Lifetime examines ‘stereotyping’ of unwed pregnant teens

Tonight’s “Lifetime Original Movie” — “The Pregnancy Project” airing at 8 p.m. — is a bizarre based-on-fact soap opera about a Washington State high school student who pretended to be pregnant for her senior class project.

Gaby Rodriguez (played by Alexa Vega) said she wanted to explore the treatment and stereoptyping of high school girls who get pregnant.

Rather than do research and interview other students, however, she fooled all but one of her friends and many members of her own family into believing she was actually pregnant.

It’s a story for the age of social networks and reality television where people are so eager to be famous — or notorious — that they often don’t stop to think about the downside of narcissism and self-generated sensationalism.

Gaby’s stunt caused her to lose friends — and who knows what the parents and family of her boyfriend thought of the ruse to which he was a party? — but it also won her a guest shot on “Today,” a Simon & Schuster book deal, and now tonight’s Lifetime dramatization.

Perhaps we are all too quick to judge girls who get pregnant in high school, and what the future might hold for them and their children, but in some scenes Gaby carries on as if she should be congratulated for not thinking about birth control (and/or insisting that her boyfriend wear a condom).

Is it wrong for the people around the high school student to think that her young life has just gotten much more complicated — and difficult — and that she might not be able to juggle a job and college and caring for her kid at the age of 18?

The Lifetime movie would have us believe that a lot of the hostility Gaby faces is just mean girl-style nastiness and, of course, we get to share her obnoxious morally superior stance because — unlike most of the people around her — we are in on the trick she is pulling.

It’s hard to believe that Gaby’s teachers and the school administration would go along with her idea and its potential to cause the girl so much emotional harm. Gaby is, in a sense, on an undercover spy mission in her high school — something that could have disrupted her own studies and charged the atmopshere around her.

“The Pregnancy Project” is slickly produced and well acted by the entire cast but I spent the whole movie wondering what Gaby really expected to learn from her senior project and why the school leadership went along with what she did to her friends, family and acquaintances.