Reality TV gone too far

For those privileged enough to not have heard of the newest reality TV show yet, your luck has run out. Bridalplasty on E! Network is a reality TV show where brides-to-be compete in challenges for the right to have a plastic surgery procedure from their wish list done to them.

When I heard only the name of the show, sans explanation, I worried that it was exactly what it sounded like. I hoped dearly that I was misinterpreting something. I wanted so badly to be wrong. Damn.

I have watched Survivor and Big Brother and have gotten over the glorification of juvenile backstabbing that these shows are famous for in favour of the somewhat interesting strategies and alliance building tactics. Fine. They aren’t perfect shows, and they’re not for everyone, but are they harming us? Probably not.

I am a student and a die hard fan of The Amazing Race, what I consider to be the most wholesome, most redeeming, and most socially responsible of the reality TV generation, without any complaints.

Bridalplasty takes reality television too far, and by a longshot. It plays on the very sensitive societal weakness of self-image and preys on women who are at a stage of their lives (about to get married) where looks are often talked about more than what, in my humble opinion, should be the focus – unconditional love, partnership, and commitment.

I was going to leave this topic alone when I first heard about it, but then Dr. Phil appeared. On his show today, the host, Shanna Moakler, the show’s plastic surgeon Dr. Terry Dubrow, and 3 veiled contestants tried to counter the massive amount of criticism this show has earned thus far.  By the way, the 3 were veiled to hide the plastic surgery results thus far, since the winner’s fiancé will not be allowed to see the winner (and her potentially dramatic new look) until he lifts (pun not intended) her veil at their $100,000 wedding.

Today, I was Dr. Phil’s biggest fan. He didn’t pull punches with these people, calling them on their strategic information, their shallow attempts to legitimize the show, and insisting that everyone understand the potential impact that this show can have, first on the women directly involved, and second on the millions of viewers who will tune in.

Dr. Phil brought up the very important point of how people should take the normal route of diet and exercise to deal with their weight issues, for example, before running to plastic surgery. He noted how many people don’t put in any effort in the natural method, choosing to try to fix their issues of self-image by adjusting their body image though plastic surgery. Dr. Dubrow responded simplistically by saying “we have screened those people out [of the show]”. What? Perhaps they have interviewed the potential contestants to screen for behavioural issues, but they can’t screen the viewers for potentially dangerous mental issues. By putting this show on TV in front of millions, they have a responsibility to the viewers. They are sending a message that sounds a bit like “this is the easy way out –  and look how easy it is.” In the make-believe world of TV, they can show you what they want you to see and completely omit the negative or dangerous aspects of these procedures, all to give a one-sided, incomplete view that promotes their point of view at the expense of responsibility.

I was appalled to hear Ms. Moakler, herself a beautiful woman (though I now wonder how much of her beauty is due to nature) describe how one contestant’s battle with breast cancer has left her with only one breast, and calling this woman “horribly disfigured” as a result. Are you kidding? Someone loses a breast to cancer, through no fault of their own, and this is the way you describe it? How insensitive! THIS is exactly the type of language that leads people to have body image problems and run to plastic surgery as their “miracle” answer. What an irresponsible thing to say, especially as a celebrity spokesperson!

When the topic of the fiancé’s surprise came up, Dr. Dubrow tried to get smart. He said that plastic surgery on a person is like changing the wrapper on a candy. “The wrapper may be different but the candy is the same” inferring that plastic surgery doesn’t change who a person is on the inside. More bullshit. If this were the case, there would be no reports of increased self-confidence after getting rid of excess fat or blemishes and it would take away a major reason why patients claim to have these procedures done. You can’t claim something when it suits you and dismiss it when it goes against your position.

What was most unbelievable was Dr. Dubrow’s follow up to his candy analogy, claiming that, after his plastic surgery, the women become “a better version of themselves.” It doesn’t get much more self-righteous and self-serving than that. Dr. Dubrow, before the show you may have “screened out” those who were looking to fix their self-image issues by changing their body image, but with a comment like that you are inviting tens-, maybe hundreds of thousands of women to see plastic surgery as the option to “better themselves”. Thus, quotes like this, spread irresponibly on reality TV, create or exacerbate that many more issues of low self-esteem and low self-confidence among our friends, family, neighbours and acquaintances. 

Instead of encouraging people to accept  and love themselves and others, blemishes, imperfections, and all, shows like this focus on how “bad” it is to be imperfect. By saying what he did, Dr. Dubrow and people like him are creating problems that they are in a position to fix – for a price. Ms. Moakler’s can promote the contestant’s sob stories and the writing team can be as creative as they want, but let’s cut the crap and see this show for what it really is – preying on the vulnerable and parading them around with the promise of an emotional prize for plastic surgeons’ own self-promotion and self-benefit. The only people in society who benefit from shows like this are the plastic surgeons – why else would this one agree to star on it?

Shame on all who are involved in this travesty.

I think my wife is beautiful. Prior to our wedding day, we had a big fight about her makeup trial, which I found over the top and extremely fake-looking. She agreed to tone it down because it was extremely important for me to be with the naturally beautiful woman I fell in love with and not some inauthentic doll dressed up for a day. (I did, however, accept fake nails, though I think that her natural ones are much better looking…compromise). I can’t tell you how relieved I was when I saw her on our wedding day. Radiant, stunning, and most of all, natural. This was the woman I chose to marry.

Honestly, my hope is that the winner walks down the aisle at her overindulgent, extravagant, TV network-produced wedding, towards her fiancé waiting at the altar, when he, with intelligence, courage, and conviction, lifts her veil, in shock, looks into her eyes and says “I won’t marry you. The woman I fell in love with was perfect and real. I don’t know who this person is.”

Only then will this TV series have made a positive contribution to society as a whole.

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2 Comments

  1. While I totally agree that plastic surgery won’t solve self esteem issues and is really appalling to have on a TV show by way of a competition, I still think that bashing the act as a whole not necessary. Many people decide to have plastic surgery for viable reasons and shouldn’t be criticized for doing so.

    You gave an example of a woman left with one breast due to cancer. Though I think that calling her disfigured because of it isn’t right, I can understand the woman’s want to do something to rectify the situation. In this particular scenario it can be for a feeling of comfort, feeling like a woman, and practicality. This woman isn’t having surgery to enlarge her breasts or even change what nature gave her, it’s replacing what she lost due to an unfortunate circumstance. Would you criticize someone for having rhinoplasty if they broke their nose playing sports? That’s plastic surgery too.

    • Anessa, thank you for your comment!

      I don’t think I am “bashing the act [of plastic surgery] as a whole.” If you got that impression, I apologize. There are definitely times where plastic surgery is viable and, in my opinion, respectable, such as the breast and nose reconstruction scenarios you mention.

      The only reason I mentioned the woman who lost a breast to cancer was because of the host’s very distasteful comment which Dr. Phil rightly called her on. He said that the host was telling “an isolated story to try to credibalize the whole thing…” when I believe that it only justifies this woman’s action, not plastic-surgery-in-any-case-for-any-problem. (Oh, and Dr. Phil, I don’t think “credibalize” is a word, though maybe it should be.. it’s pretty clear what you meant.)

      I just worry about how many people who never would have looked to plastic surgery as an option before this show will turn to it because of the show. It would be a huge shame.

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