“My Ideal Wedding…” TV/Film Myth #1 about Women

Myth: All little girls fantasize about their wedding days.

How’s this for nuts? Even though I was never a big Friends fan, I felt let-down by an episode in which Monica had to pick up a wedding dress for her sister-in-law-to-be, and she, Rachel and Phoebe spent most of the rest of the episode parading around in Monica’s apartment in wedding dresses, yammering about their wedding fantasies.

Yep, even Phoebe, the cool one.

As a child and teen, I remember knowing girls who could go on for hours about their someday wedding. They’d get this glazed, “welcome to the cult” expression on their faces, and describe in great detail the music, the flowers, the dresses, the shoes, the groom’s attire, the church, the way their father would walk them down the aisle, the limo, the rice, and where they’d be going on the honeymoon. They could describe the living hell out of everything but one essential element: the groom.

Then there were the rest of us. The ones who shrugged during these conversations and, when pressed, acknowledged that we might enjoy wearing a blood red wedding dress, exchanging Cracker Jack rings, and having Siouxsie and the Banshees as the band. And we always knew who the groom was going to be: some rocker we were into, usually. Hey, at least we were thinking about it! And some of the rockers later married girls our age, so apparently we onto something after all (shudder).

Oh, yeah – and several of us thought wedding veils were more creepy than being buried alive. Don’t go Freudian on me here – the point was simply that we all shared these points of view, and that means there are probably plenty of other girls out there who feel similarly.

I always thought it strange that the girls who fantasized in such detail about their weddings had no idea who they wanted to marry, but the girls who really didn’t care about weddings had a pretty good idea who they might be willing to be stuck with for the rest of their natural lives. It made me think that the wedding-fantasizers were kinda missing the whole point, but hey, what do I know?

Inevitably, I found that wedding fantasies seemed to run in families. And a lot of those families had seen more than their fair share of weddings. When I was 14, I actually thought women got divorced and remarried just to have dream weddings. One friend’s mom had married the same man three times, and each time the wedding got a bit more brag-worthy. What was I supposed to think her point was?

I’m not sure who started the “all little girls fantasize about their weddings” myth – society or media. But TV and film are definitely reinforcing it. Phoebe on Friends always stood for the non-traditional among us. Her background, her outlook, everything. She was always the different one who just didn’t get the things everyone else took for granted as normal or required. But apparently the possibility that a human female could scratch her head and say, “I never really got into this stuff” didn’t even cross the writers’ minds. Phoebe was as semi-hysterically fascinated as the others. Traitor.

I admit I think it’s a bit twisted to indoctrinate little girls with wedding planning obsessions when we really don’t spend enough time teaching kids of either gender what marriage is supposed to be about. But at the very least, couldn’t TV and film just once in a while present the alternate viewpoint? Not every male character is sex-obsessed; why must all female characters be wedding-obsessed, when that’s hardly the case in real life?

Comments

  1. kristen says

    But Phoebe was always amenable to oddness, and three grown women playing dress up for a day is indeed odd. When I saw this scene, I saw her as having a whole different sort of good time than Monica and Rachel.

  2. says

    I keep having arguments about gender essentialism with one of my friends. He insists that all men are obsessed with sex and that all women are obsessed with babies. It’s frustrating to have a conversation with him. My mom and Disney movies indoctrinated me. But I am getting better, I hope.

  3. Jen says

    AND Phoebe ended up getting married in the end! I agree, the other view point should be shown on television and it never is!
    I grew to really hate the Phoebe character, she was only ‘different’ to prove that ‘different’ was… different(!), strange, odd, quirky, unpredictable and unstable. She was a vegetarian (weird, oh no!) yet when she is pregnant she discovers the joy of meat (normal, YAY!) She is against fur (a bit weird) until she falls in love with a glamourous fur coat (hey, we’re all human right? eh, ladies?) and in the final series she breaks up with her boyfriend because he refuses to tie the knot (later they do marry though, obbbviously).
    Is setting up a situation, time and time again where women haven’t found true happiness, the story isn’t finished, until they’ve got married… a bit old fashioned?? It could be seen as a sanitised version of ‘that girl just needs a good, deep dicking’… I dunno…

  4. kristen says

    Jen: I took Phoebe’s craving for meat during pregnancy as an “opposite day” conceit based on the idea that women get odd cravings during pregnancy. In this case, odd for her was normal.

    That said, Phoebe started out married in the series as well, and may have been a bigamist. She didn’t seem to grow a need for a finish line in a relationship until they decided to end the series and needed characters neatly wrapped up.

  5. Jen says

    yeah when phoebe started liking meat it was classic sit-com device: the reversal… except it was like an internal reversal cos it made her normal. But it just makes me think of that old anti-vegetarian claim that really, secretly all vegetarians crave meat (yeah right). I guess this could also be applied to all Phoebe’s ‘oddities’, she’s only weird cos her mother committed suicide which left her on the street so in no sense is her vegetarianism or hippie-tendencies meant to be a result of a healthy conventional upbringing. You could say the same about marriage, that supposedly the girls who say they don’t want the white wedding do really they’re just denying themselves or something.
    I much prefer Elaine from Seinfeld anyway ;)

  6. Lynn says

    All I know is I don’t want to wear a dress, or mess around with flowers. Maybe a pig roast out back with Doctor Who music playing over a big stereo, and boffa. And a dessert buffet, maybe with a shit ton of good asian takeout. SSwwweeet.

  7. Scarlett says

    You know, I’ve always been able to picture who it was I wanted to spend the rest of my life with – although granted, it was usually my crush-of-the-moment, so not very life-long :p – and our *life* together, but the wedding itself? Never much interested me, and once I was part of a bridal party and got to see just how much work goes into these ‘dream white weddings’, it hurts my head to think of the ceromony itself.

    But then, I was someone who, even in my Leonardo DiCaprio crush days, thought Romeo and Juliet was a dumb story – dude, if any of those people had actually COMMUNICTED instead of acting like creatures incapable of speach or reason, NO-ONE WOULD HAVE DIED – so maybe I’m an odd one :p

  8. photondancer says

    Scarlett, you may be an odd one but you’re not an oddity. I wrote on a high school essay that Romeo and Juliet needn’t have died if they’d just told their parents about their marriage, since it was a fait accompli and marriages in those days were very hard to break. My English teacher gave me such a fail on that essay (the only fail I ever got) that it knocked me down into a lower class for a while. People are invested in that myth :(

    I’ve never known one of these wedding-obsessed women myself so I wonder how they fare once the knot is tied and all that effort is over. Do they find the habit can’t be broken and get divorced so they can start dreaming up another wedding? Or do they transfer the intensive planning to something else? Are they, perhaps, the female equivalents of trainspotters and birdwatchers (both, I believe, male-dominated hobbies)?

  9. Scarlett says

    Well with this wedding I was a part of, it seemed so much time, effort and emotional investment went into things that I couldn’t understand mattering. Like, the bride got upset ‘cos my hair wasn’t long enough to go in the ringlets that she and her other bridesmaids were having. Uh, yeah, ‘cos commiting to someone for the rest of your life is NOTHING compared to you and your bridesmaids having matching hairdos :p

    R&J – I’ve never thought of it in terms of just getting married and telling their families about it afterwards, but good point. My take on it was more like, well, you have two teenagers who confuse infatuation with love and go from strangers to lovers to killing themselves in, what, three days, not to mention two families who have been squabbling for so long no-one actually knows what it’s about – if ANYONE in that whole play had demonstrated honesty and maturity, everyone could have lived and been happy. I’m boring when it comes to my ideal couples. Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward were *my* idea of a romantic pair.

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