The Most Depressing Show On Television

I told myself I was watching the first episode Bridalplasty for “research purposes.” Really, though, I’ve got a morbid curiosity about all things trashy and enormously fucked up. I was expecting to have a few laughs, get a little self-righteously enraged and write a feminist critique of the show.

What I wasn’t expecting? To feel so goddamn sad.

I made it through five minutes of the show before turning it off. The women on this show, instead of inspiring disgust, just inspire pity. They are so image-obsessed, misguided, insecure — but really, it’s like picking up a distorted mirror and watching yourself.

I’m not about to drool over a Hollywood wedding and I’m diametrically opposed to plastic surgery. Even so, these women are lovely…yet they want to undergo massive amounts of plastic surgery to appear more mainstream gorgeous. And I fucking understand where they are coming from.

Watching this show is masochism. Its target demographic is American women — the same women who come in all shapes and sizes, who suffer from anorexia and obesity, from warped images of health and beauty and from a pervasive beauty/fashion/health industry that thrives off of their discontent. Here we have a show about women who are relatively “normal,” who have friends/family and interests and lives — and they are competing with each other for an over-the-top consumerist-wet-dream wedding and the most extreme method of achieving mainstream good-looks. Then we have the women (and maybe some men, and definitely teenagers and the odd child) watching this show, who view this reality shit with a mixture of fascination, disgust, and a huge helping of actually identifying with these women.

This is the most depressing show on television not because it features assholes who think starring in a reality show is “the best thing evarrrr” but because it zeros in on the dark places in our own psyche. The part of us that watches a woman say she wants a nose job and think to ourselves, yeah, if I were her I would too.

Bridalplasty makes me uncomfortable. Yes, it is full of the same bullshit reality-tv-crap that every other reality show is famous for (i.e. the dumbing down of America, sexism, and the sheer violence with which its contestants compete for the prizes), but it adds a new element to American television — thinly-veiled preying on the weak. I’m not talking about the women on the show, but the ones watching it.

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2 thoughts on “The Most Depressing Show On Television

  1. I agree with everything you said. Television producers hit gold when reality shows first aired because people loved seeing ‘normal’ people like them on TV without a script and winning money. Who can say they didn’t watch those early reality shows like ‘Survivor’ and not think to themselves for a moment, ‘I kinda want to participate; I wonder how to sign up for the next season?’ Unfortunately, reality shows have transformed recently and now sport more dark and diabolic intentions. Your last paragraph begins to explore this and I was hoping to shed a little more light on it. Although I haven’t watched it, Bridalplasty sounds like a prime example of the kind of show that as you write, preys on the weak. This theme is becoming more and more prevalent. For years reality shows have been showing us venerable, yet relate-able people. The kind of people who the viewer loves to make fun of for their character flaws (usually stupidity) yet there isn’t a total disconnect. Now it seems reality TV is taking advantage of this closeness by giving us shows in which they hint at plastic surgery being a cure-all. I wouldn’t be surprised if in Bridalplasty they have cameos by plastic surgeons who are just thrilled to market themselves on TV. And I can almost guarantee the commercial breaks heavily feature beauty products and/or the plastic surgeons themselves. And it makes me upset knowing I can’t do anything about it and there are plenty of people out there who watch these shows not knowing they’re being brainwashed. That’s what makes it DEPRESSING for me.

  2. Wow, Ms. Fahrenheit — Thank you so much for this comment. I couldn’t agree more with you. I didn’t even think about product placement and the plastic surgeons showcasing their “brand” on TV… so, so fucked up.

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