For a show as formulaic in nature as 16 and Pregnant, it’s sometimes difficult to find the nugget that makes it different than previous episodes. Teens + unprotected sex = one hour of conversation-spurring television brought to you in part by executive producer Morgan J. Freeman. Last night, I didn’t have that problem. The programming pearl in the clam of cliché was set out right before us late in the episode by our 15-year-old subject of the night. Personally, it came with an uncomfortable dose of shame. To properly explain, I have to rewind a bit.
Valerie, the subject of the episode, is 15, pregnant, and has a beat-boxing boyfriend named Matt, who (surprise!) is hesitant to man-up to his responsibilities to his child, even talking at one point about requesting a paternity test. (Note: Did his friend seriously call it a ”fraternity test”? Help us all.) Despite his flaws and seeming disinterest with having an active role, Valerie opted early on to keep her baby — as an adopted child herself, she admitted that she had always longed for the biological mother-daughter connection. She was one of nine adopted children in her household of 13 and before getting pregnant, used to skip school and run with the wrong crowd to get attention.
The blame game was in full force by the time the first commercial break rolled around. Even when no one is around to entertain my judgment calls, I can’t help the thoughts that roll through my head during every episode. What went wrong? Who is at fault? What should have happened to prevent it? I’m not sure what the point of my mental debate is; it usually leads nowhere. Frankly, I’m not sure there is ever any one answer to such questions. Still, you sometimes can’t help but develop theories and assumptions. And last night’s pinnacle point was about just that.
By the latter quarter of the episode, Valerie had thrown my assumptions about her (and even Matt) out with the garbage like a dirty diaper. The teen with an apparent princess complex came into her role as an adult with responsibilities quickly, staying strong through her newborn’s medical scare, accepting her inability to return to normal high school, opting to stay in home school, and learning how to adapt to her role as the primary parent to her daughter Neveah. As for Matt, he ended up moving 200 miles away in hopes of finding a job with health benefits. To his credit, even at his worst during the episode, Matt was not nearly as odious as last week’s teen father.
But even with all that, it was Valerie’s parting words that left a hole of shame where my theories used to be. ”I was very judging before I got pregnant. If I saw myself pregnant, and I was 15, I would have thought, ‘She’s nasty. She sleeps around with everyone.’ You’re just judging. You don’t know what’s going on in their lives.” Stated like a true teenager, but the point is loud and clear.
But what about you? What did you think of last night’s episode of 16 and Pregnant? Is the point of the show to debate and discuss the situation (but rather to do so with teens)? Sound off below.