"Sister Wives" and polyamory's public image
Or so polyamory activists keep saying. Well, a brave family of originalist Mormons has stolen a march on us. For better or for worse, the face of multipartnered families in America is now the Brown family of Lehi, Utah, stars of TLC's reality show "Sister Wives."
These are the people your family, friends, and neighbors will likely think of when you tell them about serious multipartner relationships. And frankly, the Browns are the stellar poster family for their way of life. We should do so well.
The show's final episode at least for this season airs tonight (Sunday October 17th) on TLC at 10 p.m. Eastern Time; check your local listings or the show's schedule on TLC. All the episodes are also running as reruns.
USA Today says about the final episode:
In the finale of TLC's much-talked-about polygamy series Sister Wives, airing Sunday night at 10 p.m., Kody's current three wives help his fianceé Robyn pick a wedding dress, a cake, and a venue for the upcoming wedding. The big day arrives and everyone officially welcomes Robyn and her three children into the Brown family.
But the unusual lifestyle has not come without a price. Wife Meri cried this week as she told Oprah Winfrey that she has lost her job in the "mental health industry" since going public on Sister Wives. And prosecutors in Lehi, Utah, are weighing whether to charge the adults with felony bigamy.
Watch how well the family appeared on Oprah three days ago (video clips and long article).
Here they are appearing on ABC's Good Morning America day before yesterday (video and article).
Commentary from USA Today: "Unfamiliar world of polygamy is opening up in TV shows, films."
Salon covers the show by interviewing Anne Wilde, co-founder of Principle Voices, an effective and attractive advocacy group for the civil rights of polygamists. ("The Principle" is a Mormon term for Joseph Smith's plural-marriage doctrine.)
Google up lots more in the news about the show.
The Brown family is not living as part of the fundamentalist-Mormon FLDS Church famous for its cultish rulers, 19th-century strictures, and flagrant abusiveness. The Browns are among the independent Mormons living in the Mountain West who simply ignored the official end of polygamy decreed by the mainstream Mormon (LDS) Church in 1890. The church changed course as part of its negotiations for the federal government to accept Utah as a state.
Polygamy was revealed as an order from God by the church's founder and Prophet, Joseph Smith. Today's polygamists are "fundamentalists" in that they reject the revised doctrine as a sellout for secular gain, and continue to follow the words of Joseph Smith.
Compared to us polys, Mormon polygamists build their households on an utterly different foundation: Old Testament patriarchy/sexism, religious sex-negativity, a rejection of self-determination (the church determines all private aspects of one's life), and the declarations of a self-interested megalomaniac from the 1830s and 1840s (Smith had hidden the fact of his own multiple women; he issued God's revelation about polygamy only after being outed as a "philanderer").
Nevertheless, as the camera follows Kody, Meri, Christine, Janelle and their children around the home, their daily lives and emotional issues sometimes look eerily like ours.