Sunday, January 22, 2012

Does Teen Mom Ruin Lives?

I was thinking about the Teen Mom girls and what's been happening to them. Amber Portwood's been to jail. Jenelle Evans has been arrested on multiple occasions. Leah Messer had a blink-and-you'll-miss-it marriage, and is now engaged to a new guy and smoking while pregnant for the second time. Did Teen Mom cause these girls to lose their way, or would it have happened anyway?

Amber Portwood has been quoted as saying that Teen Mom ruined her life. I think she may be placing the blame in the wrong place. Yes, Teen Mom affected her life, and probably for the worse, but it can't be solely blamed for the downfalls she's experienced. It allowed her to fall for guys that may have only wanted to be with her to get famous, and it allowed her pain and depression to be worsened exponentially. But would Amber be depressed and somewhat lost even without Teen Mom? I'm almost 100% sure the answer is yes.

Here's my theory on the matter: Teen Mom didn't cause Amber and the other Teen Mom girls to lose their way, but it certainly didn't help them either. Amber Portwood had anger issues before her pregnancy. Jenelle Evans was also troubled before her pregnancy, as evidenced by her relationship by her mother. I think their newfound fame certainly caused their issues and insecurities to worsen, but I think they would have had issues even without it.

Here's the thing - our personalities are our personalities. Factors, like MTV fame, can affect how we handle things, but the way these girls think and act were in place way before the MTV show came into their lives. Did the show help them? Absolutely not. But that's the nature of being famous. It takes normally sized situations and problems and escalates them into giant situations and problems. More people know the girls, more people judge them, more people support them, and more people are against them. On top of that, the girls are expected to be role models in a way - the point of 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom is to show the world that being a teenage mother is hard, so the girls are both expected to thrive and fail in order to make good television.

While I firmly believe that Teen Mom did have a negative affect on Jenelle Evans and Amber Portwood, there are other girls I'm not so sure about. As far as Leah Messer goes, I think fame did affect her negatively and change her life, however, it isn't the sole reason that she is where she is today.  If I recall correctly, part of the reason that she separated from Corey Simms is that he took money from their shared bank account to buy a truck. She never would have had enough money for the truck if it wasn't for her Teen Mom income. Her life could have gone a different way entirely if not for the income she earned from the show. I also read that MTV wouldn't have let her stay on Teen Mom if she and Corey didn't get back together for the sake of the show. I don't know how true that is, but her quickie marriage certainly was a life changer, especially if it was required by MTV.

As far as Leah's second pregnancy goes, that may have happened with or without Teen Mom. However, I think between her marriage, her daughter's handicap and the fame brought on by the MTV show, Leah seems to think she's more mature than her 19 years indicate. She may genuinely believe she's ready for another marriage and child, even though in reality, she probably is not.

Farrah Abraham is another questionable case. She's a spoiled brat onscreen, but was also a brat before the show aired. The show may have given her more opportunities (like the report that she was dating a Jersey Shore star a while back and the modeling opportunities she's gotten), but I think Farrah is just Farrah, and she might have been the same without being on Teen Mom. Well, I think she would have been a slightly less exaggerated version of herself. I think the show took her normally dramatic personality and put it into hyperdrive.

Okay, so let's say that Teen Mom affected all of these girls negatively. The easy conclusion would be to say that the show ruins lives, right? If you use only these girls as an example, sure, you could say that. But what about Kailyn Lowry and Catelynn Lowell? Of all of the girls, I would say that Kailyn's remained the most normal and grounded. She's used her fame to support causes she supports (NO H8), but she dated a normal guy (Jordan) and remains a dedicated mom to son Isaac, even though she faces issues with baby daddy Jo and her mother.

Catelynn took her fame and used it in a positive way. She showed the world that you can give a baby up for adoption, and even though it'll cause you to struggle, you can move on and live a successful life. She is the best success story from Teen Mom, in my opinion. She shows us that she still has problems and insecurities (which is totally normal), while speaking publicly about her experience to help others. She took her fame and used it for good, rather than cracking under the pressure.

So, does Teen Mom ruin lives? As a hard and fast rule, no. But like any source of instant fame, it can become overwhelming and has the ability to escalate the negative facets of someone's personality. As far as Amber's claim that Teen Mom ruined her life goes, I'm not buying it. She could have said no to 16 and Pregnant. She could have said no to Teen Mom after that. Her choices are what theoretically ruined her life, not the sole existence of the television show. Did the show help her? Absolutely not. But it didn't cause her problems, either.

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