Judging by TV shows, Anderson’s national image must be one of hillbilly stock car drivers and angry teenage mothers.
Two years ago, the city was portrayed as a societal car wreck on HBO’s “Dirty Driving,” a snapshot of local residents who race cars in a dismal and jobless city.
Last year, an Anderson High School dropout was featured in MTV’s “16 and Pregnant.” The music channel promoted the show by saying teen pregnancy was on the rise for the first time in 15 years.
This year, that now 20-year-old mother is on “Teen Mom” on the same channel.
In a recent episode, she fought with her boyfriend. She kicked and punched him seven times before kicking him in the back as he walked down a flight of stairs. Anderson police are reportedly investigating the incident as an assault. Or maybe we were watching “Bad Boys” or “Jersey Shore.” We can’t be sure anymore.
MTV’s line of defense in airing the episode is self-serving and disgusting, as offered by spokeswoman Melissa Baretto: “Our role in ‘Teen Mom’ is to document how incredibly challenging and difficult being a teen parent is. In this particular instance, we monitored the situation to make sure no one was in imminent danger and that the child was not there.”
We imagine “monitoring” involved a camera crew smiling and rejoicing that they caught the fight on tape.
If our young Anderson woman is lucky — and she is being paid for her performance — we expect she’ll be asked to next star in “Young Women in Jail” or “Teen Mom: Anger Management.”
MTV likely wouldn’t prefer that sort of controlled setting. They make headlines when Kanye West usurps Taylor Swift on stage for winning a video award (Giving awards for video ads for musicians?). Or when Lady Gaga wears meat instead of clothing. Producers must be smiling when the brawny, often brainless, subjects of “Jersey Shore” end up on talk shows, TV commercials and “Dancing with the Stars.”
Inappropriateness makes for more compelling video than rationality and decency. Look at MTV’s latest promotion for a show titled “A Thin Line:” “Ever had someone trash you online then later claim they were ‘just joking.’ Think your digital drama might be over the line? Submit your story, rate others’ stories and help define the line between innocent and inappropriate.”
Let’s save America a lot of wasted couch time: If it involves teens and it’s on MTV, it’s inappropriate.
A better MTV disclaimer might be: Parents, monitor your kids’ TV viewing. They can use that for their next fight-riddled reality show: “Teens Whose Sense of Morality Developed from Watching MTV.”
Reality shows prey on featuring people who appear to be under-educated, narcissistic and full of anger. And that’s the image Americans are getting of Anderson.
We in Anderson know we’re better than that.
But for some reason, we can’t convince our own neighbors and friends to avoid portraying this community as a bunch of jobless buffoons.
“Teen Mom” is not the national image Anderson wants. The next time you see our teen mom in the store, point out that she is hurting this city. We don’t push our loved ones down stairs. We don’t take pride that our teenage girls are 16 and pregnant. We don’t all drop out of high school.
But as long as other children, our children, watch these shows, the producers at TV networks will smile and consider them a success.
- “Teen Mom” is not the national image Anderson needs.