We Brits love our reality TV. From competitions, such as The X-Factor and Strictly, to those completely focused on every aspect of people’s lives, like The Kardashians, reality TV never gets old. But, when your Wednesday evening rolls around and you find yourself wondering how best to relax – between The Great British Bake Off and Don’t Tell the Bride – before (or after) you do something more productive, which one do you choose?
What are they about?
In case you’ve never heard of either of these, let me give you a quick run-down. The Great British Bake Off is great, British, and all about 12 (non-professional) bakers competing to become the great, British baker. Simple, huh? Every week, they have to complete three tasks: a signature, technical and showstopper in the hopes of wowing the judges, Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, and stay in the competition.
Filled with sexual innuendoes courtesy (mostly) of its fabulous double-act presenters, Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins, and many nail-biting moments, par for the course with the highs and lows of baking under pressure, it makes for very entertaining viewing. And that’s not even counting the fantastic bakes they come up with.
— BBC One (@BBCOne) September 9, 2015
On the other hand, Don’t Tell the Bride focuses on grooms who, along with their best man, plan their – usually themed – weddings: from the dress their bride will wear down the aisle, to the venue where it will take place. All for the somewhat generous budget of £12,000. Will they put together the wedding of their partner’s dreams, or their nightmares? Hint: it usually seems the latter.
Packed with dodgy decisions and often conflicting expectations from the bride, it can make for interesting viewing. Despite some heart-warming moments when everything seems to come together (even when those defy logic), Don’t Tell the Bride is certainly more a guilty pleasure than anything; if you’re looking to feel better about your own life, perhaps this is ideal viewing for you.
My life might not be the bestest but at least I’m not marrying one of these menchild on #DTTB
— Aline. (@Lylithium) August 30, 2015
Which one takes the cake?
As much as reality TV has a reputation for being somewhat ‘trashy’, sometimes it just goes too far. Although it might be a stretch to label Don’t Tell the Bride as such, its premise fulfils a number of tired tropes to lure in viewers.
While the groom is stuck only with a best man to plan the whole wedding – which usually ends up with his making a fool out of himself – the bride has her whole family (sometimes three generations) behind her while all she’s doing is visiting places and trying on dresses she’d like to have. This, in turn, perpetuates the idea that a man belongs to himself while a woman belongs to her family.
Out of interest do you only get on #dttb if you have an off the wall idea that makes you the groom out to be selfish?
— Delaney Gibson (@Delaney8) September 9, 2015
Although it’s certainly easier for a man to make a fool of himself with shoddy decisions when he’s alone with his best friend, this also contributes to the trope of a clueless man who not only doesn’t pay attention to his partner, but also disappoints them.
Don’t we owe men better, more nuanced representation than this? How can we expect men to respect their partners and plan weddings accordingly when this is what they can get away with on TV?
Seems like every single guy on don’t tell the bride plans the wedding about 300000 miles off what the brides actual lookin for
— Sarah Jayne (@sarahjgallacher) September 22, 2015
Not to mention that Don’t Tell the Bride doesn’t exactly try to avoid portraying the bride as a ‘bridezilla’; she always seems hard to please (or high maintenance), in the same way that the groom is apparently always ‘clueless’.
This mum in law on #DTTB needs a slap and I’m pretty happy she has missed the wedding
— Peter Burns (@Pburnzy) September 9, 2015
With these tropes in mind, DTTB tends to err on the side of inspiring unnecessarily sexist commentary on Twitter; from calling the bride’s mother a ‘cow’, a bitch, and even advocating for physical abuse, to more, just because she was disappointed in her future son-in-law’s selection of a dress. Is any of that really fair? Especially when the show, by design, sets the groom up to fail in some way?
It generally brings out the worst in people.
On the contrary, The Great British Bake Off challenges sexist tropes about men and women. Forget the idea that only women can, or should bake, GBBO is truly for everyone. With an equal split of men and women in the competition and, in fact, more men than women in the final rounds this series, nothing is made more clear than that men are just as capable (and inventive) bakers. Which is a pretty good message to send.
In addition, while you might believe a competition would inspire the worst in people, there is a real rapport between the competing bakers and they all seem willing to help when necessary. In fact, it’s almost easy to forget that they’re competing with each other at all; especially when they all keep tweeting photos of themselves hanging out.
— TAMAL RAY (@DrRayBakes) September 17, 2015
So, the reality show that takes the cake and should definitely be your number one for Wednesday evenings, is The Great British Bake Off. Deceptively calming at times, for a competition, the show fosters an unparalleled camaraderie and encourages even the unlikeliest of bakers to give it a shot.
On the other hand, Don’t Tell the Bride seems to highlight all the worst parts of wedding planning and, indeed, those getting married, to the point that places like Twitter foster abuse and criticism. Do you really want that to mark the end of your evening?
Ready, set, bake!
The Great British Bake Off and Don’t Tell The Bride air on BBC One, Wednesdays at 8pm and 9pm.