by Lillian Csernica on January 27, 2014
Been busy editing Sword Master, Flower Maiden. I’m at that stage where I can see what doesn’t need to be there, or what is out of character, so I’m using a lot of red ink. This is a good thing.
I’ve been preoccupied lately with watching the reality TV show “Bridezillas.” For those of you who are not familiar with this example of cable TV’s bread and circuses mentality, let me explain. Couples who have done a really bad job of planning for their weddings somehow sign up for the show. Those cases deemed to be the most entertaining and drama-laden are then filmed anywhere from three weeks to one week before the actual wedding date. Each episode follows two brides. Skillful editing, lots of little interviews with the key players, and a relentless pursuit of each bride result in cliffhanger endings that make you want to find out what happens next. Each episode features some truly astounding displays of smug narcissism, deliberate emotional manipulation, outright bitchiness, and plenty of ultimatums. It gets to the point where you can’t even hear the fights going on because the producers have to bleep out all the swear words.
Why in the name of all that’s sane and righteous would I want to watch this kind of emotional mud-wrestling while I’m writing a romance novel? Watching this show helps me refine my ear for stupid, semiliterate dialogue. I can observe people so dysfunctional they have allowed the Bridezilla to reach a marriageable age in a state of immaturity and domination that could have been cured early on with a firm and uncompromising application of the word “NO!” The show features women so wrapped up in themselves they cannot possibly be aware of how stupid, how greedy, or how unattractive they really are. They throw tantrums over people not giving them exactly what they want when they themselves haven’t figured out the details, much less communicated them to the right vendors. No accountability, no responsibility, just redirection of the blame on whoever’s within reach.
It’s sickening, the way these women talk about how the world really does revolve around them. They come right out and admit their nasty little strategies for wounding other people if that’s what it takes to get their way. That helps a lot if I have a rival for the hero’s affection in a romance storyline. As they say, truth is stranger than fiction. I’ve known some really selfish bitch goddesses in my time, but these harpies are in a class by themselves. Sure, I could come up with characters this vicious and materialistic, but seeing the real thing adds whole new dimensions!
These brides seem to care nothing about the sanctity of marriage, or just the honorable and loving way to treat the man to whom they’re about to make a commitment. It’s all about their “vision,” which really means it’s all about the bling. It’s all about them, what they want, when they want it, and everybody involved had damn well better wait on them hand and foot.
It’s not like I don’t know how to start a fight between two people who are supposed to be in love. I have been married for twenty-five years. “Bridezilla” is useful for seeing just how far some people will go to get what they need. The key word there is “need.” Some of the grooms must think it would be better to be saddled with a high maintenance beauty pageant reject than risk going it alone. Some soon-to-be mothers-in-law will go a long way to see to it their beloved sons are not involved in what they see as a train wreck of a marriage. What’s hilarious is watching the bridesmaids and groomsmen stand by knowing what a disaster is in the making, but not slapping some sense into either the bride or the groom. That’s their idea of being “supportive.” I don’t understand why anyone would allow a Bridezilla to treat them so badly and not pack it in and walk away right then. Bridezillas live for conquest, power, and domination. Every time they win, it just reinforces their bad behavior. Now and then somebody does draw the line, and then all hell breaks loose.
Another horrifying aspect is the way so many of these Bridezillas are in a hurry to have a baby. It’s often a cultural thing, but still. Pregnancy will allow them to once again be the center of attention, to justify outrageous demands and the avoidance of anything they don’t want to do. Do they have it in them to actually nurture a child, or will they treat the poor baby as one more fashion accessory? “Bridezilla” has done two “Where are they now?” episodes to find out which couples stayed married and which have split up. Now that’s fascinating, getting to find out the rest of the story.
The hero and heroine of a romance novel are by nature mostly perfect, physically if not emotionally. The plot complications test their mettle and reveal the traits that make each of them worth loving. It says a lot about today’s readers that while once the ending was a guaranteed Happily Ever After, now editors and publishers are accepting Happy For Now. To me that’s so sad, because it recognizes the realistic possibility that things won’t work out. Worse, the reality that one or both of the people involved hang on to the option of walking away the minute they’re not getting what they want anymore. Marriages should not be considered disposable, not in fiction (at least in a romance novel), and not in real life. Maybe that’s one reason I write romance. To keep the flame alive, to confirm and support the belief in the possibility of Happily Ever After. It takes work and dedication and patience and the willingness to compromise. I like to dress that up in historical costumes and cultures, but the bottom line is the same.
—Barbara de Angelis