Cinderella Needs a little TLC - The Fairy Godmother of Poor Brides
by Baerbel Goebel Stolz — University of Kansas
June 22, 2012 – 00:00
The 2011/2012-television season premiered several series based on fairytales, such as Grimm (NBC) and Once Upon a Time (ABC), but viewers’ innate need for fairytales has been most prevalently met for years in reality TV. The classic players are always provided: the hero, the princess, and the villain. Topic, rather than cast, based series such as Say Yes to the Dress (SYTTD, TLC) need those characters to provide a narrative for viewers, most easily created by way of association. The most classic role of princess is easily recognized in the brides to be, mothers or negatively reacting bride’s maids often personify the villain, and Kleinfeld’s becomes dispatcher, helper and fairy godmother all rolled into one; a tangible fairytale connection, a clear narrative without scripting one, is established.
In times of financial uncertainty, and daily headlines of a failing economy, women are still depicted as hunting down their "dream" day, their prince charming. Many brides featured on the show can afford to purchase lavish gowns for $20,000 and more, but what is of interest in this piece are those women with little money… and a heartbreaking story not unlike that of Cinderella.
Some women of SYTTD become stand-ins for the princess “in us.” But what if they cannot afford to pay the price to make that dream come true? This perfect dress is their glass slipper out of reach. Where Cinderella could rely on magic, these brides can rely on the good will and economic interests of Kleinfeld’s and its staff, giving the bride that deserves it so much everything she’ll need, to be the princess for one day. In some cases brides battle cancer, one had given her fiancé a kidney, what they lacked were the funds for the dream-dress… until Kleinfeld’s provided. What does it mean that in these economic times a series like SYTTD creates a (disembodied) fairy godmother? The balance between showing what most cannot have and presenting it to individuals that “deserve” is a balancing act to maintain viewers in a time where it may appear obscene to many to spend a year’s salary on a single day. Maybe this is a class issue, a classic depiction of the benevolent rich; maybe it’s a reality check. You always pay something to make a dream come true.