NPF: ACQUIRED SITUATIONAL NARCISSISM

Posted in No Politics Friday on December 4th, 2009 by Ed

I tend not to watch a lot of TV, and what I do watch tends toward either surrealist comedy (Frisky Dingo) or non-fiction programming (think Discovery Channel specials about how coffee beans are harvested and processed). For someone who enjoys getting angry at glorified mediocrity and outright stupidity, TV is not a good way to enhance health and sanity. Lots of things on television make me want to punch someone – American Idol, any sitcom with a laugh track and/or on Fox, The Real Housewives of Wherethefuckever, and that show on cable that is honest-to-god called I Want That! – but the programming that has me on my knees every night praying for a comet to hit the Earth is the recent proliferation of bride-themed "reality" shows, namely Bridezillas and to a lesser extent Bulging Brides, Rich Bride Poor Bride, and Say Yes to the Dress.

It's bad enough that we raise girls in this country to believe that getting married is life's ultimate accomplishment, one's wedding is the most important day in life (not because marriage is important, of course), and getting married is a process one must start planning at age six and, when it finally happens, nothing less than Barbie's Dream Wedding will do. Having dipped my toes in the wedding industry during my engagement, I became aware of just how powerful the external factors encouraging this sort of behavior are. Men don't spend their entire lives getting bombarded with this shit, thank god. But that privilege means that it is all the more shocking when we are finally taken behind the curtain. To this day the words "Bridal" and "Expo" used sequentially are enough to make me reach for a weapon. I/we quickly discovered that it is impossible to have a wedding industry wedding for less than $10,000, as ten-cent napkins magically become $4 "wedding napkins" and the scum of the retail world do their best to convince you that conspicuous spending on trivial bullshit will determine your worth as a human being.

Yeah. We're currently planning a very pleasant ceremony in someone's backyard with catered tacos. But I digress. Why do the television shows piss me off so much?

This already unbearable experience has gotten dramatically worse on account of contemporary movies and television that not only reinforce the Barbie Dream Wedding, everything-must-be-perfect-for-your-special-day mantra but they add to it the idea that women have a right (perhaps even the responsibility) to act absolutely psychotic throughout the process. Wedding Time is a twelve month excuse to be, in the common parlance, a complete bitch. To everyone. About everything. Even when the brides on these reality shows are shown at their worst in an effort to get the audience to hate them, I can only imagine what effect it has on the subconscious of a ten year-old girl. Whether or not they realize that the show is no different than Springer or Maury Povich – a freakshow intended to make viewers feel better about themselves – the message is clear: this is how people act when they are getting married. If anything isn't exactly how I want it I can fly off the handle and shriek hysterically at whoever happens to be nearby. He or she will forgive me because I'm planning a wedding. It's OK to act like an asshole. It's OK to engage in behavior so socially aberrant that it fits the definition of an actual psychological diagnosis (see title).

My better half was involved in a wedding party for a Bridezilla a few years ago and it was one of the most unpleasant experiences imaginable. Friendships were strained, money was pissed away, and even those of us who only had to watch from afar could scarcely wait for it to be over. Now that my social circle is getting to That Age I get the sneaking feeling that I'll have a few more of these experiences in the near future. Is it all the fault of some bad cable television shows? Of course not. But if you wanted to present a solid counterargument to the claim that allowing same-sex marriage would in some way be derogatory to the institution, you could do a lot worse than asking what could cheapen it more than the cynical cash grab and bridal freakshow that is a modern American wedding.