It is not the emotion by which I’m usually struck when I watch a reality show. Incredulity, amusement, disgust — sure. But terror, the kind that has your skin tingling, your heart dipping into an unsettling, irregular beat and your shoulders cringing up to your earlobes, does not normally accompany competitions with “top brides” and “RSVP ceremonies” and “perfect weddings.”
Well, that’s what I thought. And then I came upon “Bridalplasty.”
Unlike many reality shows, “Bridalplasty” did not originate in some Scandinavian entertainment think tank. It’s probably a twisted creation that could only ever take place in the United States, running for one season in 2010 on the E! Network. If the name of the show hasn’t given it away, then here’s the premise: twelve women compete over eight episodes to win a dream wedding –– and dream plastic surgery procedures. Yes, procedures –– plural. The winner of each week’s challenge gets to point to one beautifying operation on her wish list. Snip snip!
In the opening montage, a golden frame travels over parts of women’s bodies, transforming lumpy and unbecoming arms and bellies and anything else that can be tucked and smoothed into a new and better toned, bodacious, and airbrushed form. It ends with a shot of a woman in a bridal gown, still with all that cumbersome post-plastic surgery stuff on her face.
That stuff ––t ape, support pieces, mini casts –– are a regular presence throughout each episode, since someone is always undergoing or recovering from surgery. A glowing “Recovery” sign marks the first room in the contestants’ California mansion.
In order to advance to further rounds, contestants can either win challenges or avoid being voted off by the other ladies. Challenges include things like a competition to design the perfect wedding bouquet and an event that involves teaming up with their mothers-in-law. If you are top bride, you win a surgery, and are one step closer to becoming the perfect bride.
“I’ll finally get my nose job!” The winner of a bouquet challenge chirps to the camera. “I’ve wanted this for the last 28 years, or as long as I can remember.”
Next thing I know, she’s in Dr. Dubrow’s operating room, and he’s got a tape measure snugly next to her nose. Wait, how did we just end up here?! Her nose was nicer than most of the noses I’ve seen! Dubrow, a swanky, grey-haired fellow, is briefly explaining the process: “First thing, we’ll go into her nose… take part of her septum… sew… sutures… from structure of the tip…this nose is much more attractive than that nose… I’ve made a lot of little changes, it’s going to look really great.” I realize I’ve stopped breathing.
“You fixed me!” His victim coos, while her mind begins to mull over the next item on her surgery wish list.
Of course, as an estrogen-driven TV program, female politics are a central feature to fill in all the airtime between the surgeries and challenges. Which ends up meaning most of the episode. Female politics is of course a stylized synonym for flagrant backstabbing and manipulation. There are casual convos by the swimming pool and melodramatic monologues in the shadowy, curtained Confessional. (You didn’t actually think for a moment that there wouldn’t be a confessional, did you?) A few typical lines: “What part of alliance do you not understand?” Or, “I can’t believe how easy it is to control the house; I can’t believe that they’re so naïve.” The best by far: “I definitely don’t want to be in a houseful of fake bitches, because that’s exactly what they are.” Massive irony, anyone? The PMI (plastic mass index) is steadily on the rise. Shiver.
At the end of each episode, the women all convene at the RSVP ceremony, which takes place where else but a bridal tent. The women show their allegiances by going to sit by one of the two bottom brides at their respective tables, decorated and presented just like it were all part of a lavish wedding. Whoever has fewer comrades at her table must go home, and with a killer rejection line to top it all off: “Your time here at ‘Bridalplasty’ and your quest to be the perfect bride is over. Your wedding will still go on, it just wont be perfect.” Zing!
For that final top bride, I just hope that her hubby still recognizes her at the altar. And, you know, loves her for who she is. Or whatever.