"I Love You. And You. And You."
On July 26th, England's Channel 4 aired a one-hour poly documentary: "I Love You. And You. And You" (executive producer Mark Soldinger, producer/director Liz Friend, production company Firecracker Films). The show is not available outside the UK even on the internet.
Among the British polys who saw it, it was controversial, and the whole affair sparked intense discussion (see the Comments section below). The show turned out to be part of Channel 4's sleaze-oriented "Tainted Love" series even though the film crew said, when one poly family asked directly if they were filming for this unsavory series, that they weren't.
First off, here's a review of the show from the Times of London the next morning (July 27):
A society that encourages us to want more and more might also explain a new wrinkle in the sexual revolution polyamory, in which adults commit to more than one long-term relationship. Liz Friend’s I Love You. And You. And You (Channel 4) followed two polyamorous households in Seattle: Terisa and her two live-in boyfriends; and Jerome with his wife, two daughters and two mistresses living under the same roof. No wonder the screen kept splitting like the opening credits of The Brady Bunch. It became clear that this “ethical non-monogamy” (do Americans have legitimising terms for everything?) requires at least as many “boundaries” and rules as monogamous relationships.
At first those interviewed had the confident air of mountaineers and mathematicians who had made something complicated and scary seem simple and safe, but it soon became clear that nothing was straightforward. Terisa developed a rictus grin when one of her lovers found a possible second girlfriend. When Terisa invited her to a dinner party, she turned up with her ex-husband. We had the makings of a French sex comedy.
Jerome, a self-confessed “alpha male” who indulged in mock battles at the weekends, needed to schedule his private life much like Bill Paxton in Five’s Mormon drama Big Love. Indeed, Jerome seemed more like a polygamist as he denied his lovers other relationships while trying to hide his lifestyle from his children by making sure only his wife the “primary partner” was seen in his bed in the morning. As the radio alarm went off and two women tumbled out of his bedroom to retreat to the living room, Sonny and Cher were heard singing I Got You Babe. You were left wondering what self-esteem issues these women had.
Although Friend’s documentary asked pertinent questions, such as the effect on Jerome’s children (they regarded one of daddy’s lovers as the babysitter), it descended into a less satisfying random collection of testimonies from polyamorous “families” at some unexplained festival or summer camp. “Monogamy is so unnatural,” insisted one woman. But that’s what you expect someone to say who wears a T-shirt with the legend “Abstinence sucks”.
Okayyy.... And here is what one of the first commenters who saw the show writes to us:
I have to say the London Times review was not far off the mark. The show did start off with brief clips of lots of lovely people at the PolyCamp explaining what polyamory meant for them. It then followed Terisa and her two boyfriends, I think it was Scott and Doug, and their relationship for a few months. Things did get kinda strange when Doug (I think it was) wanted to get to know another woman. He brought her to the house to meet for their first date, and the poor woman was met by Doug, two dogs and Terisa... It did seem that the poor woman had been dropped somewhat in the deep end of it all and didn't like what she saw.
Don't get me started on the second family (Jerome, Francisca, Angel and Linda). It started with an introduction to them all and saying that Linda was the newest member to the family as she has only known Jerome a few months. Cut to a scene of family life with all the partners in bed with him in the middle, the alarm goes off, and Linda and Angel get out of bed. I'm thinking yeah, OK, so they gotta go to work early maybe? No; they are getting out of bed to go sleep downstairs on the couch and floor so the kids don't find out mommy and daddy have two other people in bed.
Fair enough, I suppose, if you don't want your kids finding out, but then they LIE to the kids. Daddy's first girlfriend, Angel, is known as *the babysitter*, and Linda, daddy's newest girlfriend, doesn't figure to the kids. There are *rules* that nobody apart from Francisca (the wife) is allowed to show him affection beyond a kiss on the cheek in front of the kids.
When Jerome wants *alone time* with one of the women, the other two wait downstairs to be called up! When the interviewer challenged him about the fact that none of the women are allowed relationships with other people, and that's a bit more like polygamy, his face went all strange too....
[Their whole situation] seemed a bit strained, to be honest. I wound up wondering what exactly these women get from being with an ego freak like him?
--Jenni (a.k.a. Ssshh on LiveJournal's Polyamory community)
Folks, one lesson here is that we need more good, healthy poly families willing to do media appearances, so that when reporters and producers come beating the bushes for polyfolks to interview and this is going to happen more and more they'll have a better chance of finding good representative people to represent us.
