Focusing teen pregnancy with 'Secret Life,' Palin family

In the tumult of dealing with thousands of page views and hundreds of comments during the first week of this blog, I lost track of an important story: The Secret Life of the American Teenager, a summertime series on the ABC Family channel about a 15 year old who gets pregnant, finished its first season by setting all kinds of ratings records.

The series is a big, big hit, one of the highest-rated shows on all of cable -- especially with teen girls and young women, two key demographics.

Its success is particularly important  (and troubling) in the wake of the way the family of Republican conventiongoers recently embraced the 17-year-old unwed and pregnant daughter of Sarah Palin, the GOP vice presidential nominee.

Secret Life follows a story line much like that of the hit feature film, Juno, in which a not-very-popular girl gets pregnant and suddenly becomes the center of the universe both within her family and at school. Everybody who had ignored her starts to fret and fuss and care about her. Here's a preview I wrote and some video from the show.

One potential message that sends to teen girls: If you want to be popular, get pregnant. And the message is likely to be most seductive to those who are most vulnerable, girls feeling alienated and unloved.

Because Secret Life was such a success, there will be imitators -- just as this cable series imitated Juno. That's for certain.

But even more problematic is the fact that the show's success can be linked to a growing body of similar celebrations of teen pregnancy -- from a pregnant Jamie Lynn Spears being showcased on magazine covers, to GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin's daughter and the father of the child being showcased onstage at the GOP convention after the news broke. Palin and her husband, Todd, also issued a statement saying how "proud" they were of her.

Maybe I am old fashioned,  but I think these media celebrations of teen pregnancy are likely to result in more girls getting pregnant, and I don't think anyone believes that is a good idea.

I am especially interested in what conservative media analysts like L. Brent Bozell and Tim Graham have to say about this issue. I have always enjoyed dialogue with Graham, and Bozell recently took a piece I wrote about TV and sex and ran with it online. I wonder what they think of the trend and the role Gov. Palin is playing in it.

(Above: ABC Family Photo of Shailene Woodley by Michael Ansell)

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