‘Bride & Prejudice’: Breaking barriers, one marriage at a time

Reality TV: Channel 4’s sobering show features couples under serious pressure

Blissful: Jamie and Shaaba in Bride & Prejudice

Blissful: Jamie and Shaaba in Bride & Prejudice

 

Unlike the nuptial nonsense of Don’t Tell the Bride, Channel 4’s sobering Bride & Prejudice (silly name aside) features couples whose relationships are under serious pressure. It’s a reality show about what happens when love is pushed to its limits by family and religion, the twin strains that trap so many couples.

“I just want to know if Mum is happy or fake happy,” Shaaba says, voicing the eternal question, but Shaaba is not just worried about the potential small annoyances of her big day – the flower arrangements, or where to seat Auntie Jill – or even the modern conundrum of a civil ceremony versus a religious gathering. She is facing the loss of any relationship with her mother.

Fai, a second-generation Mauritian, doesn’t want her to marry Jamie. She was not only disappointed that her daughter intended to wed a white man but also briefly disowned Shaaba when she found out that Jamie is transgender.

Fai’s contempt as she complains that ‘one of those’ is marrying her daughter can be ugly to watch, as are her constant references to Jamie as ‘a transgender’

Fai struggles with the notion that Jamie “was never born a man”, and although this aversion is bound up with ignorance and fear, her contempt as she complains that “one of those” is marrying her daughter can be ugly to watch, as are her constant references to Jamie as “a transgender”.

This animosity contrasts with the blissfulness of the couple themselves, who have been together for six years. (Jamie transitioned six months after they met.) They are truly close, and Jamie would love to overcome Fai’s hostility in order to save the mother-daughter bond of the woman he loves.

In Tuesday’s episode they convince Fai and Shaaba’s two younger sisters to stay at their home for the first time. The younger sisters come along to the engagement party at which the families will meet each other before the wedding.

As Jamie attempts to lighten the mood by nervously displaying the chocolate marble cake they’ve produced for the party – saying they chose it for the mix of “brown and white” – Fai corrects him with a tight grin, telling him the word he’s looking for is “fusion”.

It’s clear she’s trying to make an effort, especially in front of Shaaba’s sisters, as she mucks in with them to help decorate the function room. But as Fai’s emotions overwhelm her, her daughter worries, first, about whether she will come to terms with the situation and, second, if her acceptance is only a superficial show of compliance.

Fai’s face twists in anguish, and tears flow, as she watches Shaaba and Jamie take to the dance floor. It’s unclear if she will overcome her misery at her daughter’s unconventional life.

The episode’s cliffhanger, about whether or not she will attend the wedding, is a soap-opera climax; more important are the words of Jamie’s mother, who acknowledges how far Fai has come and urges her to “accept the parts that she can deal with” when it comes to her son.

Bride & Prejudice, which also touches on religious conversion, homophobic parents and age-gap relationships, knows that even in our rapidly changing society we still see marriage as a forever fairy tale. Love may not conquer all, it seems to say, but the realism of grudging acceptance just might save the day.

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