Every other Monday, Duncan Cooper produces a video tribute to pop culture, his last ditch attempt to understand and bring dignity to the thousand hours he spends online. This week he celebrates MTV.com’s live comment stream for Teen Mom 2 with a video edit that layers real comments onto footage of the show.
Growing up I listened to Loveline every night and mostly had no friends. I think years of falling asleep to medical and relationship advice hollowed a heart-shaped hole in my brain, a little locket-space in my head for sad teens, and so I watch these shows—16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom—constantly. They’re heartbreaking TV, girls in hard situations totally believing that all the things they don’t have (money to provide for their kids, space for themselves, adult love) will swell around them, that the world will change because they’re changing.
There’s a live comment stream on MTV.com, right next to the video player for Teen Mom 2. When you watch the show, there’s a second show bouncing alongside, occasionally referring to—but mostly just assembling thematically nearby—Jenelle and the other mom-stars. Judging by their avatars and what they say about themselves, the commentators don’t vary much demographically from the show’s four white, lower-middle-class, unwed, suburban young women. They’re not telling the story un-filmed. Instead, they post about the show as a way to post about themselves, supporting its story lines with their own uphill anecdotes of teen (often single-) motherhood.
The Teen Mom comments are physically situated up there for everyone to see, next to the video and not below it, like on YouTube. You’re supposed to watch them. Old posts get erased as new ones pop up, a secondary storyline building with the same no-turning-back motion as any show. Because they’re constantly disappearing, the comments command their own attention, unable to be paused like the real Teen Mom 2. The stream thematically mirrors the show, but it reflects its own unpaid cast back too: united in a place to talk about their lives, commenters produce a new, more expansive narrative of what it is to be a teen mom. What they add is so much sadder, so much more urgent: reinforcing a weird dedication to the institution of marriage, though dads never seem to care care, scores of young women passing by, not profiting from teen pregnancy.