Today (and the two days after this), it’s fashion and body television! I’m going to talk about three shows: Say Yes to the Dress, Project Runway, and America’s Next Top Model. I love them, but sometimes I feel incredibly guilty for watching them at all.
Say Yes to the Dress
I like to say that I watch this show as a sociological experiment, and it is true that it often makes me think about how ridiculous and vapid people can be, and how the patriarchy ruins everything, and also how even though nobody is going to want to marry me and I never grew up thinking I was entitled to a wedding, I would love to be a wedding gown model, just so that I could see myself being gorgeous for a minute. Because yeah, $8000-dollar dresses are absurd, but they are also fantastic and beautiful.
Anyway. I learn so much about society by watching this show, and by that I mean that I learn about the absurd things people do when they have too much money and too little progressivism. Like debutantes. There is an episode I saw recently (S8, EP18) that includes a girl who is going to her debutante ball. Those are already sillypants, but whatever. What’s sillier is that she and her entire family have traveled all the way from Denver, because apparently they don’t sell dresses in Colorado. What’s sillier? The rules for debutantes. They have to wear white dresses, yeah, but they also have to have a 10-foot circumference at the end, a full crinoline, etc etc. Who is responsible for making sure 16-year-old girls look ridiculous? The dress registrar. DRESS REGISTRAR. Because girls can’t wear the same dress (understandable) and also can’t be trusted to buy something nice. Umm. Right.
The show always starts with the narrator saying something to the effect of “Every bride wants her day to be special,” and it’s easy to take issue with things like “every” and “bride,” as if weddings are about one person, not two, and as if everyone is the same. But whatever; that’s like sociology for dummies. If we’re going to talk about my personal reactions to the show, it’s the entitlement that I have a major problem with. I did not grow up imagining my wedding, sorry. There are plenty of other things I did that bowed to the patriarchy, but if I was going to imagine things, it was always meeting someone cute or having a life together or having cute kids or something. Weddings were never part of it. I was a flower girl twice and loved it, and I’ve been to a few other weddings, but they’re just not a big thing, I guess, in my circles of family and family friends. Also, I never grew up feeling entitled to anything. Well, that’s not true. We all grow up feeling entitled, but the things I have felt entitled to are, like, a good job and always getting accepted into programs I want to get into (that was a rude awakening to go from NYU wooing me as a high school senior to flat-out rejecting me for my MA). Weddings? No. Even before I understood a lot about money, I understood that my parents’ purpose in life was not, could not and should not be to fund extravagant, unnecessary parties for me at an age when I would likely be living on my own, making my own money, and supporting myself. I see no problem with providing your children with nice things when you can afford it, and even when you can’t (to an extent), but I see a huge one with raising your children to believe that they are entitled to everything (e.g. especially when turning 16 is NOT an accomplishment, i.e. you didn’t die of the black plague because you didn’t grow up in the Dark Ages) and then constantly providing them with excessive and unnecessary things like a party that costs $50,000 when it’s cheap and budget-style. Sorry. Nope. Ridiculous.
But I meant to talk about this show because of its association with fashion and style, not because I wanted to bash rich people. So I will say that something else I don’t get is the princess thing. Maybe because I have spent my entire life wanting to be the age I am now, I have never (unless I’m forgetting something from, like age 3) been interested in super poofy, look-at-me-I’m-a-cupcake stuff. Everyone can have their own style, sure, but very few women actually look good (and look like women, instead of little girls playing dress-up) like that, and I don’t understand why a day that’s about two people celebrating their future (i.e. the time in their lives when they will be grown-ups and pursue new, mature things) leads women to act and look like children. Actually, I totally understand, because we’re all conditioned to think that weddings are for women only and that they are, basically, for children (look at how kids are encouraged to play wedding, how women in wedding movies act, etc etc). But I blame the patriarchy! Anyway, I think it’s dumb, and I’ll add that while the dresses in Kleinfeld are beautiful, 90% of them, or at least 90% of the ones they put girls in when shooting, are completely impractical. I don’t understand clothing that you trip over and can’t walk or dance in.
General awesomesauce things in the show: Pretty dresses! Sometimes a “heartwarming” story that really does warm your heart! Randy Fenoli!
General problematic things on the show: So many white people! The store actually seems to really care about fitting all types of bodies, but if you’re really large, you’re going to get relegated to the sister show, Say Yes to the Dress: Big Bliss, which may as well be called Say Yes to the Dress: Fat Girls Should Have Nice Things, Too. The viewer gets extra guilt because not only are they watching a ridiculous show, but they also have to feel bad about the state of humanity because some of the people are just so horrendous, obnoxious, and/or clueless. Also, patriarchy. Also, it makes you feel like a sad poor person.
Final verdict: I’m not going to use a train wreck metaphor here. It’s more like how I read things a lot and know that nobody is going to be as good a technical writer as I am, and yet I keep reading stuff even when I know I hate it and can’t edit it and even when I know that even if I did edit it, the people responsible probably wouldn’t even understand the corrections because nobody understand anything ever, and yet I can’t look away and I can’t stop myself. Like that sentence? Whooo, run-ons! Anyway, yeah, I think that’s how I feel about Say Yes to the Dress.