"Sister Wives": polygamy reality show premiers tonight
You know how TV networks copy each other. So when HBO's "Big Love" (a fictional series about a Mormon polygamist family in modern-day Utah) became a success, you knew more was coming.
Here it is. Tonight TLC begins a reality-show series called "Sister Wives" about an actual fundamentalist Mormon family in modern-day Utah, in which one man and three wives are about to add a fourth wife. From the Huffington Post's entertainment editor:
"Sister Wives": TLC's Polygamist Family Asks Us To "Rethink Marriage"
By Katy Hall
Kody Brown married his first wife, Meri, 20 years ago. Three years later he married Janelle, and a year after that he married Christine.
"I just fell in love. Then I fell in love again, and I fell in love again," he says in the opening episode of "Sister Wives," TLC's latest reality series about an excessively large family. This one is set in Utah with a polygamist twist.
The Browns and their 12 children are Fundamentalist Mormons, and their faith, as Kody says, likes to "reward good behavior." Why stop with one good marriage when you could have four? (Kody is courting a fourth wife, whose assimilation into the tight-knit circle of sister wives provides the only conflict in a family that keeps reminding us how happy they are.)
"I never wanted to just be married to a man," says Christine, who is pregnant with Kody's 13th child. She's glad to be his third wife because she never wanted to be alone with a husband, and the third wife balances out the tension between the first two.
"I always wanted sister wives," she says. "There's too many things I wanted to do, to be free for."
Indeed the sister wives work together to raise their plucky children and attend to Kody's sexual needs. The show doesn't waste any time getting to the bedroom dynamics, which are really why viewers are here. Kody is on a rotating schedule of conjugal visits, and the wives make it clear they are not into group sex....
It's okay until Kody begins courting Robyn, a 30-year-old divorcee with three kids who is slim and pretty and brunette and the new hand-holding partner he hasn't had in 16 years....
The Browns have kept their lifestyle an open secret until now, so the show is a coming-out party as well as a much-needed paycheck for the growing family....
Read the whole article, with pictures and video (Sept. 23, 2010).
Watch the riveting introductory videos on TLC's Sister Wives site. Anything look familiar?
Good summary/review on Tubular.
At the New York Daily News: 'Sister Wives,' '19th Wife' and 'Big Love' usher in wave of polygamy programming.
Here's heaps more recent news about "Sister Wives."
By coincidence, I have Mormon ancestry on my mother's side (her generation broke from the church). We have copies of ancestors' journals from the wagon-train days and the settlement of Utah1. You may rightly wonder why today, 120 years after the mainstream LDS Church renounced polygamy (as a condition for Utah joining the union), polygamy is still what leaps to most people's minds when you mention Mormonism. Two reasons:
1) The most obvious is that some tens of thousands of "breakaway" Mormons in various sects have continued polygamy ("Celestial Marriage") in Utah and environs, as proclaimed by Mormonism's founder and prophet Joseph Smith. The largest of these, the Fundamentalist LDS Church, makes the news for its cult-like abuses and restrictive, 19th-century lifestyle. But many other "pligs" (a Utah insult) quietly live modern lives as portrayed in "Big Love."
2) The mainstream LDS Church abolished polygamy only in this life. The church doesn't talk about it, but good Mormon men still marry three wives in the next life. I remember a discussion I had with a teenage girl, a good LDS churchgoer, who was deeply upset that she would have to share a husband with other wives after she died. She didn't think she could handle it, but she was told that's just the way it is. Although you don't hear much about this, it's on the minds of fully-informed LDS Church members today, and somehow this preoccupation seems to seep out to the wider culture.
Update, Sept. 28: In the family's hometown of Lehi, Utah, local police have taken notice of the show: Police investigate US plural family for bigamy. In Utah you're guilty of bigamy (literally, "two marriages") if you merely live together with another person not your spouse. In other states, bigamy refers to an actual second marriage without the first one being nullified.
The Utah attorney general's office has investigated the state's secretive polygamous communities, but focused its efforts on cases involving allegations of abuse, sexual assault and fraud, not bigamy.
"It has been our office's position not to pursue cases of bigamy between consenting adults," the attorney general's spokesman, Scott Troxel, said Tuesday. "We want to use our resources wisely."
1 My mother, now 91, recalls visiting a great-uncle as a little girl out west where an awful lot of "aunts" lived in the house: Aunt Inger, Aunt Helen.... At another great-uncle's farm, she says, the wife who ran the place most of the time always spoke resentfully about the other wife who got to live in town "in a brick house with curtains."
My mom spent part of her childhood on a sheep ranch near Lava Hot Springs in southern Idaho, north of Salt Lake City, where a lot of single ranch hands lived their lives in an all-male bunkhouse and crammed the kitchen area for meals. Only later did it dawn on her that these might have been the excess men left over after the area's high-status men claimed all the women.