Fame for being a teen mom is a far cry from what it used to be.
This past Monday, it was reported that Bristol Palin will follow up her Dancing With the Stars run with a Bio Channel docu-series—basically, a reality show—following the single mom on her move from Alaska to Los Angeles with her son, Tripp, to work at a small charity in need.
She’ll be living with her DWTS co-star actor Kyle Massey and his brother Chris, which is the selling point (can you say reality TV Three’s Company?). But the idea that Bristol Palin is being rewarded the Hollywood spotlight merely because she was a high-profile teen mom can make America’s social universe seem off-kilter, if not downright twisted.
During the teen pregnancy explosion of the '80s, Black and Latina teenage moms received a major TV spotlight of their own, though it was mostly news items or conservative political speeches skewering them as the face of this epidemic. Loose morals. No regards for their future. Ronald Reagan, during an early, unsuccessful run for president, argued that they were a drain on the economy, labeling them “welfare queens.”
But that was before the fracturing of the TV landscape, the rise of cable/the Internet/reality TV, the mainstreaming of Black urban culture and the detonation of celebrity. Now we’re in a world where fame is an occupation and dysfunction is functional—especially for TV ratings. But since we still live in a country where right race plus right place equals stardom and money, having a problem that used to be solely (and negatively) associated with Black and brown girls can prove lucrative. Let’s not even begin to talk about reality shows like 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom turning white teen moms into stars. And now Bristol Palin gets a TV series…
Then again, I’d like to think of Bristol as having a bigger mission within her reach for celebrity and money, besides getting her baby some Pampers and Similac. And that’s to take the former curse of being a teen mom and blow it up into a huge social ladder for young girls caught in that situation to climb. If not for them, then for the sisters back in the day who were socially and financially bruised by a lost moment as a teen. It’s a thought, of course. Hell, we can all dream…
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