Monday, September 27, 2010

Sister Wives on TLC

Did you watch it? I haven’t had time yet. If you see it, let me know what you think. The reality show, depicting a polygynous marriage and family, is getting a lot of attention.

Brent Bozell, a media watchdog who is no friend to marriage equality, does not surprise me with his commentary bemoaning that any polygynous family would be allowed to tell their story. If we don’t talk about it, we can pretend that it doesn’t exist, right?

HBO started the normalization of polygamy with its drama "Big Love," but TLC is openly pushing for the walls of judgment to come falling down.

Perhaps they are asking people to take a look and see for themselves, instead of clinging to prejudice? Where is the harm in that?

Its slogan for the show is "Rethink love. Rethink marriage. Rethink family reality."

These families exist. People should rethink things if they've never considered that.

Kody Brown and his wives are in fact "fundamentalist Mormons" who have been political activists to legalize polygamy in Utah.

Good for them.

This isn't the only TLC show to promote the "poly" -- yup, the hip new word -- lifestyle. They also aired a series this summer called "Strange Sex," which also had a plot about "polyamory," which is described as "consensual, responsible non-monogamy."

And that was great of them. He goes off on a tangent, trying to link cheating with poly, before asking…

Where is the market demand for this? What significant segment of the vast American tapestry is being served by this message?

So he would only want people to be allowed to watch programming that presents an idealized, homogenized version of what people think is the majority? Presumably, this would be a show about an unrelated man and a woman who marry as virgins and stay married for the rest of their lives and never fall in love with or have sex with anyone else. Surely, that is a minority of people. But we’ll pretend gay people don’t exist, that poly people don’t exist, that consang people don’t exist, that people don’t have sex outside of marriage, that there’s never any swapping or swinging or cheating or divorce or death and remarriage?

This is Hollywood blazing a trail because it wants to tear down the family, for once and for all.

How is depicting a family tearing down family?

The barrage of libertine entertainment should remind us that it's become countercultural to champion the Judeo-Christian tradition.

I recall much polygyny and consanguineous sex and marriage in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Adam and Eve and their children, the children of Noah, Lot and his daughters, Abraham and his sister/wife, Solomon and his wives, and lots of first cousins. Christian monarchs in the not so distant past had consanguineous marriages.

But let’s get back to the show.

Mary McNamara reviewed it in the Los Angeles Times.

It's the three wives Meri, Janelle and Christine who form the solid center of the family and the show. Pulling teeth and moving armoires, making dinner and picking baby clothes, their bonds appear far stronger and more vital than the casual fondness with which they all treat Kody. All three of the women were raised either in or surrounded by polygamist families (the Browns appear to live, not surprisingly, somewhere in the Salt Lake area) and are tired of hiding or apologizing for a "lifestyle" that allows them more free time and familial support than any non-polygamous marriage.

Janelle and Christine say that it was Meri, Kody's likable, organized and very direct first wife, who drew them to become Browns. Janelle is unapologetically grateful that she can work long hours outside the home, which she enjoys doing, because Christine is happy to take care of the kids. Christine, who's about to give birth to her sixth child, never had any interest at all in being an only wife, or even a second wife. The third wife is emotionally the easiest, she says, adding that during her teen years, "I wanted the sister wives more than the husband."

This is sounding good.

Hank Stuever in the Washinton Post

For anyone who might be championing polygamist rights (is anyone?), the Browns are a public-relations gift from above.

That’s good to read. Maybe this show will make a difference.

The Browns live in a sprawling ranch-style house designed by a "plig" homebuilder: Each mom has a floor and a kitchen. Dad visits each of the marital beds on a scheduled rotation -- and they've all been together going on 20 years.

Why should they be denied the right to marry? They've lasted longer than so many other marriages.

The Browns know that their definition of marriage is difficult to describe to outsiders; yet the outside world cannot help but be curious.

What is so difficult about explaining something that is found throughout history? I think people easily understand the concept. What they don’t understand is how these people can be happy, because prejudice has been institutionalized and most people are taught to believe that something that isn’t monogamous can’t possibly be happy or practical. Maybe more people will come to support this freedom to marry, maybe even full marriage equality, as a result of seeing how it can really be.
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