After watching this week’s episode of MTV’s 16 and Pregnant, I was asking the age-old question: how much can you know another person, especially if you’re watching her teenage pregnancy and open adoption unfold on MTV? This week’s episode about Lori, that followed her indecision about whether or not to choose adoption for her son, followed last week’s lead and presented a functioning parent-child relationship that dealt with the struggle over what to do about an unexpected teen pregnancy. What really struck me, though, was how this episode presented the viewing audience of 16 and Pregnant with something new: subtlety and nuance. The most interesting parts of this episode were the things we didn’t – and couldn’t – know about Lori, her family, and why adoption was so strongly advocated by her parents (though it was really easy to infer from her mother’s reaction to the idea of a baby shower and some of the comments that her parents made that Lori’s own immaturity and general misunderstanding of the gravity of the situation played a HUGE role). The stress in the episode was palatable: from Lori’s parents’ insistence on adoption and stress at the prospect of watching their daughter make a bad decision (and then having to deal with those consequences) to Lori’s own struggle to decide the right course of action for her son, which was complicated by both her desire for a blood relation and her ex-boyfriend, Cory’s, pipe-dreams presented as a life plan (the television audience would also like to send a big thank you to Lori’s mom for her whole “why don’t you two try living together idea” that seemed to last all of about 5 minutes). And while the episode was unbelievably sad as we watched Lori struggle with feeling pressured to give up her baby and finding out that keeping him wasn’t an option either, all I could think about was the running theme of “parental decisions” that stretched throughout the episode as we discussed Lori’s mom’s own decision to put her up for adoption, Lori’s parents’ attempts to steer everyone onto the right course, and that final moment where Lori handed over her baby to his adoptive parents. No ugly text messages this week, only the struggle to do the right thing and deal with with sadness that sometimes comes with that path.
(Extra sentences: Thanks to MTV for showing us a teenager who had actually heard of – and been on – birth control. A second thanks for making to super-clear that those warnings about not mixing antibiotics and the pill are for reals.)