Cinderella Needs a little TLC - The Fairy Godmother of Poor Brides

Curator's Note

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.


I think you draw out an interesting role Kleinfelds is performing for brides. If this establishment is choosing for whom it is a “fairy godmother," what do each of these specific cases say about the larger role of Say Yes to the Dress. There is clearly a different function for the store in these cases than when the bride is paying for their dress without assistance. I would be interested in seeing an examination of each of the specific cases where Kleinfelds helps the brides with the purchase of the dress. Furthermore, I would be interested in seeing how the audience reacts to these cases in contrast to the shows where brides pay for their dress. Thanks for pointing out an interesting theme in this show.

Yes, I find the differing roles Kleinfeld's plays simplt intriguing and believe it is in correlation with our financially unstable times. I was attempting to find all the cases where Kleinfeld stepped in (there is at least two a season for the original series, if memory serves) and create a clip-reel, and still am planning on doing so. Access to the physical discs to extract such scene has become near impossible however. Now, what really was sparking my interest even more during my search for the material, was the fact that among hundreds of clips featuring individual brides on the SYTTD website, I couldn't locate examples. If available on the site they were nestled into entire episodes, but many simply were not there.

What then sparks the need to take on the fairy godmother role for specific brides on TV, whereas this element appears nearly eliminated from the series' web-content?  

If any readers here have links to these cases of Kleinfeld's benevolence please share. 

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