The MTV poly documentary finally airs (updated)
MTV just aired its much-anticipated "True Life" documentary titled "I'm Polyamorous," which has been in the works since last spring. The 1-hour show (which will be rebroadcast several times in the coming days) is told through the voices of two groups of young polyfolks putting their lives and thoughts on camera.
The show alternates between the two groups' stories. One is told by Kerry, 21, the tentative new girlfriend of young New York lawyer and poly activist Diana Adams. Diana introduces her to the concepts, the problems, the joys, her own main-squeeze boyfriend Ed, and the New York poly crowd. We see Kerry and Diana discussing where this relationship is going, what it means to Ed and vice versa... and talking through the issues when Kerry decides to invite a new boy on a date. Diana was her first lesbian relationship. We see them at their best when they are sitting face to face and working through a difficult topic: Diana's unexpected gut reaction to Kerry joking that if Diana were a guy everything would be perfect and what Diana asks of her to help get through it. Watch carefully; this is how it's done.
Eventually, New Date becomes happily integrated into the whole squiggle and Kerry is at bliss. But read the followup-story screens at the end.
The other group is a triad of cute-as-buttons gay boys in Charlotte, North Carolina... with issues. They're much less experienced or skilled in poly. Jim, Thomas, and Chris fell into a three-way polyfi relationship and moved in together before they knew there was a word for it, or knew that others have navigated and charted these waters. They go out on the town together, shower together, make love all around... and hit a serious crisis in sleeping arrangements. They have two small rooms with two overly-small beds. Jim, a Christian, is perennially left out at bedtime because one of the others has a phobia against sleeping alone and, we're left to guess, the third guy would be jealous if he wasn't the bedmate. Lonely prayerful agony ensues. Jim decides the group needs a fourth to keep him company at night and has a first date with a New Guy in secret. He then brings it up to the others guiltily and awkwardly, saying the three of them need a fourth for balance. Jealous guy erupts.
We see them visiting a counselor, who gives them a Poly 101 lesson on the fallacy of "Relationship in trouble? Add more people." Nevertheless, New Date gamely agrees to befriend the three of them to see how it goes. And go it does. They become comfortable as a group. They buy a copy of The Ethical Slut together and read aloud from it. They four-way kiss. Read the followup screens at the end; no spoiler here from me.
Overall, these are engaging, realistic explorations of joys and rough stretches in poly life as practiced by very attractive young folks. MTV and the people on camera have done the poly world a fine service.
And yet, they do come off kind of superficially. We see the people going to parties, meeting dates, and Talking About Relationships. As my wife Sparkler put it, "They have no jobs? No other interests? Where's their real life?"
I know one or two of the people, and in at least one case they have remarkable jobs and real lives. I wonder: did MTV edit out the boring grown-up stuff? Or was this a risk of making documentarians out of earnest amateurs intent on telling particular stories?
Added later: It turns out that, although the True Life series gives the impression that its subjects are filming and creating their own stories, the producers heavily pressured some of the people in "I'm Polyamorous" to make scenes they did not want to, and they had to resist these pressures hard. So I'm suspicious of how the show was edited after it left their hands. And see Kerry's entry in the Comments below (Comment #3) about their serious stuff being cut out.
UPDATE: The show is now available on MTV's website. Watch it here.
Here is MTV's blogsite for the episode.
Each premiere of a True Life episode draws about 1 million viewers, wrote the Los Angeles Times last year. The number for this airing may have been boosted by it coming on just after a rerun of the Video Music Awards the night before.
Diana and I made videos yesterday addressing those who traffic MTV.com and forwarded them to our personal blogs! They are cute and fun and up to share:
Kerry for MTV
Diana for MTV
For more information on our events and to join the mailing list, visit Diana's website, feministoutlaw.com.
Jim said before the show aired,
MTV is very excited about the episode and this will be a great opportunity for polyamory to be mainstreamed to a lot of people, especially young viewers out there. It's socially taboo to be polyamorous let alone gay, so having done this show I hope we opened at least one person's mind to our choice of lifestyle.
Here's a link for the facebook event for the show.
I actually updated my network links:
In addition, Jim and his triad were profiled very nicely this same evening by their local Fox affiliate in Charlotte (WCCB-TV, Channel 10):
What is Polyamory?
By Morgan Fogarty
CHARLOTTE, NC It's being called the next sexual revolution! Polyamory: it's the act of having more than one committed lover. It's different from swinging, and it's not religion driven like polygamy. And, as the young men you're about to meet explain, it might be a non-traditional relationship, but they say it works for them.
Read the article and watch the broadcast (2 minutes; Sept. 14, 2009).
Interestingly, as the news announcer says, even though North Carolina is part of the Bible Belt, the strongest negative reactions that this newly visible triad are getting have come from the gay community. Some of whom seem to really resent out gays who don't behave Just Like Normal People.
And sure enough, the first comment to the TV station's article is from someone who's angry that a "trouple" represents Charlotte gays badly.
Also: here's a long profile of the group in QNotes, with a link to an audio interview.