My thoughts on E!’s new competition/wedding/plastic-surgery reality show, Bridalplasty, have been delayed because I waited until last night to catch a replay of its Sunday premiere. I know what you’re thinking: How could you possibly wait an entire day to watch Bridalplasty!
I was actually curious to see the show, despite, or because of, how awful its premise sounded. There’s a history of reality shows with offensive-sounding premises that turn out, in practice, to be quite sweet (Amish in the City, e.g.), even idealistic (Welcome to the Neighborhood). I am not ashamed to say that I liked Kid Nation. And there are, of course, other reality shows that turn out to be much more awful than you would expect.
Bridalplasty, on the other hand, is an example of a reality show that sounds absolutely, soul-killingly awful, and then turns out to be precisely as absolutely, soul-killingly awful as you expected.
You are probably not more likely to watch the show based on this description, and given the poor ratings, which affirm one’s faith in humanity, you likely did not watch it in the first place. But since I did, I am damn well going to jot down a few thoughts so the whole experience—and perhaps my career and entire life by extension—will not have been in vain.
Bridalplasty essentially takes every misogynistic premise that has been baked into any reality show, ever, and combines them: the focus on appearance, the stereotype of the bridezilla, the validation of one’s worth through one’s boobs and the bogus fairy-tale warped into a celebration of consumerism—here, that “Every bride wants to look perfect on her wedding day,” and so should write a check to her cosmetic surgeon, stat.
You knew all that going in, of course, but the show then builds on the ugly images by putting its brides in a house to compete for a chance to go under the knife, allowing them to fulfill every other stereotype of women on reality shows: the drama, the backbiting, the jealousy, the self-centeredness and the playing for the cameras. Tensions spring up immediately, and not even interesting ones—it’s like each contestant has dutifully studied years of reality-TV clips and is acting them out without much feeling.
Which may actually be something like the truth: one contestant, Alexandra, is immediately labeled as stuck-up and conceited because she was a contestant on The Biggest Loser and likes to talk about it (see clip, above). Ooh la la, The Biggest Loser! In this house, that’s apparently the equivalent of boasting that you’ve done Othello with the Royal Shakespeare Company.
The thing is, you could imagine this premise being executed better, or at least less horribly. There could be some level of winking self-parody of the absurdity of the concept, or some acknowledgment of the insane pressures that would lead anyone to think that cutting up one’s body is a wedding checklist item, just above hiring the band. There could be some attempt to find commonality among the women in the house. Instead, on top of everything else, Bridalplasty presents them as competitive harpies, elbowing each other aside for the prize as if it were a wedding-reception bouquet made of scalpels.
Then again, maybe that’s the point. Maybe all this is a means to an end. Maybe the producers are performing a kind of perverse public service by intentionally making the worst ad for unnecessary cosmetic surgery imaginable. Possibly, over the course of a season, Bridalplasty will double down on its bleak, depressing tediousness to the point that it becomes some kind of transcendent, Swiftian satire of a society that has lost its bearings.
But unless a plastic surgeon removes my eyelids and forces me to, I won’t be watching.