The country first expressed fear then suspicion at the actions of Jennifer Wilbanks. You may know her better as the bride who faked her own kidnapping, blamed it on a Hispanic man, and torpedoed her own wedding in the process. All this to be welcomed back to Georgia with a blanket draped over her head and a loving fiance ready to put her engagement ring back on her finger. Ahh, America, land of dreams!
Residents of Duluth, Georgia, her hometown, and the rest of the country, expressed shock. A white person, unhappy? In white America? This seems to be happening more and more! Alarming! How is this possible? On paper, she had all the makings of a successful life. A beautiful, thin, brunette with a great smile and nice brown eyes with a doting, slavish fiance, prepared to make her wedding dreams come true. Ahh, her wedding! One which, by any wedding magazine standard, was going to be a wonderful thing. A very large, wonderful thing! It was to be--before she made national news--the biggest day of her life! Yes, exactly the way it should be and more! 600 guests, 14 bridesmaids.
But then this woman freaked out and left town, called 911 and claimed she was kidnapped. But why is this really news? Compared with all the rest of the smelly, seedy, stinking refuse that goes on every day--are we really that compelled by the flailings of another unhappy Caucasian? As a country are we really that captivated with another who gets close to the American dram and melts down at the threshold? I'm reminded of the Scott Peterson trial / circus. Was it tragic that a man killed his pregnant wife? Yes. Was it fascinating that they were a white couple, the wife beautiful? Ohh, yess! He should have been happy! He took the right steps! That was the little twist that made the trial so compelling. After all, if a black man killed his beautiful, pregnant black wife and tried to flee to Mexico, would that event even make national news? No. That, according to our media, is status quo.
But when a white man or woman melts down--after all that has been done for them by government, corporate America, and Christianity--it is nothing short of stunning. What do we need to be happy? Society has been built to give us our bread and circuses. If we have any questions Madison Avenue will be happy to tell us what to do. Buy this car. Take this pill. Drink this beer. All the steps are right there! Jennifer Wilbanks was just doing what all of us do everyday, buying into a system that really doesn't offer us any lasting rewards. We've all been programmed to do the very things corporate America wants. And, as Maslow said, what we are, we must be.
So, what's a girl to do? By the time she is 12 or 13 she has assumed many society's norms for women. It is essential to look good, to get a man's attention, because sexiness is power, right? Madonna taught us that much. Girls dream of meeting "The One", the man who will sweep them off their feet. Implying, that they cannot stand on their own two feet. He is out there, right? Hollywood has taught us that much. Girls dream of their wedding day, they plan it years in advance. Just look at how many wedding magazines are on available the next time you go to the store! The unsuspecting male walks into this on every first date.
But, wait, are men unsuspecting? We are busy going through the motions too. Which woman looks the best? Can she cook? Will she look good in my shiny red corvette? Or, on my obnoxiously loud chopper? After all, men have arrayed these things in an elaborate attempt to display their plumage and woo a woman. Society has told us what the status symbols are and we'd better get them.
Yes, there's a lot of Jennifer Wilbanks in all of us. When a woman is 32, it is time to get married! How much pressure had been leveled on her by society, and family, to "tie the knot" and settle down and raise a family? Somewhere, at the top of some ivory tower, a shareholder declared, "What this country needs is another extremely lavish wedding!" If Brad and Jennifer can have one, why can't the girl next door?
But Wilbanks came down to two weeks left, and decided something wasn't right. Of course, I don't know what it was, but I would hope something in her subconscious woke up and said, "Get off the treadmill!" So, and hatched a plot, bought a bus ticket out of town. She would go away from the noise society was leveling on her. She would vanish into the desert, to the city of Albuquerque, and try to think things though. At least that's what I'd like to imagine.
But, unfortunately she had tipped so much she decided to fabricate a kidnapping. A cry for help perhaps? Is this a woman who desperately wants attention? Don't we all? Did she look around and realize that all the steps she was taking were exactly the same steps people everywhere were taking? I think this is a woman who is obviously unhappy, and maybe a little crazy. But she is definitely someone who wants to be affirmed. And what is crazy? Is it more sane to go through the motions, and empty your wallet without question at the alter of the values America has put in front of you. Is it more sane to sacrifice your true needs for what someone else tells you you need? People who hear voices in their heads are said to be crazy. But what are the rest of us really doing?
And so here was a beautiful white woman in white America, ready to realize one of the great American dreams--her wonderful wedding. And what did she do? She got out of line. And this is the reason why we find this so compelling. What, a beautiful white woman is unhappy? This is America, and that is impossible. At first we were worried about her, but now we regard her with ire and suspicion. Maybe all this woman wants is what we all want: something real. Some real meaning. She wants to be listened to. And what did her fiance do? He put that flashy diamond ring back on her finger. It's back to American life, one step at a time.