When flipping through the channels, I found myself to be flooded with shows and movies revolving around teenagers having sex. Most of the movies or shows glorify the act, an example being American Pie but there seems to be an outbreak in shows that make teens think twice about striving to lose their virginities or from having sex at all. Two such shows are 16 & Pregnant and The Secret Life of the American Teenager. While 16 & Pregnant is a documentary show about teenage pregnancy, Secret Life is a highly dramatized JUST SAY NO campaign.
The show models a soap opera. Every word, every situation is highly dramatized in a way that is too ridiculous to believe. It is hard to believe that this woman, Brenda Hampton, was the same woman who created 7th Heaven. 7th Heaven was a show that instilled lessons and morals into people. It still revolved around very Christian values, like Secret Life, but the messages were more universal and not so in your face.
In Secret Life the lessons are blatantly stated and shoved down the viewers throats. The show uses different characters to hopefully reach out to different viewers. There is the good, little freshman who gets pregnant after losing her virginity to the playboy. There is the easy girl who enjoys partaking in sex acts with whoever is willing. And of course, there is the strong Christian girl who is comfortable in her faith and relationship to not have sex until marriage.
Hampton addresses sex as a bad thing. Her devote Christian character Grace believes because she had sex God punished her by killing her father. Adrian, the slutty one, must go to therapy to realize she can’t have sex before she finds love. And Amy, the pregnant one, is hot and cold. Sometimes she’s begging her new boyfriend to “do it” while other times she’s crying because she is scarred for life from her one night stand with Ricky, the playboy.
Sure, teenage pregnancy is at a high point at this time but a more effective way would have been to educate teenagers about what happens if you’re not smart about sex. Instead of trying to scare them with all of these soap opera-like situations, Hampton should be portraying real-life situations that emphasizes the hardships teenagers in all of these situations go through. But it seems like the longer the show is on the air, the more ridiculous the plot lines get.
Had girls taken anything from this show, they would believe that if they had a baby at 15 they could still go out, have boyfriends, sleep through the night and basically just see their baby before they go off to bed. They’d believe that, if they had a baby, they would get to control the baby’s life. They would get to tell the father when he can and can’t see his child. They would get to decide any questions in custody solely because they are the mother.
The show is delusional. Nothing can be really taken from it besides the fact that it presents the pressures and lightly touches on the consequence of not practicing safe sex. With it’s down-your-throat dialogue, words like “oral”, “masturbation” and “sex” become the curse words that everyone says and then get frowned upon. Though the issues addressed are important, the way Hampton has presented her message to the viewers is sure to make them laugh more than learn. And though the show 16 & Pregnant uses fear tactics to get the message across it is far more effective than the over dramatized techniques utilized in Secret Life.