16 and Pregnant is a show that will forever live on in the history of reality TV. Not only did it give a voice to people who aren’t normally heard (more on that later), but it also sparked a series of spin offs. The world has baby fever, and it satiates it in the form of teen pregnancy based reality TV.
16 and Pregnant, for those that don’t know, is a real life series which focuses on following teenage mothers throughout their pregnancies. For many of them it’s their first pregnancy. We get to watch them navigate the new feelings and life that’s growing inside of them for the very first time. There’s something very compelling about that, but there’s also some stuff to the show that’s not exactly as real as the phrase “reality TV” suggests.
20 Real: The Babies (Obviously)
We had to put this on to get it out of the way. It’s very hard to fake a baby, especially when you’re crafting a whole show out of the process of pregnancy. We’re not saying it can’t happen, but with the kind of budget 16 and Pregnant is working with, there’s no way they can afford to rent out all those hospital rooms and day old babies.
19 Fake: The ‘How Did You Find Out’ Questions
When a pregnancy is announced the first thing that most people close to the pregnant person do is ask how they found out. The Stir points out that there’s no way that the best friend of the pregnant person is only finding out about it when there’s conveniently a camera there. Totally staged.
18 Real: The Impact It Had On Actual Birth Rates
Believe it or not, this is a reality TV show that actually had a really positive impact on the real world. CNN discussed a study which stated, “16 and Pregnant ultimately led to a 5.7% reduction in teen births in the 18 months after its premiere on TV,” which is pretty big, considering the fact it’s just a reality show!
17 Fake: The One-Sidedness Of The Drama
The same could be said for any of the drama on reality TV shows. Ask anyone who’s been on a reality show and they’ll tell you the same thing: the drama is usually constructed in such a way that it tells one side of the story. This is to build tension, because we all know that tension makes for excellent reality television.
16 Real: The Content Of The Conversations
In Touch Weekly is clear that the conversations on 16 and Pregnant are real. The show has some adaptation that happens on the fly (as most reality shows do) but on the whole the content of the conversations is real. The most the producers do is ask people to redo a conversation for clarity or pith.
15 Fake: The Scripting Of The Teens
Despite the fact that the content of the conversations is real, there is some scripting involved. Teens are not the most eloquent creatures in the world. Part of the whole “editing for clarity” thing involves some slight scripting and reconfiguring what the teens say. Especially when there’s any of the confessional moments.
14 Fake: Even The Conversation Timelines
One of the things we learned from a Reddit post was the fact that apparently the timelines for some of these conversations is not what they appear to be. For instance, apparently one of the girls featured on 16 and Pregnant wasn’t actually pregnant when her and her mum had an intense conversation; camera didn’t catch it the first time so they had to reshoot post-baby!
13 Real: The Parents And Partners’ Reactions
Believe it or not, the parents and partners' reactions are super genuine. Yes, they can be edited and twisted to be interpreted as something different. The core of the reactions is the same, though, and are almost always genuine. Unless they have to reshoot them to get another angle, but that’s few and far between.
12 Real: The Adoption
Moms tells us that there was a big dose of reality for both the producers and the couple featured on the show. When Tyler and Catelynn decided to give their baby up for adoption, everyone was present for the hand off of the child to the new couple. It was heavy, yes, but it was also so heartwarmingly real to see the happiness of the new couple.
11 Fake: The Innocence Of The Girls
Sometimes there’s an episode which focuses on a girl who just seems way too sweet and young to be pregnant. Yes, this is a personal judgement that we’re talking about. However, it’s one that counts in the realm of fakeness about the show. Not all the girls are totally innocent when it came to getting onto the show.
10 Real: The Jail Time
From the girls themselves to their spouses, and even to their parents sometimes, the jail time surrounding this show is very real. While this typically hasn’t happened on air or during the filming, many of the people who have been on the show have found themselves getting fines or jail time.
9 Fake: The In Laws Intensity
MTV was pretty upfront about just how mean they’ll get when editing. Take, for example, Christina Cook’s family issues that came up in season 4. According to her posts, her pseudo in-laws were depicted as being incredibly mean and cruel towards her. This wasn’t the reality, though, and was constructed through editing.
8 Real: Many Moms Lose Custody
It’s sad, but true. While many of the teens grow into the role of mother well, some of them can’t quite get up to the level they need to get for long term parenting. Moms mentioned specifically one couple who were featured on the show ended up having CPS called on them, and ultimately had one of their children taken away.
7 Fake: All Of Kayla Jackson’s Episode (Apparently)
Here’s one that you might want to take with a grain of salt. Kayla Jackson’s episode didn’t seem to have much good to say about the pregnancy at all. However, The Ashleys Reality Roundup quotes Kayla as insisting that the way MTV edited her episode was a total misrepresentation of her pregnancy.
6 Real: It Was Created To Tell An Untold Story
We mentioned this briefly in the opening, but let’s go into a little more detail here. Apparently 16 and Pregnant didn’t start because of anyone wanting to make a spectacle of these girls. According to CNN, the producers wanted to help tell the girls’ stories without any kind of judgement as a way to start the conversation about teen pregnancy.
5 Fake: The ‘Riches’ MTV Promises
It seems like a no-brainer, right? TV stars make so much money they don’t know what to do with it. If you’re on TV, you should be making at least close to that much money too, right? Not necessarily. Reality TV cash flow is a little different from scripted television. Wet Paint told us that MTV only gives the girls $5,000 for their time on the show!
4 Real: The Toxic Relationships
It’s sad, but true. While there is some editing going on to make some of the situations seem worse than they actually are, the toxic relationships are actually real for many of the teenagers. And that’s not just romantically, either! Sometimes the parents come across as not too nice as well.
3 Fake: Certain Actions From The Boyfriends
Few of the relationships are actually as bad as the show edits them to be, though. These are still human beings, after all, even if emotions are running high thanks to teenage-hood. Kayla Jackson has discussed this on social media and said that the producers, “made everything into a dramatic mess.”
2 Real: The Fact They Borrowed From Juno
No, not the premise. Teen pregnancy was around long before Juno, and it will continue to exist long after. What they borrowed from Juno was, according to Cosmopolitan, the stylization and the animated sequences. 16 and Pregnant’s captions draw from Juno’s style. Just take a look the next time you watch.
1 Fake: Producers’ Relationships With The Girls
Sometimes the producers would have commentary within the show regarding how they felt about the girls and seeing the birth. However, most of the relationships are not sustained after the episodes they’re featured in. While the producers have been known to be friendly, this is still a business-first relationship they have with them.
Sources: moms.com, wetpaint.com, cnn.com, theashleysrealityroundup.com, intouchweekly.com, reddit.com, thestir.cafemom.com