If you stopped making shows that make women cry over how much weight they’re not losing and get back to showing me some music videos at decent hours of the day? Yeah, that would be really great. Yeah, because I think there’s something everyone can agree on: music, even mediocre music, is infinitely superior to psychological abuse. And if you’re under the delusion that bullying women into competing with each other to lose weight and earn a Dream Wedding (TM) is NOT psychological abuse, you are seriously mistaken.
If you’re not familiar with VH1’s recent programming, I’m talking about the cruel travesty that is Bridal Bootcamp. The basic premise of the show is this: ten altar-bound women who have deemed their bodies “unfit” get sent to boot camp so they can lose weight and “commit themselves to a healthy lifestyle” (since that’s what they’re apparently calling it these days), all so that they can fit a certain smaller dress size by the time they get married. The show is basically a competition to see who loses weight the fastest. One woman is sent home each week based on how little “improvement” she’s made (i.e. how little weight she’s lost, or — heaven forbid! — how much she might have somehow gained in the process), while in the end the last woman standing gets rewarded a so-called Dream Wedding (TM). While the intentions of this program may be pure, I think it’s sending a number of dangerous messages.
First of all, it’s worth noting that the contestants come from a wide range of dress sizes, and that the woman with the smallest dress size entered (Kacey, a size 8 at the start of the competition, according to her audition video) is smaller than the goal dress size of the largest woman entered (Tina, an 18W according to her audition video, whose goal is a size 14). So it may seem that there is no “ideal” dress size, right? And that’s good, right? Think again. These women are actually all going for the same goal, and that goal is “smaller”. These women evidently feel that they should not be happy with their current bodies, often against their better judgement. Tina, for example, has been afflicted with asthma for most of her life, and “know[s] exercise will start triggering things,” but is still willing to put herself through rigorous training in order to reach her goal of being “smaller”. Meanwhile, Kacey, who does not even remotely resemble what anyone in their right mind would consider “fat”, points out cellulite on her rear end and admits that she “think[s] it’s genetic”, yet still attributes it to “drinking too much soda”. So basically, she’s blaming her lifestyle for something that she actually knows she can’t help. And that’s all kinds of effed up. A lot of the contestants also seem to be more concerned with how other people perceive their bodies than how they personally feel about their own bodies. One contestant, Jamie, says in her audition tape, “I would really love to wear a strapless gown. But I don’t wanna have to subject people to things like my arms,” she says, and moves her arms in a way that the fat and extra skin under her upper arms jiggles. I think it’s very sad that she feels the need to get rid of this “problem”, because it’s something that just about everyone has (heck, I’m a scrawny little twig, and even I have a little jiggle under my arms), and also because she feels that she’d be doing others a disservice by not getting rid of it. Which is, once again, all kinds of effed up. One thing I find really disturbing is the women who want to “look good” for the sake of their future husbands. “I want my fiance to say ‘What a smokin’ hot body she has!’ and he can’t wait to just kiss my face off,” says one contestant, while another tearfully says “I would just want my fiance to say — to say I look beautiful.” Which makes me wonder what their fiances think of them at their current weight. It saddens me to think that anyone would plan to spend the rest of their life with someone who does not think they’re beautiful the way they are. This is not to say that the contestants’ fiances really think their future wives could be any more beautiful than they already are, but it makes me sad to think that anyone would choose to lose weight for the benefit of anyone other than themself, especially their life partner.
As for the activities the contestants are put through on the shows, their trainers are literally working them to the point of illness. The goal of this program appears to be more concerned with numbers than actual “commitment to a healthy lifestyle.” The contest seems to be about who can lose the most weight the fastest, and punishes those who do not lose enough weight by eliminating them from the program. And while weight loss is often a result of a healthy lifestyle, it is often thought of as the goal. However, one’s health should not be measured in weight alone. When one starts to make an effort towards a healthy lifestyle, they cannot always expect immediate results. Exercise can be very beneficial to one’s health, but exercising to hard in order to lose weight as soon as possible is probably not the healthiest thing to do. Neither weight loss nor health should be a timed contest, because weight loss is unhealthy if rushed and a healthy lifestyle should never have a time limit. What’s worse about Bridal Bootcamp is that these women are all competing against each other, and only one will win in the end. The objective of the contest seems to be that whoever punishes her body the most, wins a Dream Wedding (TM). These women are hurting themselves while trying to assert superiority over others. That sounds like a lose-lose situation to me, Dream Wedding prize notwithstanding (who decides what a “dream wedding” is, anyway?). Bridal Bootcamp may have only ran three episodes so far, but it’s already given the impression of doing nothing but breed mistrust and insecurity.
And what kind of message is this show sending the viewer? That women should not be happy with their bodies until they’ve reached a smaller size? That a bride cannot be happy unless she’s already sacrificed years’ worth of weight? This show also perpetuates the myth that health = weight loss = beauty, when these three things are totally independent of each other. Weight is a concrete thing: you can tell just by comparing numbers who out of two individuals is heavier. We all know that 110 lbs is heavier than 90 lbs. Fair enough. However, we should not pretend that we can gauge any other information about these two individuals from their weight, or at least not solely by their weight. Contrary to popular belief, a 90 lb person is not inherently more or less healthy than a 110 lb person of the same height. There are too many factors when it comes to judging health; we should not be measuring it in pounds. Even more dangerous is trying to measure beauty in pounds. Beauty is a totally subjective thing, though a society may sometimes fool us into thinking it’s objective. I think it’s safe to assume that all the contestants on Bridal Bootcamp are thought of as beautiful by their future husbands, else why would they have gotten to the point of getting engaged? If there’s one thing all the women on Bridal Bootcamp have in common besides their impending weddings, it is that they are all beautiful, yet for some reason believe that they are not beautiful enough; that they must improve their looks before they can feel happy with themselves. Assuming Bridal Bootcamp does give all these women the bodies they love, what they really need is love for their bodies.
Oh, and one last thing bothers me: why is there no male equivalent of “bridal bootcamp”? Or do only women need to feel inadequate in their own bodies? C’mon, VH1, please get back to showing more music videos so we don’t need to be subjected to this crap. I’ll settle for reruns of Pop-Up Video…