Oh poor, sad, naive, Past Daniel. I can see you, a year ago, writing about Jersey Shore, and believing -- really believing -- that it was the absolute lowest level to which reality television was going to sink. So naive. People of Cracked, I'd like to introduce you to Bridalplasty.
On a slightly related note, I hereby officially retire from watching television.
On E!'s Bridalplasty, 12 brides-to-be have to live in a house together, away from their fiancees, competing in challenges for four months. If they do well in their challenges, they'll get a new cosmetic enhancement each week -- but if they do poorly, they could get eliminated. The last contestant wins a free, extravagant dream wedding. But that's just the bonus. The real prize is unlimited plastic surgery. These women are competing for the chance to get every nose job, tummy tuck, butt suppression, arm fat reconfiguring, neck de-flapping, jowl erosion, thigh silencing, tit awesomization and any other cosmetic surgery they'd ever wanted, so they can be in perfect shape for their wedding. The groom of the winner doesn't get to see the bride in advance. When he lifts the veil, he will be seeing a brand new person. It's Nip/Tuck meets Survivor meets nightmares.
And it's hosted by someone who used to nail the drummer for Blink 182, if that matters to you.
In the first episode, we met all of these people and learned that all but maybe two are miserable shells of human beings. There's also an extended sequence in which a plastic surgeon takes a marker and draws all over them, marking spots where liposuction or a tuck or a breast enhancement would be beneficial. They stand naked while he draws on boobs and butts and it is the least erotic thing I've ever seen, and I'm a pervert. I can watch a woman rip loose hairs out of a vacuum cleaner hose and find something hot about it, but this show is about as erotic as a cold bag of wet failure.
I think the very first challenge of this show captures its essence. The women enter a bridal tent and come face-to-face with full-sized posters featuring their current bodies. The challenge is not to absorb and accept your body, and come to the realization that "If I don't get surgery, it's not the end of the world." No. Someone in E!'s Photoshop department 'shopped up a bunch of posters of what these women could look like if they were skinnier or had a boob job or a teeth whitening. The contestant must assemble the photoshopped picture, like a puzzle, over the full poster. The symbolism is never explored. They pretend the challenge is literally all about putting an incredibly simple puzzle together, (sidebar: the women are f*****g terrible at it). If you're one of the first 10 women to do it, you're allowed to grab one of the syringes that sits on a nearby table and run off to an "Injectibles Party," where a bunch of surgeons will Botox your face. That's the prize. The loser goes home. You couldn't cover up your fat thighs with a magnet puzzle, so now you must leave and hope that your husband still wants to marry you.
And there you have it: An army of shrieking freakshows struggling (really struggling), to put together a giant 18-piece puzzle faster than anyone else so they can be the first one to make it to the pile of syringes sitting on a table. If aliens came to Earth tomorrow and turned on E!, that is what they would assume our society views as entertainment.
These are the Worst People on the Planet
I want to be clear up front: I don't have a problem with plastic surgery. Not because I'm open-minded and accepting, but because until someone forces me to get plastic surgery, I don't care about it. It's none of my business and I don't give a s**t. Wanting plastic surgery to fit into the perfect dress and have your dream wedding doesn't make anyone a bad person. Everything else about these people, however, does.
Alexandra, in a rare moment of not breaking into your nightmares and stealing your dream's hoagies.
There's Lisa Marie, whose first action in the house was stealing a bed that someone else claimed. And Alexandra, a former Biggest Loser contestant who has threatened to literally cut other participants. though she was the second slowest person at puzzle-assembly, so I wouldn't put too much faith in her hand-eye coordination. There's Jenessa, a tiny, controlling sociopath who forced her fiancee to propose to her and thinks having an absurd name like "Jenessa" is entirely acceptable. Or Ashley, who pawned her engagement ring without telling her fiancee. There isn't a single redeemable quality about any one of them. As a special treat, one of the housemates, Lisa I think, gets to see her fiancee for the first time in eight months (he was fighting in Iraq). Instead of enjoying this as a genuinely uplifting moment, Alexandra immediately starts complaining about the fact that no one else gets to see their fiancees. Some people have all the luck. You know, like the woman who hadn't seen her fiancee for eight months and wouldn't see him again for four.
And with a few exceptions, most of them don't really need plastic surgery at all. They're tiny, cute women with small guts that can be taken care of if they'd just go for a run instead of, say, drinking in the morning.
The Future is Awful Part 1: One of These People Will Be Famous
Reality TV is designed to make people famous for being famous. They take awful people who already have inflated senses of entitlement, and then they point cameras in their faces and ask, "What you think is important?" And Bridalplasty has the worst of the worst, and it just makes me so tired. Because I know it's only a matter of time before one of these people becomes a pop culture buzzword. Whoever wins or otherwise stands out on this show will be a name that people like me, people who love and write about pop culture, will be forced to read over and over and over again. A year from now, one of these knife-happy harpies is going to be on Dancing With the Stars, or Celebrity Apprentice, or maybe they'll be doing an interview on The View, or they'll get a DUI, who knows? Maybe they'll have their own dating show on VH1 when their marriages eventually dissolve. Maybe the winner will create some new show where she and Kate Gosselin purchase an orphanage and make the kids compete against each other for food. The winner gets adopted by Kate and the loser ... also gets adopted by Kate?
There is nothing easier than finding a picture of Kate Gosselin looking scary as s**t.
The point is, they're going to make an impact on pop culture. The Situation was just a smirking bag of stupid, and now he's on Dancing With the Stars, the cover of Men's Health and he has his own book. Talented people are struggling all over the place, and this bright orange jag is clearing $5 million this year.
And I just know that, due to the nature of reality TV, whoever emerges as the most awful person in a show full of awful people will come out the other side a star, with book deals and a clothing line and a ton of money, and I'll end up seeing their horse face plastered all over the Internet. And I'm just so tired of it.
Part 2: Where Can We Go From Here?
There's a divide in the world's population. For every decent human being, there are three soulless, terrible human beings. That is a fact. The kind of women who won't go on television and fight a bunch of gown-clad she-Wookiees instead of buying a goddamn gym membership is outnumbered in this world by the kind of women who will. There's a nation of awful people living among us, people incapable of experiencing empathy, but people who are acutely aware of how to illicit empathy in others. They use our emotions against us because they have no morality. Of this nation of people, there's a sub-nation full of the worst of the worst of that group, the bottom-of-the-barrel, where even the barrel itself is toxic. This group isn't satisfied with just not having morals, they want to challenge the idea of morality for the rest of us and test the limits of our collective decency.
And that group of people is in charge of green lighting new reality television shows every year.
Even the ideas that we, as a society, believed to be patently ridiculous, were turned into TV shows. On 30 Rock, NBC debuted the reality show Milf Island, where a bunch of young kids compete to have sex with an older woman. On Arrested Development, the cast refers to a new absurd reality show, Skating with the Stars. Both of those jokes work on the pretense that those shows are ridiculous exaggerations of reality TV, that they are demented fever dreams of entertainment, but not actual entertainment. Well, MILF Island found its home in The Cougar -- a show where a series of 20-somethings compete to win the affections of (but really take turns nailing) an older woman with children. Skating with the Stars found its home in Skating with the Stars.
The comedians of our culture can't invent a show too ridiculous for TV, because reality TV show producers have an infinitely lower threshold for embarrassment. And I can't invent a show that's too patently offensive for TV, because I'm not a sociopath.
But there are people who have no limits when it comes to either stupidity or amorality. And these people will be programming your television. Until the end of time.
Movies are never more unrealistic than when they're showing us exactly what a dollar can buy.