I love People magazine. I realized just how much I love it upon purchasing a year-long subscription at the behest of the United States Postal Service when I changed addresses. (How is a government agency allowed to hock commercial goods, I wonder, but that’s neither here nor there.)
One of the reasons I love People is that in the world of tabloid sensationalism, they maintain some wholesome integrity. They still do old-fashioned reporting, and get official statements from celebrities and their representatives. When they report that a celebrity is pregnant or engaged, you know that celebrity is actually pregnant or engaged. For that, they even get exclusives. That’s why they’ve become Angelina Jolie’s go-to when she’s ready to share things like baby photos.
On the flip side, I often wonder what the story idea meetings at Us Weekly or Star or even The National Enquirer are like. Do they have a whiteboard of C-list celebrities to victimize, drawing up story diagrams like novelists mapping out fictional plots?
What saddens me lately is that Us Weekly has made the stars of “Teen Mom” one of their primary beats -- Amber and Jenelle are frequent cover subjects for their unruly behavior. Domestic violence, custody battles, drug use … these are issues that plague a lot of struggling teen moms, but most of those moms aren’t subjected to our culture’s schadenfreude. For instance, can’t Jenelle just go to rehab -- even if it’s in Malibu -- in private?
It could be argued that MTV has already made celebrities of these girls by casting them on a reality show. But I argue the opposite. As if to cleanse the palette after vacuous shows like “Jersey Shore” or -- and this one I really don’t understand -- “Silent Library,” the network actually offers this series as their version of educational programming; an after-school special with a moral to the story. The plights of these girls are cautionary tales, and I don’t think any aspects of their lives are glamorized by the show.
America has a real teen pregnancy problem on its hands, and I think it’s wise of MTV to offer accessible characters on a well-made reality show with a very real message. But, in my opinion, Us Weekly has undermined the show’s important zeitgeist-y message by treating its stars like Kardashians. The difference is the Kardashians were basically created for and by magazines like Us Weekly -- which is made all the more evident when they give exclusives to the magazine.
All I’m saying is leave those teen moms alone and let’s not screw up their children -- or them, because in some ways they still are children. So before I get too high on my horse and start using phrases like “the Kardashianization of our culture,” let me know if you agree: Should the “Teen Mom” stars be left alone, or are they getting what they signed up for?