Hello, everyone! When I was around 13 or 14, I stumbled upon a little reality competition on Netflix called Bridalplasty. Intrigued by the strange portmanteau of a title, I watched the first episode, then the next, and the next, and while I found it bizarre, I never gave it another thought. A decade later, I decided to rewatch the show out of pure curiosity.
“Did they really make a reality TV show where women competed against each other to win plastic surgeries for their dream wedding?” I wondered. “Was that just a fever dream?”
Two days and ten episodes later, I can tell you that Bridalplasty wasn’t a secret social experiment, an episode of Black Mirror, or a satirical mockumentary. Reader, it was REAL. And Reader, it’s exactly the type of show our society deserves.
If an alien crash landed on Earth, had one day to understand women with only the help of Cosmo ads, and then had to pitch a reality TV show, Bridalplasty is probably what they would come up with. On its surface, the show is a standard reality TV show competition. Contestants compete in a number of challenges to win a big prize. Pretty standard. Except, in the case of this special little show, the prize that the contestants win is a “dream wedding” and a bucket list of plastic surgeries. It’s a show that combines the two primary functions of capitalistic womanhood: getting married, and looking damn good well doing it.
I have no problem with the “dream wedding” aspect of this show. Wedding shows are a whole genre, and while I personally wouldn’t shell out $30k on a wedding, I’m not going to begrudge the type of person who does. What I take issue with is how the show preys on the insecurities of vulnerable women, belittles them with inane and insulting challenges, and pits them against each other in a vicious popularity contest in order to choose a winner.
There’s so much wrong with this show that if I took the time to write it all out, I would give Herman Melville a run for his money. So I’ll keep it simple and take a whack at discussing the truly egregious aspects of this freakshow.
- The “challenges” are insultingly stupid. Most competition shows revolve around skill-based contests. Chopped features chefs, Blown Away is all about glass-blowers, American Ninja Warrior is for athletes, etc. The contestants in Bridalplasty weren’t selected because of their skill sets, they were selected because they want plastic surgery and they want to get married. Consequently, all of the show’s challenges center on those two concepts. Challenges range from the brides having to complete a photo-puzzle of their photoshopped “dream body,” to re-arranging car-crash dummies into Kama Sutra sex positions, to trying to outfit themselves in a wedding dress without a mirror. None of these challenges require anything more than half a brain, and the prize for winning them is life-changing plastic surgery. As I watched these women complete mindless tasks in the name of cosmetic surgery, I felt my brain cells dying, and my hope for the future of the female race die off with them.
- The plastic surgery is horrifying. Cosmetic surgery has become so disturbingly normalized in our society that we’ve become desensitized to what the term actually means. The reason it’s called “plastic surgery” is because IT’S A SURGERY, and it requires a doctor to cut into your body, insert some stuff here, yank out some stuff there, and then bandage you up for a painful and long recovery. The one positive aspect of Bridalplasty is that it displays these surgeries in all of their gory glory. We get to see the boob slicing, the nose hammering, and the chin sucking. We get to see the women stumble out of the recovery room with bruised and bandaged faces, crying and moaning in pain. And these surgeries are not little injections, they’re the big boys. I’m talking rhinoplasty, boob jobs, tummy tuck, etc. These women spend half the show lying in hospital beds in the innocuously named “recovery room” because they’re in too much pain to judge whether they’re sipping a $350 bottle of red wine or a $3 dollar of jug wine with dirt in it. Yes, that was a real fucking challenge. The first time you see one of the women bitching out another girl with her entire face bandaged, it’s bizarre. But the fifth time? It starts to get infuriating. Why did these women let this show do this to them? Why did they let society do this to them?