Second: research who you are talking to. Most media outfits are responsible and professional. Some are not. There are knowledgeable people in the poly and sexual-minority communities to ask for advice on this (start by asking here). If you want to go public, there are a couple of Yahoo groups that serve as poly speakers bureaus, more or less; contact me for information: alan7388 [at] comcast [dot] net .
To the above comments, glossolalia remarks:
I noticed your comments about "adjusted" poly families being willing to be interviewed by the media. The thing is, I am part of a triad that was also taped for the documentary, but we are so boringly free of potential drama, I don't think they found us interesting enough. We've been together for six years, have a toddler and a baby (our youngest had just come home from hospital when we were filmed), and the one secondary relationship that one of us has, is a long-term one. Not a lot of drama to catch the eye/imagination there. ;-)
Not all opinions of the show are negative. See the discussion on LiveJournal/Polyamory_uk.
Jerome himself, the "alpha male" in the second family, has written in to explain himself and his family. See comments number 5 and 16 by clicking "comments" below.
A particularly long, detailed, and insightful description of the show -- placing it in its context in the "Tainted Love" series -- came in from Emilie a week later; see comment number 17 by clicking "comments" below.
As for the show itself: If your computer's IP address is in the UK, you can register to watch Channel 4 and its archives online.
Update: As of 2013 you can watch the show on Vimeo worldwide. Or on YouTube. As of 2012 it was still occasionally being rebroadcast in British Commonwealth countries.
While the guy-with-three-women did come across as a bit self-centred, he still was NOT made to look like a total asshole (which is to say, they could have played things up much worse!), and pretty much everybody seemed fairly happy.
I think we all know plenty of people who DO have that sort of "my women can have other women but not other men" relationship guideline...
The pre-reviews were very negative, but I think this is just because the previewers were completely freaked out by the whole thing and were WATCHING for any sign they could possibly interpret as discomfort with the situation. (The Radio Times blurb was positively gleeful about 'watching the layers unpeel to see the horrible insecurity underneath' or something like that)
I went into the program worried it was going to be scathing, but it really wasn't. The people they showed were not Perfect Examples Of Perfect Poly but who IS? And the show did make the point that everybody does poly differently, which is an important point to make.
It would have been nice to spend a little more time describing the dynamics of some other setups, but really, I think it was a quite polite program.
We were also taped, but didn't end up in the final cut. I think we were a bit too boring, quite frankly. We warned them about that. ;-) We're just three middle-class people who are raising our two small daughters, making mortgage payments, and are not involved with a lot of dramatics. The one "outside" relationship that one of us has, pre-dates the birth of our first daughter, so we're all well-established, and look awfully darn "normal", I think.
Still, I am glad to have had the opportunity.
Two poly families were interviewed in Seattle, USA, snippets were used from various poly folks at a poly camp and a few older UK couples looking confused by it on a sofa in a shopping centre. They mentioned an annual polyday in UK and claimed 200 poly families in Britain. This did frame it as a weird US thing but gives interested UK people a word to look for online which should help them find poly community. I hope the on-line discussion in mainstream fora will help us put our views across in more detail.
One of the difficulties for me was viewing the context of the interviews - if they were UK I'd have a better handle on class / wealth from their surroundings and perhaps speech patterns. Watching with a US partner helped. One family was a woman and two geek boyfriends in a big house, the other was a man with several female partners in a much smaller place with a couple of kids and their work wasn't mentioned. The poly camp looked somewhat hippie like although the main interviewees didn't to me.
I'm yet again finding it hard to know where a reasonable balance is between not hiding parts of our communities and giving an honest warts-n-all view of poly and how to be clear about core poly discussion separated from issues of bisexuality, BDSM, newage etc.
There were a few questions asked by the film crew off screen. I thought these represented the sorts of questions viewers might ask. Overall there was little comment from the makers and more allowing the interviewees to speak. My usual answer is to have more media coverage to give space to express the diversity.
The first family showed some discomfort non-verbally and the Times Online review picked up on that. They seemed mature enough to me to deal with that and had what seemed like a loose V with big connections to career and time alone. One of the men seemed less than content with not getting sex from a new date and I wondered what relationship dynamic that showed from his current setup.
