I’ve praised MTV’s show Teen Mom, in conversations and on Twitter, for being a really groundbreaking show. Last year, they aired 16 and Pregnant, which followed four pregnant teens on their journey through pregnancy. Teen Mom picks up where 16 and Pregnant left off. The show is real, raw, heartbreaking, and really, really important. It’s rare to see the reality of teen motherhood so accurately depicted. It’s so much more effective than sex ed alone, and it gives a glimpse into how hard it really is to be a kid raising a kid. It examines their financial struggle, the collapse of these young relationships, the battle to be a mom while still need their mom themselves. Is it perfect? No. But it’s a step in the right direction, and it’s good to see some semblance of reality on ‘reality’ TV.
But this last week’s episode had a scene that caused my heart to catch in my throat (3rd clip in link). Amber got in an argument with her boyfriend, Gary, which somehow involved Amber’s father, too. It resulted in her shoving Gary into a wall, slapping him across his face, getting in his face and verbally assaulting him, and grabbing him by his throat. You can watch the scene below, if you want, but I’ll warn that it could be triggering for some.
It was domestic violence (or is it teen dating violence, since they’re teens? Though it fits the legal definition of DV (at least in Florida) since they have a kid together…), plain and simple. And it was shocking. However, I have mixed feelings about MTV deciding to air this scene.
On the one hand, I’m glad that they did. Female on male violence is hardly ever spoken about, and many people don’t believe it really happens. Not only is Amber clearly the perpetrator in this instance, but she’s attacking a man that is a very big guy. I’m talking 6-foot-something, 250+ pounds big. Amber is no small girl, either, but there’s so often this misconception that a man can’t be the victim of physical abuse from a woman because they’re so often physically larger than them. This clearly shows that to be false. The look on his face, of confusion, hurt, and fear is really, really sad.
On the other hand, I’m kind of shocked that MTV chose to air this. I have to wonder if Amber had been a male and Gary had been a female, if they would have aired this clip. Or if, instead, he would have been arrested for assault. I can’t imagine a network choosing to air a clip in which a male throws his girlfriend into a wall, hits her in the face, and then proceeds to choke her. Especially after MTV decided not to air the incident on Jersey Shore in which Snooki is punched in the face by a man at the club, due to public reaction and outrage. Why is it okay to show a woman hit a man in the face on TV, but it’s not okay to show a man hit a woman? It seems that violence perpetrated from female to male is not taken as seriously as that from male to female, and people shrug or laugh it off as not that severe.
Amber has been dealing with what seems to be pretty bad postpartum depression. In no way is Amber’s postpartum depression an excuse for her violence; that is inexcusable. But clearly, she is a girl that is going through a hard time, and could really use some help and guidance. Watching the show, it’s clear that her family will not be the ones to give that to her. It’s a sad situation all around, and further drives home the point that pregnancy is NOT easy, and raising a child is NOT easy, especially at such a young age.
But back to my initial conflict when I set out to write this post, I’m left wondering if MTV should have aired this clip. Is the demonstration of female to male DV significant enough to warrant an applause for exposure? Would MTV have aired this clip if the gender of the perpetrator and victim had been reversed? What do you guys think?