The Bride Factory: Mass Media Portrayals of Women and Weddings

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The Bride Factory: Mass Media Portrayals of Women and Weddings by Erika Engstrom. Peter Lang, paperback, $38.95.

University of Nevada Professor Erika Engstrom has written about the world of weddings for MRTW and other periodicals. Now she has put all her research together in The Bride Factory, and it makes for a compelling read about one of the most significant traditions in society - any society. This book is about the evolution of the wedding in the United States - as in the highly lucrative wedding product business and its allure for so many of today's brides.

This issue of MRTW appears just as the traditional wedding season kicks into high gear. Now in evidence is what Engstrom calls "a transient utopia in which class mobility becomes attainable, if only for just one day." Much of this bride-asprincess fantasia is encouraged by bridal media, both print and television, that display numerous possibilities for the big day, and about which Engstrom writes with insight and wit.

Perhaps the most interesting chapter in this volume is Chapter 5, "Working the Part: Bride As Actor," which studies the gendered roles played by brides and grooms on a sample of wedding shows. By and large, men are superfluous to the wedding planning. Showing up on the big day is their main responsibility, and in lots of the programs, that's just fine with the bride. Overarching themes point to this being the bride's big day, with acquiescence to her wishes, no matter how outlandish or expensive. The "blushing demure bride" is an archaic stereotype that has given way to the "superbride" - capable, decisive, with superior organizational abilities - and in some cases to "bridezilla," an archetype that needs little description. Let your imagination run loose and you can picture her in her many terrifying variations, which Engstrom ably documents. She also devotes a chapter to "Modern Women, Traditional Brides," which shows how even the most independent, self-directed women, depicted in wedding media, fall into the dreamy thrall of a "white wedding": the bride in white, the groom and wedding party in formal wear, exchanging vows before an admiring throng.

Pulitzer-Prize-winning cartoonist Garry Trudeau devoted the week of March 12-16 to pushing back against the politicizing of a woman's decision to terminate a pregnancy and being forced to have a transvaginal ultrasound as a pre-condition to an abortion.

Trudeau slammed the Texas legislature and Gov. Rick Perry for backing the bill, which was enacted in 2011. (A similar bill in Virginia was withdrawn after a public outcry.) Women seeking abortions in Texas must receive the intrusive transvaginal sonogram and hear detailed description of the development of the fetus. This must occur at least 24 hours before the scheduled procedure. Doctors also must offer to play sounds of the fetus' heartbeat. …