Welcome to Area of Expertise — a column on niche interests, personal passions, and other things we might know or care a little too much about.
It’s great that we can now watch prestige television and feel smart, the way we feel smart when we watch movies — excuse me, films. But my favorite kind of television is still the kind that I can turn on, half-ignore while folding laundry or making dinner, and then start paying attention to as soon as I hear a bunch of women screaming at one another. In other words: garbage television. And the best of all garbage shows, without a doubt, is Bridezillas.
Bridezillas airs on WE TV, a network I don’t get all the way up here in Canada, so I tend to watch it in slivers on YouTube and Instagram, or via poorly rendered illegal streams, or sometimes at the gym in my hometown, where my mom paid $1,200 for a 50-year membership. It premiered in 2004 and went off the air in 2013, but has triumphantly returned this year. Bridezillas is exactly what it sounds like: garbage woman after garbage woman (and one garbage man!) having a fucking meltdown over her wedding prep, her bachelorette party, her refusal to acknowledge that maybe her dress does not actually fit, fat-shaming her bridal party, and screaming at her fiance to the degree that it’s perplexing he’s even willing to get married in the first place. It’s bad for the environment. I’m convinced Bridezillas is the reason why the ozone layer is disappearing.
As with every reality show, there are a few standout classic Bridezillas episodes: One memorable moment is Jeanine screaming at just about everyone, demanding her sister give her change for the bus, and then storming off while still in her wedding dress to wait at the bus stop. There’s Marlene’s sister who wants to buy her bridesmaid’s dress at a novelty sex shop. There’s Tasha, who clearly hates her fiance in a way typically reserved for someone who has vomited directly into your mouth, sitting in the limo on the way to her wedding, hyperventilating and repeating to herself, “You can run, you can run, just run, I don’t want to, I don’t want to, I don’t want to.” Honestly, they’re all great. You can’t go wrong.
The series is also wildly mean-spirited. Not only are the people in the show themselves awful — from overbearing mothers to hypocritical fiances to brides who treat everyone around them like disposable napkins — the narration is sneering, condescending, and cruel. If you needed help figuring out that we’re supposed to despise Taylor when she decides to do a body wrap so she can fit into her wedding dress, the narrator cheerfully makes fun of her for both her size as well as her attempts, ridiculous or not, to become smaller. (Worse, maybe, is that the show routinely layers scenes where the brides are trying to fit into their dresses with sound effects of ripping, bulging, and grunting. Anything for the bride!)
But beyond its own archives, perhaps the greatest gift Bridezillas has given the world is another, arguably worse show: Marriage Boot Camp, which took the worst couples of Bridezillas and put them through marriage counseling that absolutely did not help. Marriage Boot Camp: Bridezillas begat Marriage Boot Camp: Reality Stars (Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt, Mama June and Sugar Bear, Amy Duggar and whoever she married — you know, the usual), which begat Marriage Boot Camp: Reality Stars Family Edition (Farrah Abraham, Brandi Glanville, what else do you need to know here). The formula of each series is usually the same, including an episode where they get one person in a couple to wear fake bruises and cuts and pretend that they’ve died in a sudden accident so the other one can face the eventual death of their partner and realize they’ve taken them for granted. No one is trying to win a Peabody here, okay?
Truly, thanks to Bridezillas, we have reached the nadir of reality programming. Its progeny, Marriage Boot Camp, is now at the intersection of almost every trash reality show you can think of, with stars (?) from Teen Mom, Bad Girls Club, Mob Wives, Celebrity Big Brother UK, Shahs of Sunset, The Bachelor, Love & Hip Hop, America’s Next Top Model, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, The Girls Next Door, Dancing With the Stars, Jersey Shore, Making the Band, The Celebrity Apprentice, The Hills, The Real Housewives, and Survivor. Boot Camp is maybe what would happen if you asked an alien, who’d never seen reality television before but had heard of it, to make up a show: Everyone is screaming, all the women hate each other but won’t stop hanging out, and the men are nothing more than poorly dressed accessories.
I’m getting married this fall, and I wish I cared about anything the way people expect me to care about this wedding. Based on how often and excitedly people ask me about it, you would think I was planning to spend the rest of my life with this inordinately expensive party, rather than with my partner, an actual human being. So maybe I love watching the Bridezillas because I aspire to their level of demanding hysteria. I just can’t muster up the energy.
My dad wants to “give me away,” despite the fact that I moved out 10 years ago and am an autonomous adult? Sure, whatever you need, old man. My bridesmaids want to wear different outfits? Fine by me, enjoy your slacks. My mother, in a fit of frustration, yells at me, “Do you think this wedding is about you?” and instead of responding the way a Bridezilla would, maybe by literally burning her house down, I nod and say, “No, I absolutely do not think this is about me.”
So if I can’t quite bring myself to care about even my own wedding, at least I can watch a show where weddings are seemingly the only thing women care about, to the point where one drives her hand through a sheet cake because it’s vanilla instead of chocolate. And hey, if you’re going to spend your time watching something that will turn your soul the color of toxic sludge, let it be Ariel furiously ripping down American flags at her wedding venue — the American Legion — because “my wedding colors are purple and zebra.” ●