‘Secret Life’ reveals truth about teenage pregnancy

Rebecca Horan

This summer’s smash hit, well at least this summer’s guilty pleasure, was ABC Family’s “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” starring Molly Ringwald from 80s teen movies like “The Breakfast Club” and “Sixteen Candles”.  The show revolves upon a teenage girl’s pregnancy and the repercussions of the scandal in the girl’s school and home life.  Amy Juergins, played by Shailene Woodley, a sweet, innocent French horn player discovers that she is pregnant after having sex with the unattached drummer Ricky, played by Daren Kagasoff.  Meanwhile, Amy falls in love with Ben, Kenny Baumann, a sweet boy who wishes to marry her after hearing of her unplanned pregnancy.  The rest of the plot involves different students in the high school who are connected to Amy, Ben, or Ricky, and basically the discussion of all of their sex lives.  

  “Secret Life” is produced by Brenda Hampton, the producer of the family friendly show “7th Heaven”; however, “Secret Life” is not a major network show, so it lacks the acting and over-all quality of a show like “7th Heaven”.   While both shows promote spirituality and moral values, “7th Heaven” gently made people aware of issues, where as “Secret Life” throws them in the viewer’s face; one student even spouts out statistics about teen sex.  The show not only lacks acting and plot, but it also overcompensates with political correctness; the leads have Asian, African American, and Hispanic friends.  The powerfully religious cheerleader, Grace Bowman, played by Megan Park, also has a mentally retarded adopted brother.  If the show sounds pretty fake or unrealistic to you now, just wait– the new guidance counselor is available at any time to discuss sex and other teen related issues.

  The show aired during the summer on ABC Family, a time when most of the network shows are in re-runs, so “Secret Life” had a better chance to succeed since the competition with other shows was nonexistent.  The viewers though, generally speaking, were bored teenagers who continued watching to see what bizarre episode was coming up next.  Every episode dramatically closed with Shailene Woodley telling teens that they should openly discuss sex with their parents in order to prevent teen pregnancy.  Brenda Hampton does want to provide entertainment, but her  main goal is to encourage teens to have safe sex or abstain all together because teen pregnancy hurts so many people.   

  Amy Juergins, Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin’s daughter Bristol, and others like Jaime Lynne Spears are all exceptions when it comes to teen pregnancy.  None of these young women were kicked out of their homes, forced to live with abusive or irresponsible boyfriends, or made to find work to support themselves.  In most cases of teen pregnancy, the girls live in lower income areas where their families will not or can not support them emotionally or financially.   Sure, Amy feels uncomfortable at school, but she will most likely continue attending high school while her support system, friends and family, help to raise her child.  The fear is that portraying pregnancy as a bump in the road rather than a permanent hardship will give teenagers the wrong impression of the immense struggles associated with teen pregnancy, like the group of high schoolers in Gloucester who thought it would be “fun” to get pregnant as sophomores and raise their babies together.  

  If the second season, airing summer 2009, shows that Amy Juergen’s burden is far too heavy to bear, the show will accomplish its goal of preventing teen pregnancy; but who would want to watch that?  However, if “Secret Life” wants to prove that there are other alternatives to abortion   or that your family will support you regardless, it needs to take into account the general living situations of most teen mothers.  In all likelyhood “Secret Life” will make teen pregnancy appear too appealing, thus making the problem worse rather than fixing it.