"Showtime’s Polyamory Is Trashy, Profound and the Best Reality Show on TV"
This review, written by an outsider to poly on an important website covering the media industry, illustrates the power of the Showtime series (which just aired its third episode) to put our concepts into mainstream play.
Showtime’s Polyamory Is Trashy, Profound and the Best Reality Show on TV
By Rich Juzwiak
Just as the concept of polyamory is many things to many people, so is Showtime's current series Polyamory: Married & Dating. It's alternately hilarious, shocking, poignant, titillating and cringe-inducing. But it's also important.
...It works not just as the freak show that we've come to expect from reality TV, but also on a political level. The slippery slope anti-equality argument stating that if gays are allowed to marry, then soon we'll have to allow multiple partners to as well, is bullshit not just for side-stepping the issue.... There is no legitimate ethical argument against the kind of configurations you see presented on Polyamory. If you don't want polyamory, stay out of a triad. Simple.
...The lives portrayed here are perfectly suited for the format. Reality TV typically forces its participants to examine themselves closely.... At the very least, [they] are made to sit through marathon interviews picking apart the nuances of their behavior and its motivation. Never have I seen a situation that naturally fits this format as well as that of Showtime's currently airing. As Tahl explains in the video above, "Jen and I have our rules. Mike and Kamala have their rules, but now not only are you just bringing two couples together – it's a four-way dynamic. And so, it makes it more complicated." With their intricate configuration, these people would have to openly and routinely examine their and their partners' emotional situations, with or without cameras pointed at them. The show was already going on.
The emotional articulation of the four described people makes for riveting viewing – not since the early days of The Real World have I been so obsessed with watching people sit around and babble about themselves and their lives, nor have I so deeply lamented that they only do it for 30 minutes once a week. Their self-consumption is infectious.
Keeping track of the rules makes this non-competition series something of a game. As it unfurls steadily, slowly revealing new offshoot scenarios that can affect or avoid the central relationship dynamic, Polyamory builds intrigue.... At one point, when Kamala is riding Tahl, she asks, "Do you need me to slow down, Jen?" Jen responds, "Um," and then murmurs yes, spoiling the entire point of everything.
...You could create a drinking game... from just taking a shot every time someone says something that was spawned from, and exists only in, this universe (Kamala: "When Michael said that I was acting monogamous, I was like, who are you talking about? I'm the queen of poly. Who are you calling mono?"). Even better is the poly lingo. The male-female-female thruple of Anthony, Lindsay (a married couple) and Vanessa (their girlfriend) regularly say things like "honoring the function of the triad" and "new relationship energy" and, "I think you can be grateful about this pain."
...While the show illustrates the emotional complications and possible turmoil that result from loving more than one person, it humanizes those involved to a degree that we've never seen. It is at once a cautionary tale and an argument for the freedom to participate in these kinds of living/loving situations. As such, it is as complicated, strange, hilarious and involving as these situations clearly are themselves.
Read the whole review (July 26, 2012).
Go to the review and play the new 2-minute video there, from which the frame above is taken. It shows the quad having a serious poly relationship-agreement discussion out on their patio. No wonder the reviewer's mind was blown. For the first time, right on TV, it's showing the world how people can actually do this thing.
By the way, Episode 3 last night seemed to me a bit flat. We see lots of processing and relationship check-ins among each of the two family groups, without much dramatic arc of buildup and release across the show's half hour. Viewers may wonder, do polys spend all their time talking about relationships? (When they're not having sex?) (Answer: probably more than most.)
Poly lists are having some heated discussions about whether the show represents us poorly by displaying too much drama and imperfection. Come on, people. A good show is about storytelling. That means at least some conflict, drama, and resolution, as storytellers have known since Homer. Gossip had it that the (mild) drama in Kamala's family over her not wanting to share Roxanne was deliberately exaggerated in order to meet the storytelling needs of the show; else where would be the story? (Update: Director/producer Natalia Garcia, who was there, tells us that the situation was very real and nothing was made more dramatic.)
I come away from Episode 3 confirmed in thinking that the show is a much bigger plus for us than a minus. But this is irrelevant we can't dictate how the media treat us, we have no right to, and the horse is already out of the barn. I hope our movement is secure enough to grasp this. What we can do is do our own parts to represent ourselves well and try to influence portrayals of us favorably respecting that the media's interests don't always align with ours and that this is as it should be. It's their job to do their own job.
Which brings up a practical issue. Who will be on Season 2, if Polyamory: Married & Dating is renewed? The producers will probably want to introduce new characters. Could this be you?
If you decide you'd like to try out, I strongly recommend that your first move be to contact Joreth of the Polyamory Media Association for some background realities, coaching, and advice.