelor scandal covers and prompted other publications to follow suit.
The danger here, as BlogHer writer Jenna Hatfield points out, is that the image of teen motherhood as presented on these shows and magazine covers is false. “These particular teen moms aren’t experiencing the same reality as the teen mom down the street,” she says.
I am not one who believes that if you just don’t talk about something, it will go away. Teen pregnancy is real and it really happens to lots of kids. But the conversation about it should involve reality, not a reality show. While the subject may indeed be “compelling” and make for good television and clever copy, I prefer that my child see teen pregnancy for what it is and should be: the exception.
Because of my own history, I might be a little overly sensitive on this particular subject. What do you think about television shows and magazine covers that make celebrities out of teen parents?
Image: Polina Sergeeva/Flickr