Teen Mom: Amber Portwood charged with felony domestic violence for clocking boyfriend Gary Shirley on camera

Let me start with this: I really enjoy Teen Mom. I find it oddly fascinating in a few different ways. Since I’m roughly double the age of most of the cast members (who began as 16 & Pregnant participants and “graduated” into Teen Mom, a show that checks in on four young women and their families as their respective children go through their first year) it’s a look at what teenagers in different parts of the country are doing and saying these days, with the kicker of dealing with unwanted teenage pregnancies that they’ve chosen to take to term (three of the mothers decided to raise their children while Catelynn gave her daughter up for adoption).

teen mom amber

I haven’t written about the show up until now because quite frankly I have a difficult time articulating whether the show is “good” or “bad.” Does the show “work” as exploitive reality show junk food, replete with working class families with twangy accents yelling and screaming and a-hollering? Yes, absolutely. But it’s also rather informative and educational in its way about the perils of bringing a child into the world at such a precarious age. I really do go back-and-forth while I’m watching, trying to decide which side the show plays to more, and therein lies some of its fascination for me.

Of the four women, Amber Portwood’s adventures in raising daughter Leah and her train wreck relationship with boyfriend (and occasional fiancé) Gary Shirley is the best example of that strange dichotomy in that it is the most easily exploited relationship – let’s face it, the Amber and Gary we see on camera are deeply immature children without strong support networks or means who are in way over their heads – as reality TV fare while also serving as at times disturbing cautionary tale.

So with all of that as background, we now learn that Amber has been charged with felony domestic violence charges stemming from an incident captured on the show. As I mentioned, both Amber and Gary are immature kids who have no business raising a child together, and therefore it’s not surprising when their deeply dysfunctional relationship boils over into fits of anger and frustration. Amber’s temper got the better of her (as it often seems to, sadly) and during the incident she clocked Gary but good a few times, once squarely in the side of the head (which reminded me of Ronnie taking out that one goon on the boardwalk circa Season One of Jersey Shore for some reason). It does not help Amber’s cause that daughter Leah was only a few feet away throughout.

I’m having a hard time figuring out if Amber should be treated like a “reality television star” or as troubled young woman who needs help (and who is also decidedly unworthy of positive or negative media attention en masse). That confusion is not eased much by reports that Amber was photographed doing shots, getting “bombed,” partying hard, and hooking up with some dude on the eve of her impending arrest.  

If Amber is convicted, she faces the possibility of three years in jail and a $10,000 fine. It’s likely that prosecutors are looking to make an example (or political hay) of Amber – again playing with that exploitative/cautionary tale line – but my view is that she does not deserve to go to jail.

I would certainly recommend mandatory couple’s counseling – behind closed doors and away from the cameras – for these two deep into the future.  

By Eric - TV Geek Army "Revered Leader"

About the author

Eric is the publisher and revered leader of TV Geek Army… at least in his own mind. TV Geek Army is a place for serious TV reviews and news for serious fans of great television. Contact: eric-[at]-tvgeekarmy.com 

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1 Comment
On: Friday, November 19, 2010
jbone said:

Great post. I can't watch this show most of the time though, it saddens me to think of the conditions those kids are growing up in. At least in the episodes I've watched, I've thought to myself, how is child protective services not involved here?

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