Bridezillas, theshow that debuted in 2004 and showed people at their wedding worst has been off the air for fewer than five years, but is coming back for season 11 tonight.
It ended in 2004 after 10 seasons, but lived on in the form of a spin-off, Marriage Boot Camp, which is now populated with reality stars but had Bridezillas couples as its cast for its first two seasons.
WE tv general manager Marc Juris told me that the network realized they “have something [we] shouldn’t let go of” when he kept coming across references to the show’s title, in person and in popular culture. “Everywhere I would hear, This person’s a bridezilla—Wait a minute. We started that, why have we not brought it back? Because we see a lot of interest in it.”
The format of Bridezillas (WE tv, Fridays at 10) will stay true to the original, though the network and production did initially plan to make changes.
“I will be honest with you, we spend a lot of time thinking about how to make it different, and how social media plays into it,” Juris said. “We had many elements that were new and different, but as the tape was coming in, and we were seeing this, we were like, Wait a minute. This is actually kind of fantastic. Why are we changing anything?”
The biggest difference may be the role social media plays in weddings and wedding plannings. “Social media adds a whole new complication,” Juris said, but only when that was truly part of the couple’s experience.
“If you are one of the rare people who don’t really use social media, we’re not going to make you use social media. I don’t want to create false premises. There are some brides who are social media insane, and then there are others who it’s not that important to them. So if it’s not that important to them, there’ll be no stakes and no authenticity. I’d rather tell their stories,” Juris said.
“We’re very much believers in authenticity,” he added. “We don’t want to let format drive a story that might not be absolutely true.”
Does Bridezillas document or perpetuate a stereotype? Or both?
WE tv describes the show as “the most outrageous reality show of all time” in its trailer, and like this on its web site:
“Bridezillas celebrates the craziest, most over-the-top brides wreaking wedding day hell with epic meltdowns, family feuds & social media wars! As they take the plunge to the altar, they vow no one will get in the way of their ‘perfect’ day!”
So does the show just perpetuate a toxic image of women as controlling, selfish, wedding-obsessed monsters, even if they are just responding to the messages they’ve received all their lives from the wedding-industrial complex?
Just read this person’s story, which illustrates that—and how the show’s title has become part of our culture: The Wedding Industrial Complex Turned Me Into A Bridezilla.
“In any story, in any show, whether reality or scripted, it’s all about characters with high stakes,” Juris told me. “When you think about it, a bride spends her entire life planning a wedding that’s a one-day event—she doesn’t even know who she’s marrying, but she’s got the whole wedding planned. I don’t think you can think of higher stakes.”
I suggested that’s the kind of wedding and bride stereotype the show perpetuates, but I agree with Juris that, as he said, “it’s almost impossible to create the event that is in your head.”
“Those kinds of stakes are real, they’re relatable, and they’re so engaging,” he added. “It is a highly emotional experience, and I think whether you see it or you don’t see it, you’re going to react the way you’re going to react, but it is such a high-stakes, highly emotional experience where you know things are not going to go exactly right.”
Why do people expect their weddings to be flawless? “I think Hollywood has created this expectation for what a wedding should be,” he said. “But in the end, the couples are always married, they’re happy. I think they realize there was possibly a little overreaction.”
Juris thinks Bridezillas actually argues against this kind of behavior.
“I think we look at this with a little bit of a wink,” Juris said. “If anything, it’s really like, Don’t act like this. It’s kind of silly. So that’s how we approach it.”
He also said that the show isn’t about demonizing or denigrating its cast. Viewers, he said, “have to still like the bride. We don’t want you to be unlikable,” he said. So the show tries to cast “people you ultimately like and are somewhat self-reflective.”
That’s harder now that people have lots of practice constructing their own image in front cameras.
“Everyone is a reality TV star now, either on TV or through Facebook, through Instagram. Everyone’s creating a story. More than ever, we have to be careful about that in every show,” Juris told me.
What they want are real people and real reactions, even if those aren’t perfectly filmed. He said his mandate to productions is, “Never tell anybody what to say. If a plane goes by, and you miss it, don’t tell them to do it again. I’d rather have the plane in there. It’s real, it’s how it happened, because they’re not actors. There are a lot of shows that just seem so fake, and that’s not interesting to us.”