Just when I thought I had seen every conceivable variation of a plastic surgery reality show, a new twisted version appears. If your entertainment schedule has not allowed you to catch E!’s newest reality television disaster, Bridalplasty, consider yourself fortunate. If you haven’t seen it, it a summary is that it is a bride-against-bride elimination-style show where 12 women compete to have various cosmetic plastic surgery prizes- ostensibly to turn them from ducklings to swans just in time for their weddings. Or, as E!’s tagline cleverly states, it’s the only competition show on television where “the winner gets cut.”
If you are thinking- as I was, You have got to be kidding me, seeing it will only make you feel worse. The household of brides-to-be initially compete in difficult wedding challenges that would test the mental limits of the average grade school child. These ‘prize’ for winning each of the competitive challenges is a surgical procedure intended to help transform the prospective bride closer to physical perfection. Each week one of the contestants gets eliminated while the others receive their dream plastic surgery procedures along the way. Eventually one bride-to-be will receive the wedding of her dreams…and will head down the aisle in a designer dress as a transformed woman ready to surprise her soon-to-be husband.
The concept of a show in which women compete for the grand prize of a plastic surgery makeover in order to be the perfect bride for her wedding day would normally be funny… if it weren’t so sad. At its most basic, the show is a societal commentary on our contemporary fairytale wedding culture where so much effort is spent in both time and money for just a few short hours. Maybe its greatest entertainment value is in seeing how the fully complicit contestants are willing to trade any dignity for some free plastic surgery and a little bit of fame. I suspect the show’s creators are well aware of this self-deprecation but the contestants are clearly completely oblivious to it.
While Bridalplasty may be the pinnacle of self-parody for reality TV, the participation of the plastic surgeon in the show violates some of the most stringent ethics of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. The most egregious ethical violation is the very premise of the show – all ASPS members are prohibited from giving away free plastic surgery as a prize in any contest. To encourage any prospective patient to undergo surgery because it will be free encourages patients to cast aside any consideration of its risks and expectations. Part of what any ethical, well-trained plastic surgeon should do is to educate the patient about both the benefits and the risks of their procedure(s) of interest. Reaching for a little fame here seems to have affected more than just the brides-to-be.
‘Bridalplasty’ is cringe-worthy TV at its finest, and brings the practice of medicine and surgery to a whole new low point. What’s next, ‘Who wants to win a quadruple bypass’?
Dr. Barry Eppley