First things first. You’ve probably never heard of Bridaplasty, which was an E! reality show that ran over the holiday season in 2010. I heard about it from my wife, who watched a Bridalplasty marathon with her best friend, came home, and assured me that that this show was right up my alley. Her evidence: at the end of each episode, a contestant is voted off by her fellow brides-to-be, and the host (who is not the Biggest Loser’s Ally Sweeney, a fact that is sometimes hard to remember) sadly informs the loser that “your wedding will go on, but it will no longer be perfect.”
What a statement!
For me, that by itself is nearly enough to justify the show’s appeal. Once each episode, you get to hear one woman tell another (with an entirely straight and sympathetic face) that their wedding will not be perfect. Done. Go watch all the episodes right now. They stream on Netflix. And then, while you’re there, find out that the rest of the show focuses on competing for individual plastic surgeries, and the eventual awarding of a “dream” wedding, complete with vendors to the “stars.” (As I remember it, the starriest client any of the vendors mentioned was Tori Spelling, but the women on the show seemed impressed anyway.)
From what I can tell, the reaction to the show was about what you’d expect. Here’s some sample sass:
- “Unfortunately, Bridalplasty doesn’t offer brain augmentation.” (Jezebel)
- “These are the worst people on the planet.” (Cracked)
- “Perhaps it was inevitable that we would be attacked with something like ‘Bridalplasty,’ a series that practically invites you to deposit your daughters in a time-travel machine and land them safely in the pages of a Laura Ingalls Wilder novel.” (NY Times)
I’m not going to argue that Bridalplasty was classy or a tribute to 21st century America . . . but I actually found that it, in the end, made me feel better about the state of our culture than worse.
I’m not a fan of plastic surgery, but I’m not naive enough to think that my distaste for it has any ability to change whether or not others think it’s a good idea. I would have expected that a show offering free plastic surgery would have drawn women with long lists of the types of work they wanted done, and it’s true that the show had each contestant put together such a list. If and when they won a challenge, they got to select a surgery of their choice from that list to get done. What was interesting was that the show repeatedly showed most women stating that they really only wanted one of the surgeries on their list–and, indeed, the two women who won two challenges each selected tooth veneers as their second surgery. Tooth veneers are about as un-plastic-surgery-y as you can get. Amy Poehler talked about loosing one of her tooth veneers on a talk show recently. They’re not a big deal.
The contestants’ motivation was twofold, but limited:
- Get them their top plastic surgery, which was almost always a pretty reasonable choice (if you accept that plastic surgery is ever a reasonable choice). Rhinoplasties for women with big noses; liposuction for heavy women; tooth veneers; one (ok, totally unnecessary) boob job. Even the woman who won ended up not pursuing all the surgeries on her list (as was her “right”), but instead just went to a fat camp to lose some weight.
- Get that Celebrity Dream Wedding. In fact, most of the ladies seemed a little more focused on the wedding than the surgeries–which is no different than any other reality show where people are motivated by cash.
In a culture where we’re all are expected to be beautiful and rich, I was sort of reassured that the “worst people” the show could find just wanted some money (albeit to spend on one specific thing) and one plastic surgery. Good for us.
p.s. NY Times: Have you read Little House on the Prairie and/or do you know anything about history? Not actually a great time, just in general, what with the near-starvation, rampant disease, and poverty, and particularly not a great time for women and girls.