Subjects of capacity?

Reality TV and young women

Authored by: Laurie Ouellette

The Routledge Companion to Media and Gender

Print publication date:  December  2013
Online publication date:  December  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415527699
eBook ISBN: 9780203066911
Adobe ISBN: 9781135076955


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In 2009, the US MTV cable network launched the reality series 16 and Pregnant as a “public education partnership” with the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit organization. The spinoff, Teen Mom, was launched later the same year with a similar mission of deterring early childbearing. Combining the conventions of observational documentary and teen soap opera, and adding confessionals and graphics to the mix, both productions generated high ratings (and enormous profits), even as they were also framed by public service announcements, therapeutic after-shows, study guides, and interactive websites emphasizing their purpose as “teachable moments” and “cautionary tales.” As multiple seasons and sequels with new casts appeared, the “real-life” experiences of pregnant teenagers and young mothers became a staple theme of MTV programming, providing the raw material to encourage responsible sexual practices and life planning.

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