- The show capitalizes on body dysmorphia. If there’s one thing you learn as a woman in this world, it’s that if you’re not beautiful, you’re not worth shit. It takes a lifetime of self-acceptance, critical thinking, and media literacy just to find an inkling of peace with yourself. Shows like Bridalplasty don’t just parrot that message to their audience, they normalize and glamorize it. If you take a look at the cast of the show below, you’ll see twelve completely normal looking women. I’d even say that on average, these women are thinner and better looking than the average person. And every single one of them comes to the show with a laundry list of items they want to change about themselves. Some want nose jobs, some want boob jobs, some want liposuction, Jamie just wants teeth whitening, but she gets kicked out early because “she doesn’t really want to be there,” so who cares about her, right? What’s frightening about this show is that it offers life-altering cosmetic procedures to these women without also offering them any sort of emotional or mental support. Plastic surgery is not something that should be doled out like candy, and yet these women are getting surgeries left and right without a second to breathe or contemplate if these are what they REALLY WANT. Ultimately plastic surgery is a choice, and every women has the right to make that choice for themselves, but I don’t think these women can make the most informed and logical choice in the midst of a reality TV competition that thrives on convincing these women that they’re ugly and stupid. Reality TV shows are infamous for being emotionally volatile environments, but throw plastic surgery in the mix, and it becomes a grotesque violation of ethics.
- The show encourages the worst in its contestants. The only thing worse than being on the plastic surgery horror show is being arbitrarily voted off of the plastic surgery horror show. Because if the mind-numbing challenges weren’t stupid enough, the show also forces the losing women to try to persuade the other contestants to “RSVP” to their reception and keep them on the show. The “persuasion” most often takes the form of begging, with each women trying to convince the others that her need for a dream wedding and dream body are “deserving.” And the women, predictably, are ruthless. Early on in the show, half of the girls form a voting alliance to eliminate the more “competitive” girls, though what their definition of “competitive” is is unclear, since these women aren’t competing in any meaningful way. After a while, I started to see “competitive” as a euphemism for pretty, likable, and actually has a good reason to have surgery. See Jessica, who was voted off by the others for being stiff competition. She wanted reconstructive breast surgery after having a tumor. Like all popularity contests, the ones who rise to the top are not the most deserving, but the best at being liked. Machiavellian Jenessa rose to the top by manipulating the other girls against each other, only to lose in the finale when those girls came back to choose the winner. While it was nice to see that karma, it only underscored how purposeless this whole endeavor was for those women. Sure, they got some free surgery, but they paid for it with their dignity. The show encouraged the women to insult each other, pick at each other’s insecurities, and ultimately stab each other in the back. You won’t hear a single word about these women’s hopes or dreams, their careers, or their creative pursuits. Instead, they fill 10 miserable episodes talking about how much they hate their bodies and how much they hate each other. The derisive tone of the script and the editing emphasizes how little the producers think of these women, almost as little as they think of themselves. You would be hard pressed to find a show in all the universe that is as regressive and cruel as this one.
- The victory is a hollow one. The most shocking twist in Bridalplasty is the winner. Allyson, self-professed beer drinker and tomboy, won the final crown, beating out all the other skinnier and prettier women on the show. Having won the hearts of the other girls with her sob story about losing her wedding budget after a job layoff, Allyson convinced the other women that she was real, authentic, and deserving of the dream wedding and the dream body. She seemed like the woman who emerged the most unscathed from the infighting and personal attacks, yet even she leaves the shows with scars, both external and internal. At the wedding reveal, the camera shows us an Allyson who doesn’t look much like herself. 35 pounds lighter, with a tucked chin, liposuctioned arms, a new smile, and a new nose, the “new and improved” Allyson lifts her veil to show her soon-to-be hubby her face. While the onlookers coo and cry, her husband looks stunned. I can only imagine how shocking it would be to have your fiancée disappear for 4 months and re-appear looking like a different person. And while Allyson does look more conventionally attractive (at least by the rigid standards of society), what, really has she won? An expensive wedding? A new body? A honeymoon to Fiji? All of these are nice prizes, but none of them fix Allyson’s real problems, like the fact that she’s broke and jobless. All of these are bandaids on a gaping wound. She doesn’t even get a cash prize to tide her over from a four month unpaid stint on a reality TV show. Allyson may have won Bridalplasty, but in the end, she won nothing more than pain and humiliation.
Final consensus: Bridalplasty is the sum of our society’s worst views about women. It’s a show that sees no issue with women competing against each other in order to surgically modify their body to meet society’s rigid beauty standards. It’s a show that views women as calculating, superficial, catty Barbie dolls whose only cares in life are looking pretty and keeping their husbands happy. And it’s a show that perpetuates the idea that women are valued only for their looks. The only good thing I can say about this show is that it only had one season. May it rot in internet purgatory forever.