The second family I was trying to work out if they were in a BDSM Dom/sub setup or in a very patriarchal bordering on coercive group. They didn't have visible SM imagery around but they wouldn't necessarily because of the kids or film crews. They didn't use BDSM speak - mentioning the word "consent" would have helped - so my guess is towards a relationship style I think could be harmful. One of the women was 18 when she got involved and another had had previously been badly treated by other men and so found this one perhaps safer but not happy. With several women there with the "alpha male" I hope they would be able to avoid isolation and be able to leave if they decided they weren't being treated in the way they would like to be. Protecting the kids from the nature of the poly relationship is a discussion point for poly parents I guess but it seemed a little nieve of them to worry about child protection finding out and then make a TV documentary - even if it may not show in US.
Overall - the programme did show a little of the range of poly relationships and some of the complexities and I hope interested UK people will know they are not the only ones and will be able to make contact with some fledgling UK community.
Actually, several families were interviewed in the Seattle area. They only showed two of them in the documentary---and it's beginning to sound like they used the two where there was some potential conflict, since that's more interesting.
I'll try and keep this short and sweet.... I, Jerome, was apart of one of the families that was documented. I will try and answer questions as best I can (while trying to keep this short- and have yet to see the program):
1- As for the "Guy being with women or building a harem thing". Actually, I ended up in this poly lifestyle because my wife is bisexual. We bagan to discuss if another partner was acceptable in our relationship. She wanted something I couldn't give her (basically female companionship). I agreed as long as I could share the partner (after all I wanted an EQUAL triad). Now for some, a whole "poly web" thing works, but for us, we agreed that we would not extend beyond 3 ppl. Being "poly" is about relationships, not "SEX" as many ppl have the perspective of. And many ppl have the view of our relationship as "unfair" because I am with another woman and my wife isn't with another man. What a heterosexual and homophobic view eh? If I mentioned that my wife was with another woman and I was with a man- then ppl would see it as "fair". But because we are interested in the same gender, then I am seen as unfair. Ppl don't think to the point that we are both getting our needs met in the same way (love, intimacy, etc). So, how did I end up in a "quad"? Because Angel was apart of our first attempt at a "triad". My wife decided that she wasn't into Angel intimately and when I asked what I should do about the relationship (call it off, continue, etc- My wife has always had that ultimate authority), Francisca said to keep Angel. So, only by her graciousness, I am with Angel. But that left a "hole" in our triad ideal. And hence we looked for a partner to complete that dream. Along comes Linda and now our triad is complete. We are in a "closed quad" (meaning no more partners- it would have been that way in the first triad if Angel had worked out) and are all fine with that as it fits what we all wanted. So, no, to the dismay of everyone that wants to take the view that is out there apparently, I have no dreams of "subjegating" my women, nor any thoughts of building a "saraglio" to be centered all around my ego.
2- As for the children situation... We have remained private about the lifestyle in front of them due to worrying about "losing" them due to public and legal views. If it was socially acceptable and there was no risk to my family or children, I would be completely open with them. We just worry that something, innocently mentioned, at school would bring down an misunderstanding law on us. We believe that we will introduce our children slowly to our lifestyle. Not only that, but we didn't want to make anything big about Linda at the time as she was just too new to the family and we weren't sure she would be around for the long run. We believe our children need stability and when families get children attached to every partner that comes and goes we don't see this as good for their emotional stability. As an update, since the documentary- Angel and Linda are now in the beds in the morning (for about 5 months now), but affection is not made a big deal on front of the children still....
As a result of this documentary, I know that many who do not know our situation personally will see only what's been presented (good or bad). Many will hate me, some will understand. We are who we are (happy, stable- with Francisca for 9 years/Angel for 4 years/and Linda for 2), and always learning and growing. And no, we are not the "perfect poly family", but please who is? If you are perfect, please raise your hand so that everyone knows what a perfect poly person is.... thanks for your time readers and viewers.
Oh yeah, and PS- I've been poly for like 8 years and have only been doing my "mock battles" for 2 (tee hee...).
Thankyou, Jerome, for that background; I guess it just shows how selective tv production companies are in creating something to push their pre-decided POV and create something they reckon they can sell to broadcasters. It also explains one brief voice-ovre statement when the four of you were *first* introduced to viewers Linda was titled "is Francisca's girlfriend". But that slight note of bisexuality was never mentioned again (that I was aware of).
My best wishes to the four of you and, indeed, to all who took part in the 'documentary'.
