We Spleen: “Bridalplasty”

Remember The Swan? And Extreme Makeover? And Heidi Montag?

After a landslide of plastic surgery TV disasters this decade, I thought extreme surgery shows might be on the outs.

But … psych!

E! is bringing us a brand new series, Bridalplasty, a surgery voyeur’s fantasy in which women compete for the ideal wedding/body combo.

Are you in pain? I am.

Here’s the premise: Brides-to-be compete in weekly “wedding-themed” challenges (like vow-writing and honeymoon-planning) to win one procedure from their plastic surgery “wish-list.” The ultimate winner of the show receives the extreme makeover and wedding of “her dreams,” and unveils her surgically re-created body to her fiancé at their wedding. He (because there are definitely no lesbian couples on this show) literally lifts the veil and sees the new face/body of his soon-to-be-wife for the first time.

Horrified? Yep, me too. But as Jennifer L. Pozner, author of the forthcoming book Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty Pleasure TV says, if you’re shocked then the network and producers have done their job. Pozner writes,

Why should anyone be surprised that the “women are worthless if they’re not ‘perfect’ beauties, so get thee to a plastic surgeon, stat!” template ABC set with Extreme Makeover in 2002, and which Fox tweaked in 2004 with The Swan‘s post-surgical beauty pageant competition, would be retooled now via E!’s extra-classy quest for bridal “perfection?”

It’s certainly not shocking to see the socially inscribed insecurities of women capitalized upon by network television. But what troubles me here is the ubiquity of plastic surgery that shows like Bridalplasty represent– the ever-present possibility that you don’t have to look like you, if you can afford not to.

Instead of recognizing the larger cultural signalling of this show, some critics are slapping contestants with the handy medical label “body dysmorphic disorder,” a psychiatric condition characterized by the obsessive desire to change perceived flaws via any means, including multiple plastic surgeries. But frankly, I just can’t get on board with this for two reasons: Women (and men too) face endless and weighty pressures to be perfect, and TV shows like this reinforce that. Why not point the finger at producers who market “a new you” as a reality TV prize instead of putting a diagnosis on individual women?

And if the show’s contestants really do have BDD, is public surgery–the modern-day equivalent of a freak show–really a healthy and productive answer to an increasingly pervasive phenomenon? Probably not.

Bridalplasty premieres Nov. 28. I won’t be watching.

Photo courtesy Flickr user jcheng under Creative Commons 2.0.


  1. I agree that this new show draws on the obsession that women have with the need to feel perfect. The entire idea of the ‘Bridalplasty’ show is ridiculous. However, even though this show may be awful to the esteem of women and young girls who may watch it, people will still tune in and watch this week after week. When looking at the underlying message of this show, I think that many people would feel differently about watching it. For some reason it seems that people aren’t too concerned with what they are watching these days. They just want to watch programs to be entertained, no matter how ridiculous they really are. A bride changing her entire appearance to be her ideal form of beauty sort of discredits the principals of marriage to me. I thought marriage was supposed to be about finding the person who loves you for exactly who you are. I am glad that it was brought up that this show does relay the message that you can buy a ‘perfect’ body or face. I’m glad that body dysmorphic disorder was brought up as well. This is a serious issue and not one that should be publicly broadcasted, especially because young girls could watch this and have harmful affects on their self-esteem. I am not surprised that this is now a television program. It only seems like a matter of time since the shows keep getting more and more outrageous. The pressures that people in general feel to be an outrageous form of perfect is quite frankly a larger social issue than whether or not a bride can win a surgery on her list of procedures.

  2. well actually says:

    I know one of the contestants on the show, and actually, she def. doesnt have an obsession to look great. Its reality TV. Its basically what millions of girls would love to do. BE ON TV. GET A DREAM WEDDING. and hey, if you can get some free plastic surgery along the way – why not? don't be so judgmental. i bet you this show gets great ratings, because this is actually quite interesting. Before and after transformations are fun to watch. The thought of the winners husband seeing her for the first time after all of her surgeries is actually quite exciting. Stop hating on it, and just watch. Even if some of these girls make complete fools of themselves, it'll still be fun to watch.

  3. Did nobody think about the fact that these men are attracted to and in love with the woman as she already is? What if the plastic surgery happens and the man no longer thinks she's as beautiful? What if her decision to get plastic surgery changes his opinion of her? What if he feels he's not marrying the woman he fell in love with?

  4. This show is absolutely AMAZING! It is very entertaining and keeps you on the edge of your couch. The only thing i dont like is the disgusting Manipulation of Jenessa. She does NOT deserve to win. I hate how she stepped on almost everyone and Made it so the most innocent girls would go home. I admire allison's drive on taking Jenessa to the finally to defeat her but that makes allison just like Jenessa. Two wrongs dont make a right. I just hope allison made the right decision and she beats jenessa in the finally. Other then that, AMAZING SHOW!

  5. Spot on with this write-up, I absolutely feel this website needs far more attention. I’ll probably be back again to read more, thanks for the info!

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