After four years with Maci, Farrah, Caitlyn, and Amber, last night we said goodbye. I know they were the subject of great ridicule, as reality TV stars often are. But the fact remains that this show was groundbreaking in its authenticity and uncharted territory. What was originally a series about being 16 and pregnant spun off into this series where we were able to follow these young girls lives for years.
We saw them struggle with the embarrassment of pregnancy in high school. And relationships gone wrong. Maci and Amber got engaged to their baby daddies, only to break up with them. In Amber’s case, her breakups with Gary were the most consistent thing in her life.
They all moved into different apartments and houses, some of them several times. Farrah relocated to Florida from Nebraska, mostly to get away from her overbearing mother. They all went through phases of body modification with different piercings, tattoos and a boob job. Amber was the worst offender and now has to live with this horrible tattoo of Leah on her torso.
All of the girls have sad stories, but Caitlyn’s takes the cake. We watched as she and Tyler questioned their decision to put their daughter up for adoption. And we watched as their dysfunctional families circled the drain, never getting better. Surrounded by chronic poverty, alcohol, drug addiction and domestic violence, it was clear that they absolutely made the right decision. But it was nonetheless painful for them to say goodbye to their daughter. The guilt and lack of support from their parents was heartbreaking to watch.
The girls struggled with school and jobs and the normal teenage insecurities. Only they did it all on camera. With babies. I reject the criticisms that these young lives were exploited. And they certainly weren’t glamorized. The bit of fame and the paychecks from MTV made their lives more difficult and easier in ways, but those lives were already going to be difficult.
I look forward to following their stories as much as they allow in the years to come. Will their children remember the experience of camera crews following them? Will Amber change much in prison? Maybe Tyler and Caitlyn will escape the patterns of dysfunction passed down undoubtedly for many generations in their families. Will Farrah ever grow up, finish school and repair her relationship with her mother? I don’t know what will happen. But I hope for the best for these girls.
This was gritty reality television at its finest.