Misunderstood Monsters | How Tiffany in ‘Bride of Chucky’ Reminds Us to Set Ourselves Free
By Matt Konopka
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Welcome fellow monster kids to Misunderstood Monsters. This is where I, Matt Konopka, sink my fangs into all sorts of beasts, ghouls, and creatures from above while I search for the humanity behind their frightening exteriors. From monster favorites such as The Wolf Man to obscure monsters like the whistling Shadmock, there is more to these fiends than bad hair days and gooey tentacles. Within them all is a piece of ourselves.
“My mother always said love was supposed to set you free.”
Cue the collective groans.
Every Valentine’s Day we’re assaulted with pink hearts, red roses, and creepy baby Cupids armed with love-coated arrows. Department stores transform into brick-and-mortar Hallmark cards. Yet despite the shoving of love down our throats by Big Greeting Cards every February, love can be magical. Having been with my goddess of a wife for ten years, I can admit it does set you free…when it’s real. Otherwise, love becomes a trap more difficult to escape than anything Jigsaw ever devised. Just ask Bride of Chucky’s Tiffany (Jennifer Tilly).
With Chucky dead and buried since meeting his greatest fan in Child’s Play 3, Universal paired hot new director Ronny Yu with series creator Don Mancini for the task of resurrecting the king of killer dolls, Chucky (Brad Dourif). Enter Bride of Chucky, a fresh new take on the series that saw the not-so-great Good Guy brought back to life by his ex-girlfriend, Tiffany. Upon realizing Chucky doesn’t reciprocate her un-bride-led love, she turns on him, resulting in her death by his rubber hands. Unwilling to just let her go, Chucky plants Tiff’s soul in the body of a doll, forcing her to help in his quest to become human again so that she can return to flesh and blood as well.
Nestled in Bride of Chucky’s black, plastic heart is a cutthroat tale of toxic love weaponized at the expense of the film’s lovesick villainess.
In Tiff, we observe what it means to be utterly sick in love. Ten years, Chucky’s been gone. Ten years, she’s saved herself for him. To get in bed with her means a ménage à trois with Chucky (as Tiff’s boy toy, Damien, played by Alexis Arquette, learns the hard way). “I’ll kill anybody, but I’ll only sleep with somebody I love.” Romance holds more value to Tiff than life itself. Her introduction set to Rob Zombie’s “Living Dead Girl” tells us everything. Since Chucky’s disappearance, Tiff hasn’t actually lived. All she’s done is pine for the man/doll who has left her in a void of despair. Through her, Bride of Chucky guts the idea of “true love,” holds up its slippery intestines, and exposes the danger of falling for someone when blindfolded.
As is often the case with an emotionally abusive relationship, Tiff isn’t to blame here. She’s the victim of a society that has raised her to believe in true love at any cost, and that even the froggiest of men can be transformed into a prince by a simple kiss. Production designer Alicia Keywan grants the audience insight into a woman imprisoned by these misguided beliefs. Adorning Tiff’s cramped trailer are baby dolls of all shapes and sizes. She’s been led to assume her only purpose is motherhood and servitude to the man of her dreams. Yet décor shaded in somber blues and the webbing hanging off the chandelier in her bedroom speak to a subconscious understanding that she’s caught in a web of sad naivety. Tiff’s trailer is a tomb for the life she could’ve had, her bedroom the place she has become ensnared, waiting…and waiting…and waiting for Chucky’s return.
Chucky’s treatment of Tiff brings all of those memories of manipulative partners you or I may have endured surging forth like a geyser of blood. He laughs in her face when she brings up the ring she thought he left behind for her. He insults her intelligence. He does what every rubber-spined man does when he doesn’t return his partner’s love but is afraid to be without them: he turns Tiff into an object. A literal doll. The film strikes a relatable chord here because despite being a prisoner of her love — a Chucky tattoo over her heart and everything — Tiff snatches back her agency and turns on the little bastard before the first act is over. Even then, she knows he doesn’t deserve her Swedish meatballs. But damnit, that first breakup is hardly ever the last in these cases, isn’t it? Like Bride of Frankenstein’s Bride, she’s dragged kicking and screaming — mostly screaming — back into the arms of Chucky.
The horror of Bride of Chucky isn’t killer dolls, but the idea of being trapped in a relationship out of necessity, manipulation, or both. I’ve had partners who convinced me that I needed them as some sort of cruel way to hang on. Cutting the rope of that connection feels like diving over a cliff with no sense of what’s below or how long you’ll fall. Chucky only changes Tiffany into a doll so that she needs his help, another way of using that classic manipulative line, “no one will love you like I do.” Murdered by way of bathtub electrocution is nothing. Being forced to need Chucky afterward is Tiff’s true death. Cunning, cutthroat, and completely irresistible (Tilly is a queen), Tiff is a fully capable woman who doesn’t need anyone. Partners like Chucky try to make us forget that.
Mancini’s script isn’t a tribute to love but a dissection of the awful way in which people convince us we’re nothing without it. Outside of the toxicity of Chucky and Tiffany, our human couple Jade (Katherine Heigl) and Jesse (Nick Stabile) consistently force their love on each other in a harmful manner, most notably by getting hitched while suspecting each other of multiple murders. Who does that!? There’s nothing joyful about the act. Instead, it’s cut together with a murder as the words “till death do you part” are ominously spoken. Trust is the foundation of love, and neither trusts the other. In Bride of Chucky, marriage is only a lock without a key when it isn’t done for the right reasons. Jade and Jesse. Chucky and Tiff. Both are a before and after picture of becoming love’s prisoner. Only during that finale in the graveyard does it finally hit Tiff like a shovel to the face. “We belong dead,” she whispers to Chucky. Not just a reference to Bride of Frankenstein or a stone-cold one-liner, standing in defiance, her hair blowing in the somber wind, those words are Tiff’s admission that her relationship with Chucky will never work. It has to die if she ever hopes to have peace.
Tiff and Bride of Chucky cut open the heart of toxic love as a bloody reminder that we don’t need anyone who attempts to tell us otherwise. Marriage doesn’t erase that toxicity. And having a baby as an attempt to “save” a relationship is destined for nightmarish results. We should never be our partner’s plastic plaything, not even for the Heart of Damballa. 🩸
Matt is a writer and wannabe werewolf who began his love of horror at the ripe old age of 3 with Carpenter’s Christine. He has a horror podcast called Killer Horror Critic which he does with his wonderful wife and has previously been published on Bloody Disgusting, Shudder’s The Bite, and Daily Grindhouse. You can also find more of his reviews and ramblings at his blog, KillerHorrorCritic.com.
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