Saturday, December 18, 2010

Reality Television and Hegemonic Masculinity: Bridalplasty

Seriously, someone should create a sociology blog dedicated entirely to critiquing reality television. I suppose you'd have to be kind of a reality TV-nut, but the content would be limitless. I caught a little bit of a reality TV show called "Bridalplasty" today and couldn't watch much, so correct me if I'm wrong in the show's premise.

From what I could tell, the show revolves around engaged women competing for two things: (1) a paid celebrity-esque dream wedding; and (2) paid plastic surgery to "improve" the way they look for the dream wedding. As with most reality shows, the contestants go through a series of competitions that provoke conflict and drama as winners of competitions move on and losers are dropped.

The show exemplifies hegemonic masculinity working at its best:

  • The female contestants seem to truly believe that in order to improve themselves, they must engage in behaviors that actually extend male privilege (e.g., manipulating their physical appearance), an excellent example of false consciousness.

  • Symbolically, the leader/host of the show is also female, who represents "ideal" beauty from a traditional western standard (I wonder if the producers are male).

  • Rather than challenging these gender roles that obviously value women for their physical appearance, the women are forced to challenge each other (divide and conquer).

  • Males make minimal appearances on the show (or at least in the promos), but when they do, they are seen as doctors (high status plastic surgeons) or in clips as future husbands (the men these female contestants are trying to please).

  • Heterosexuality is normalized.

Another way of putting it, the show is among the most extreme examples of emphasized femininity -- women heighten the focus they place on physical appearance, are willing to risk their own health in doing so, and further value themesleves through a dream wedding that will last a day. All this in the name of being attractive for their male fiancees.

Enjoy a few YouTube videos advertising the show:

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