I suppose that some women see their wedding day as a sort of “Super Bowl.” Everything that preceded the event was mere preamble, a dry run in preparation for this one glittering day of catharsis and validation. In spite of all the shitty boyfriends and uncertain nights, the bride has triumphed, and feeling like the star she always believed she was, gets to walk down the aisle looking just as gorgeous as Julia Roberts. However, what often happens is that the wedding becomes a massive spectacle, one engineered to impress as many people as possible, with all the external packaging completely consuming the true beating heart that was supposed to be at the core of the ceremony.
In fact, so intoxicated by their own greed and thirst for attention are some of these women, that they will even welcome camera crews into their madness, so that the judging and hateful eyes of the world, will, well, judge and hate them. It is this impulse upon which the irresistible “Bridezilla” feeds.
“Bridezilla,” which is now in its 6th season, has been making laughing stocks out of these types of women since it’s inception back in 2001. The formula is by now well known. They turn on a camera and follow a few brides about as they prepare for their big wedding day, thus exploiting the bride’s blind narcissism.
The other day I stumbled across an episode that featured Karen, who we were told worked in the fashion industry, although what exactly her role in that industry might be was anybody’s guess. She will eventually spend nearly $100,000 worth of her fiancé’s family’s money in her fevered quest for the perfect wedding.
With the thin, pinched look of a privileged WASP, she looks like the sort of person who refuses to eat anything but carrots. When she relaxes, her face falls to a default frown, suggesting that she’s very much used to projecting a look of dissatisfaction to whomever is lucky enough to encounter her. However, this is her wedding, and she is going to do everything in her power to control it and make it perfect. And so, it comes as no surprise that when we first meet her, she’s in the middle of her 6th fitting for her wedding dress.
Managing to speak in a tone that was both growl and snivel, Karen groused about how the bridal gown flattened her already flattened chest. The team of people tending to her dress for the umpteenth time could barely conceal their contempt.
As we follow Karen about in her joyless preparations, we can’t help but notice how solitary her pursuits are. She never has a pal or a bridesmaid in tow, and is left at the mercy of her furious neurosis, which she spreads like a virus.
On the eve of her wedding, bitterly reflecting on the myriad stresses she’s enduring for it, she expresses biting resentment at her fiancé, whom she fears was taken to a strip club the previous night by his buddies. She continues along, lamenting that all he had to do to prepare for the wedding was have a shower and throw on his tux. As she’s listing off all the imagined insults she’s been enduring by her unwitting fiancé, her accent begins to slip, and a Long Island bluntness pushes aside the delicate uptown inflections she had been trying to effect. Slowly, it was becoming clear that for Karen, this wedding might have been about leaving behind the person she was, and becoming something new, something better.
However, her nature would not give her over to joy, and when she was finally in her wedding dress, after the countless fittings and alterations, she was still disappointed. Demoralized, her shoulders slumped just a little and she shrugged, telling us that she always imagined she’s look like Cindy Crawford on her wedding day, but that, well, I guess you just work with what you’re given. The truth is that she looked terrific, but she was completely incapable of seeing that. It was actually an incredibly lonely and authentic moment, one that wasn’t in keeping with the frothy, no-empathy spirit of the show, and for a moment, you don’t hate Karen.
As she leaves the church, moments after getting married in what might have been the most joyous day of her life, she begins to bitch about how much she hates limos and wished she had taken a cab. Upon arriving at the reception at a swanky midtown hotel in NYC, she had a meltdown about cocktails. With a cigarette clutched between her thin fingers, she screams at the help, her Long Island accent now in full bloom. She keeps repeating the words, as if a Mantra, ” IT’S MY WEDDING, ” as if this was to award her some sort of omnipotent status. With hatred in her eyes, she hisses at her new husband, “Everything I say is right. You are on my side, regardless of what you think, you got it?!” He mutters, “Isn’t that the way it always is,” and you can already see just how happy they will be together.
Obviously, “Bridezilla” is edited and arranged in such a way to make the brides look as monstrous as possible. It makes for entertaining television, to do so, and more importantly, it allows those of us watching an opportunity to feel morally superior to the harpies and harridans who are stomping about so furiously. What we bear witness to is a joyless parade of selfish women who don’t’ have a clue what the difference between love and attention is.
One of the ironies of “Bridezilla,” is that the weddings they show—which are a primary rite of passage into adulthood— actually infantilizes the brides involved. Like Karen, they become two year-old brats, always demanding attention and accommodation. It’s as if they want to wash away all the disappointments and compromises that have constituted their lives, and suddenly transform themselves into that princess from their girlish dreams, but inevitably, in the attempt, they become a monster.
Michael Murray is a freelance writer. For the last three and a half years he’s written a weekly column for the Ottawa Citizen about watching television. He presently lives in Toronto. You can find more of his musings on his blog, or check out his Facebook page.