As someone aquainted with Jermome and his family I am a little suprised by the apparent disapproval aimed toward their arrangement. Although not polyamorous myself I understand the dynamics of their relations. What I could see of the film seems to depict Jerome as an Alpha surrounding himself with sex, and seems to imply a lack of respect for women. Yes, Jerome has an extroverted personality but he has never shown a tendancy toward being controlling. Francesca, Angel and Linda each have independent social lives which Jerome not only accepts but encourages. Each member of the family even goes so far as to aquaint themselves with (not attempt to fully integrate with) each others' friends in order to encourage a complete and healthy social environment. That is how I got to know them, being a friend of the sweet and caring Angel. As I have observed both Jerome and Francesca are Alpha each with their respective seconds, rather different than it appears in the previews or in the comments. Last, Respect is an underlying and paramount ideal of Polyamory, Jerome has always displayed to me a clear respect for all women, not only the ones he loves.
As one of those women that is acquainted with that family, I concur about the respect that Jerome shows. They are all thoughtful, intelligent people.
I'm angry and disappointed that somebody decided to play editing games to make the family look like something they are not. The voice-over had a sarcastic tone, and was very misleading.
Psht. Jerome *is* a total asshole, that's why he's my friend. If you define asshole as very blunt and very honest regardless of anybody's feelings, that is. And sure he has an ego, but from what I've heard it's not undeserved ;).
I just wanted to pop in with my own "you just saw a documentary that showed a brief moment of their lives what the fuck do you know about them and their history?"
I don't call that an "asshole". I call that "refreshingly honest", which is why I like Jerome.
I think of an "asshole" as somebody who never thinks about anybody but themselves, which, from what I've seen, he's definitely not.
From my own counting, every comment I've seen about the show has been negative, apart from comments made by those who know the people in the show - and the one Grant repeated above.
I, personally, felt very uncomfortable watching it - and feel it represented polyamory very poorly. It felt like a "come watch the freaks" show. Several people I know have said that show has made it significantly harder for them to come out as poly to family and friends.
The fact that it is part of Channel 4's "Tainted Love" series - which also contains a show about The Swinger murder, and what has been trailered as a sensational show about a polygamy cult - suggests that the show was indeed edited to present a negative slant.
Hopefully those involved will be able to see the show for themselves.
> Jerome *is* a total asshole, that's why he's
> my friend. If you define asshole as very
> blunt and very honest regardless of anybody's
> feelings, that is.
I don't know any of the people involved. But "blunt and very honest regardless of anybody's feelings" is a euphemism for "tactless" -- which is defined as, not caring what impression you make.
Whenever a person who doesn't care what impression they make goes on camera, they are *certain* to make a bad impression on viewers. (Regardless of the editing job.) And in a case like this, all the rest of us have our lives made more difficult as a result.
No matter what fine characteristics such a person has in his private life, he should be strongly encouraged not to go on camera and represent the rest of us badly -- as clearly happened here.
Having *not* seen the show in question I don't know how *any* of my friends were presented. Jerome may be very blunt and very honest regardless of anybody's feelings, but he's just as honest about himself. How that's a bad thing I don't know. If someone soundclipped him into oblivion they could have done the same to *anyone*.
My family was one of those the film crew followed for several days, but they chose not to use our footage -- probably because we seem so normal. When I researched Firecracker Films before we agreed to be filmed, I found out about the "Tainted Love" series Channel 4 was commissioning (then called "the dark side of modern love") and specifically asked them if this documentary was part of that series.
They said no. Obviously, they lied.
Which makes me very reluctant to again consider participating in anything like this that *isn't* coming from within the poly community (like, say, When Two Won't Do)
I'd be a little less willing to "blame the victim" here, since it's pretty obvious that Firecracker consciously played down the bisexuality and mutuality of the relationships between the women in this quad; instead opting to make the situation look like a militaristic dom with a stable of submissives. This could only have been done with INTENT, since the public and obvious reality of that family is quite different to anybody who meets them for a few minutes.
Jerome didn't fuck anything up for poly people. Firecracker Films did that when they chose to misrepresent the intent of their documentary, and played editing games to achieve that goal. Additional proof is the fact that they only used families they could spin negatively. Where people fucked up was in trusting Firecracker to tell them the truth in the first place.
Jerome here again....
