Thursday, November 4, 2010

Ruminations on Bridezilla

Bridezilla. The very word conjures up images of brides gone mad, frothing at the mouth like a rabid tyrannosaurus rex bedecked in a strapless A-line dress as they try to tear people limb from limb. According to Wikipedia (motto: "What do you mean, I can't cite this in an academic paper!?"), the term Bridezilla was first cited in 1995 -- but since then, Bridezilla's fame has grown far and wide.

While I've been lucky enough to not personally encounter a Bridezilla (thank you, friends whose weddings I've attended or been in, for being so thoroughly sane and awesome), stories about Bridezilla antics are legendary. And they're legendary in the same way Mexico is legendary for dysentery, which is to say: not good. And I'd wager that both can give you the shits.

I was curious about what a real Bridezilla looks and acts like, so I went to the website for WEtv's Bridezillas. In the name of research, I watched a preview clip.

OMFG. These women are batshit crazy. They should be locked away forever and never permitted to interact with humanity ever again. I'm not kidding.

The fact remains, though, that Bridezilla is a cultural icon. The image of the bride who freaks out about minutiae, relentlessly berates people, micromanages every aspect of Her Special Day, and generally acts like Josef Stalin -- if he had been both obsessed with weddings and on steroids -- is pervasive throughout American culture. You can barely mention the word "wedding" without Bridezilla being brought up shortly thereafter. There's an entire show devoted to these meltdowns, for Chrissakes. The entertainment value of Bridezilla and her antics is off the charts.

Part of this, I think, is due to the fact that it's funny as hell -- and therefore gets a lot of attention. Watching Bridezillas on TV or reading Bridezilla stories online is phenomenally entertaining. For real. I derive immense enjoyment from things like this. (Please don't judge me.) It's just like reality TV or celebrity gossip: it's entertaining, if not hilarious, to watch these women make asses of themselves. It's funny when they throw tantrums. It's great TV when they go nuclear over some minor detail that nobody would've noticed had it not been for the fallout spewing from the bride's mouth. It's a riot when the wedding dress is 1 millimeter off from the measurements taken during the final fitting, so Bridezilla's skin peels back from her face and a red light shines out of her eye sockets before she melts the tailor with the sheer force of her anger.

And, because I'm both petty and infantile, it's fun because it makes me feel superior. (Ok, now you can judge me.) I don't like reality TV, but let me tell you: whenever I'm feeling shitty, nothing perks me up like celebrity gossip. Didn't get everything done at work today? At least I didn't shave my head and take a baseball bat to someone's car. Failed to make it to the gym? At least I'm not a recidivist drug addict who paints "fuck u" on my middle finger and is shocked when the judge notices. When the bar is set really fucking low, it can make a person feel like a damn Nobel Prize laureate just for getting through the day.

Bridezillas work the same way. The feeling of being totally overwhelmed seems to be a universal theme for almost all brides I've talked to. There's tremendous pressure to make everyone happy, have the perfect ceremony, and look utterly resplendent in your perfect dress with your perfect hair and your perfect make-up. It's pretty fucking scary, actually. So, Bridezilla provides some measure of comfort: I might be thinking about details and worrying about getting everything coordinated, at least I'm not freaking out and alienating people right and left. It's not much, but it's enough to make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

But! While watching Bridezilla from afar is fun, dealing with one in real life must be abjectly miserable. They degenerate into screaming piles of tulle, have sustained temper tantrums that put toddlers to shame, and generally act like spoiled brats. Most people don't like that sort of thing.

So this also begs the question: why put up with it?

I know, I know. It's The Biggest and Most Important Super-Duper Special Day of the Bride's Entire Life and blah blah blah, vomit vomit vomit. But seriously, it's not. It's a wedding, not the bride's coronation. Yes, it's a special day and an important milestone in one's life. Yes, it should also feel special. But no, "special day" isn't code for "get out of jail free card."

To be fair, it also seems utterly terrifying to challenge a bride who has become clinically insane and is prone to violence and/or emotional outbursts reminiscent of volcanic eruptions. Even if you don't buy into the whole "most important day of her life" thing, challenging a Bridezilla seems like a death wish. If she doesn't try to kill you, she'll eat your soul, or, at the very minimum, try to rob you off your will to live. It's some freaky stuff.

But I still wonder: what would happen if more people told Bridezilla to shove it? What if people told her that they weren't taking any more of this abusive bullshit, and that she could either simmer down or risk a mass uprising and defection of all her bridesmaids, and maybe even her future husband?

Because let's face it: there's no reason to put up with Bridezilla's tyrannical behavior.

No, seriously. Think about it. If your friend wasn't getting married and she upbraided you for getting highlights that didn't match your dress, it would be totally unacceptable. You'd have some serious doubts about that friend in any other circumstance. If your boss repeatedly berated you for such trivial things as getting your nails painted light pink instead of white (and she explicitly told you that she wanted them to be white!), you'd quit. Or, at the very least, file a big, fat complaint with HR -- because nobody needs to deal with a narcissistic tyrant. If your significant other screamed at you in public for not doing things exactly the way they wanted, you'd dump his/her sorry ass and find someone who would actually be nice to you.

I've started thinking that if more people stood up to Bridezilla, it could help deflate the widespread acceptance of bad bridal behavior. People wouldn't take this sort of behavior in any other context, but they do when dealing with a soon-to-be-married woman. And so Bridezilla carries on, acting like the strung-out love child of Snooki and Saddam Hussein, demanding excess and perfection and destroying all those who stand in her way with a weaponized unity candle.

Maybe I feel this way because I've never had to deal with a good friend turned Bridezilla, but my gut feeling is that they're not worth it. If they are - and you stand up to them and call them on their bullshit - they'll (hopefully) realize the error of their ways. That is, if they're not already on TV, making brides everywhere feel better about themselves.

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