Nothing Has Changed, Teen Pregnancy is Not Cool

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Since the release of the movie Juno, the media has been awash with the idea of increasing teen pregnancies and teen births. Article after article, television special after television special, everyone seems to be stuck on the supposed new popularity of pregnancies among young women and girls. Statistics may be mentioned here and there, but no one appears to be too fixated on the numbers. Their main focus? Ellen Page’s fake bump.
Maclean’s Magazine made it clear whom they blamed for this social trend. Their January 28th issue of this year featured a Juno Page on the cover, covered by the menacing headline: “Suddenly Teen Pregnancy is Cool?” The piece as a whole seems to have only gotten one thing right: the question mark at the end of the title. The evidence is slim. Although the article tries to unveil several explanations for the increase in teen pregnancies, the author, Cathy Gulli, always comes back to the idea of pop culture influence.
The article gets off to a bad start when Jamie, Lynn, and Spears are the second, third, and fourth words mentioned respectively. A very short but loud history has surely taught us that the Spears should not be used as a lead example … for anything. A couple paragraphs later, Gulli throws out Nicole Richie and Jessica Alba as more evidence for the celebrity trend of early pregnancies. While the famous as a group do have a strong influence on pop culture and fads, one must be careful not to attribute them with too much power. There is a huge difference between buying Gwen Stefani’s jeans and copying her baby bump.
The author continues along the same line of accusation when she points to TV shows and movies as contributors to this social trend. In my opinion, Gulli suffers from confusing the media’s incentives. She describes that since pregnancy is a “trend that’s sweeping teen culture,” the media is fixated on this topic. However, she failed to realize that television and film may be taking advantage of the success of previous pregnancy-based stories. In essence, media bigwigs recognize a crowd-pleaser and a moneymaker when they see one. Do high ratings indicate teens think pregnancy is cool? I’m not convinced. The big and small screens have experienced plenty of fads, from war epics to paranormal states, but viewers aren’t seen rushing off to battle or hunting ghosts in their backyards. What people like to watch doesn’t necessarily equate with what they want for themselves.
And pregnancy is certainly not what teens want. Gulli made another critical mistake when she blurred “socially accepted” and trendy. The author does have a point when she describes how reactions to teen pregnancies have become less severe in recent years. However, she connected this social change with a supposed laissez-faire attitude among young women towards having a baby. “It’s [pregnancy] no longer a scary word,” says one of Gulli’s sources, but her article did not include a single statement by an actual teen mother. Just because she won’t get many condescending stares from passersby’s, doesn’t mean that a teen mom is not anxiety-ridden about schooling, money, and child-care. Movies, shows, books and statistics do not detract from the stress and fear borne from a positive pregnancy test.
If girls’ opinions have changed little on the topic, and pregnancy-related media has existed for quite some time, why the sudden jump on the teen pregnancy topic? I see the excessive material as parent-anxiety-driven and propelled by the fear of changing social norms. If any sort of blame must be doled out, I think looking inwards is the best direction to point. Because the last thing a girl thinks about when she sees the little “+” sign on that monumental white stick is Juno.





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lorelie said...
Jul. 22, 2011 at 1:53 pm
 I think you couldn't be more wrong.  Although well written, the article is blind when it comes to the powerful influence popular celebrities, blockbuster movies, magazine covers, TV shows, and the media in general has on teens.  What ever is in the media always seems to appear in real life...bralessnes in the seventies; madanna styles in the eighties, etc...
 
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