Reality TV is my guilty pleasure, mostly because it reflects so many attributes of the human condition, no matter how fabricated the show in question may be. I recently started watching Say Yes to The Dress – Atlanta, which is, I’ll admit, quite addicting. I find most interesting how the show affirms the pervasive human desire for approval. In this Atlanta version of the popular reality series, Southern ideals reinforce women as easily influenced by their need for such approval. In the South, the bride’s desire for approval is compounded with cultural implications. The show equates passive tendencies with traditional notions of the “Southern belle.” Consequently, the bride who is glorified for being a Southern belle is also the bride who allows her need for approval affect her dress choices.
Frequently this need plays out in this show through persuasion of family and friends. Often a bride will put on a dress in the dressing room, and her face will light up when she looks in the mirror. Then she walks into the waiting room where her friends and/or family are, and the joy runs out of her face because her “supporters” disapprove.
Commonly a daughter seeks approval from her mom. Often, the mom has a different idea of how she wants her daughter to look. In one episode, the mother was adamant about finding a dress that flattered her daughter’s figure because her daughter did not have a flat stomach. The mother disliked every dress, and they left without purchasing one, even though the daughter tried on many that she liked. This is a perfect example of how the bride’s need for approval from her mother outweighed her own satisfaction with the dresses.
Say Yes to the Dress – Atlanta provides a fascinating lesson in human communication. Often the disapproval isn’t verbalized but simply provided through silence or a stoic face. The effectiveness of such rhetoric, intentional or not, is fascinating. A bride’s wedding day is supposed to be one of the happiest, most important days of her life, and choosing a dress is equally important, yet friends and family persuade women out of or into dresses because the need for approval is so pervasive. Some brides want to be Southern belles, and others want their moms’ approval. All too often, someone else is saying, “Yes.”