Looking Back at the Outrageous Reactions to Jamie Lynn Spears's Pregnancy

A budding sitcom star, the younger Spears sister's career was completely derailed after tabloids took her to task.

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Oct 1 2017, 1:28pm

Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic

This Week in 2007 is a weekly column looking back on Lindsay Lohan, the first iPhone, George W. Bush, and everything else we loved about the year 2007.

This week, the Kardashians broke through the Trump news homology when youngest daughter Kylie Jenner announced she would be having a baby with rapper Travis Scott. US Weekly claimed Jenner "leaned on Kim Kardashian and Kris Jenner when she found out she was pregnant," and People reported the family was "worried there will be drama with Travis Scott in the future." The 20-year-old's baby bump was another plot-point in gossip sites' decade-long Kardashian saga—a markedly different reaction than the one reporters had when 16-year-old Jamie Lynn Spears got pregnant in 2007.

Spears's baby was conceived ten years ago this fall, but she confirmed her pregnancy on the cover of OK magazine's December 18 issue. "Shocked and Scared but Keeping Her Baby," blared the headline, depicting her childbearing as a scandal.

As the baby sister of Britney Spears—2007's most infamous girl gone wild—Jamie Lynn's pregnancy was much different than Jenner's. Where Jenner is a a 20-year-old who was introduced to America as a nine-year-old on a stripper pole, Jamie Lynn was high school aged and best known for her goody-goody Nickelodeon sitcom Zoey 101. She was pigeonholed as the innocent Spears, an antithesis to her lip-syncing, head-shaving, rehab-hopping sister. Jamie Lynn's pregnancy undid her image and ignited moral outrage.

"Destroyed by Mama," said US Weekly's cover.

"Jamie Lynn's BIG LIES," declared Star's January 2008 issue.

"This is not a joke!!! Jamie Lynn Spears is sperminated!!!!!!!" hissed Perez Hilton. (Exclamation marks his.) "Dang. We thought Jamie Lynn was the nice and normal one. Now we know she's just trailer trash like her sister!!!"

Read more: How 2007 Became a Meme

Some of the hand-wringing stemmed from stereotypes of the Spears's roots in working class Louisiana. Before popular history books and thought pieces routinely challenged stereotypes about the white working class, few would defend Jamie Lynn.

The rest of the controversy resulted from sexism and 20th century morals. Fox News covered the story by pondering whether Nickelodeon would host a teen pregnancy special, and Newsweek's Sarah Kliff accused OK editor Rob Shuter of encouraging young girls to get pregnant. She called his cover "an overly glamorous take on teen pregnancy." (What is glamorous about being "shocked and scared" remains a mystery.)

Jamie Lynn took most of the bullets. Nickelodeon cancelled Zoey 101. Though she's since released a few critically acclaimed country singles, they failed commercially. Even when painted in a positive light, she cannot escape the teen mom image. A 2017 Mirror profile took the angle that she overcame a pregnancy that could have "destroyed" her. "She fought back," wrote Lara Martin.

Jamie Lynn's situation mirrors earlier scandals. After Loretta Young conceived a child with Clark Gable out of wedlock in 1935, she "arranged for a Catholic orphanage to keep the baby for a few months until she could 'adopt' her," according to the book Recycled Stars. While public perception has changed since the Great Depression, as late as 1992, Republican Vice President Dan Quayle was attacking the fictional Murphy Brown for being a single mom.

Jenner, though, has escaped this criticism. Life and Style magazine ran a story predicting she'd be a great mom—a stance few took about Jamie Lynn in 2007. The Kardashians may lead drama-filled lives, but they've challenged and normalized much that was once deemed unacceptable behavior. Jamie Lynn could only wish to have gotten pregnant in their wake. Maybe then her pregnancy would have been treated as a minor news story instead of the catalyst for moral outrage.