step away from reality television

I read on the train the other day that one of the teen moms from MTV’s reality show rakes in around $140,000 with her contract. Another, who physically abuses the father of her son, is paid double. It was 7:30 a.m. and I was heading out to the burbs to work my eight to five job where my salary is $22,000, a 1/7 of theirs. Clearly, I had chosen the wrong path. I don’t have a child with a camera crew following me around–but what I do have is a college degree. I guess one could say that my large accumulation of student loan debt is comparable to toting around a small person. Nonetheless, whoever told me to keep my legs shut at age 16 advised me wrong. Let me get knocked up and a camera crew to follow. Perhaps my perception of being a teen mom would change a bit…

I could start considering myself an advocate or just an ordinary teen who wants to share my life to warn other teens of the struggles of being a mom.

Wrong.

Who told these girls (because that’s what they are – girls – not women) that it was the right thing to do? Forget the pregnancy, I’m talking about signing their life away to reality television.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand teen pregnancy is not a new discovery. However, when 1/3 of girls are having children before the age of 20, and the United States has the highest teen pregnancy rate than any other industrialized country in the world, I do begin to wonder what we are teaching these young people. Obviously nothing, because we’ve just slapped on another catalyst: fame and money. Being a 16-year-old mom isn’t too bad now.

But do I blame them? An easy ten grand. An easy two hundred thousand dollars a year. Would I sell-out if I was offered a show? Would I turn down a large salary for six weeks of an annoying over-the-shoulder camera crew? That’s a tough question. But yes, I would. My dignity is worth more than money can buy.

The sad truth is that more and more reality shows are developing and have been around for far too long. More and more random people are becoming rich by signing away their life to cable. And it’s us, the blue and white-collar hard workers who support them. We are the ones who are glued to our televisions at night to dive into the “reality” of being a teen mom, or a Guidette, or a wealthy teen living on a beautiful beach of California, or one of the many people stuck in a house with twenty people, or dressing up two-year-olds in makeup and bikinis—shall I continue? These people rake in at least 10 to 25 grand per episode and that does not include all of the after-market endorsements they receive. That means two-hour-long episodes is at least my yearly salary. Something isn’t adding up right. This doesn’t make any sense. Why do I have to work my ass off for $22,000, while they get to be filmed picking their noses, drinking ’til they fall over, or neglecting their child? And worst of all: they make money of it.

I can hardly believe that this is the new and improved “American Dream.”

It’s not reality. But what “American Dream” is? It isn’t the 1950’s anymore. We can’t buy homes and we can’t take vacations because we can’t find jobs.

But we can get approved for student loans. And those come with high interest rates, but hey—you can go to college. You can get that degree. And then you can pack it away in a box somewhere because it won’t take you too far. Except broke, and the only thing you can do is sit in front of your television and dream about what you’re going to do over your measly weekend when you have $18 in your bank account and your refrigerator is empty.

Good thing I don’t have a child to support. Because not all of us get our own spot on cable.

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