Holy cow ppl!!! I know that many ppl are angry at what the production company did. Believe me, we are definitely the most aware of it. My biggest disappointment is that they deceived us into believing that it was a program about "showing how polyamoury can work" despite what critics would say and Liz even mentioned that they interviewed a priest/preacher (?) that was claiming that it couldn't work and that they (Firecracker Films) wanted to show that in a world where divorce rates are so high, that a "poly" lifestyle could work for some and they wanted to show families that were working. Anyway, I wrote a big apology letter to my local community in the sense that I felt bad that we may have set back anything that the poly community may be trying to go forward with. Even so, we've received tons of support about how it wasn't our fault- but like was said earlier in these postings- I am at fault for being naive to how the media works and for being too trusting. But understand too ppl- that if Firecracker Films had just walked into our world and said "Hey we're looking for volunteers to help us make polyamoury horrible and we want to make you look like an ass while your family will look horrible as well", I don't think they would have sold their schpiel to anyone. So, they had to do what they did, to achieve their end (as unethical as it may be- boy I hope that money smells good). Anyway, I'm angry too and sad that I let down my community, but I hope that the world can open their eyes beyond this (as well as others in our community) and see that polyamoury is something that can be beautiful and respectful.
It's taken me a while to collect my thoughts on the documentary. So I'll just jump right in.
Channel 4's documentary "I love you. And you. And you" was aired last Wednesday as part of a series they're calling the "Tainted Love Season". The first program in the series, "The Man with 80 Wives", focused on the leader of a polygamist sect in Utah wanted by the FBI for multiple allegations of child sexual abuse made by one of his nephews. That program was an undeniably negative portrayal of a manipulative criminal using his religious influence to amass millions of dollars and wield power within his community. Tomorrow night's program is called "A Swinging Murder" and is billed as "Unravelling the true-life murder mystery of what happens when experimental sex goes too far." and the show's synopsis runs as follows: "In February 2005, a woman's body was found in the boot of a car. She had been kidnapped, brutally attacked and strangled.... It's a story of one man's sex addiction: a husband who led his wife, his lover and others into the seedy world of internet sex, wife swapping and swinging.... A Swinging Murder unravels the real true murder mystery of what happens when experimental sex goes too far."
Since it was sandwiched between these, I didn't have high hopes that "I love you. And you. And you." would be the overwhelmingly positive account of polyamory that I think others were expecting. Keep in mind that British TV, and Channel 4 especially, do not tend to be as judgmental and biased as American TV, however, and I would not want to give the impression that Channel 4 is running 3 weeks of programmes to tell us why we should all be monogamous and vanilla in bed. I think this is largely a response to Channel 5's current schedule which includes the HBO drama about a polygamous family, "Big Love". The added interest in polygamy and relationship issues probably sparked 4's documentaries.
That being said, I braced myself for a serious condemnation of polyamory and while I wasn't pleasantly surprised, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.
The show chose to focus on two poly families over a period of several months. On the one hand was Teresa, a young internet tycoon, and her two boyfriends Scott and Larry. On the other hand there was Jerome and his wife Francisca and his two girlfriends Angel and Linda. While Teresa and Larry seemed alright at first, the show seemed to focus primarily on Teresa's insecurities (all the while protesting that she didn't have any) -- and a particularly uncomfortable scene with Scott which saw him say "I don't care what a woman's ulterior motives are as long as she has sex with me", and saw Teresa respond with "See, that's something Larry and I just couldn't do. We're much more emotional. The sex is just bonus to us. It's not really about the sex. We think kissing and cuddilng is much more fun. That's why we connect so well. We have such a great connection. We can talk about anything for hours and I always want to hear what he has to say because he's just so bright and can talk so well on a number of topics."
Teresa often seemed to use emotional blackmail or emotional ammunition to get what she wanted or let her feelings be known, and it was clear that Scott was feeling very left out while Larry wasn't, probably because of Teresa's constant reminders that she and Larry got on so much better and had such a much better connection than her and Scott. It wasn't a fully functioning poly relationship as I understand it, and I feel Channel4 could have done better in selecting poly families (several of whom I know) who not only function well but show just how successful and loving a poly relationship can be.
It did show a successful family in that they seemed relatively happy and were still together after a number of years, but it also showed that for some members of the family at least, happiness wasn't what it could be, and that there were some serious unfulfilled emotional needs and unaddressed issues. While most relationships don't stand up to scrutiny of this magnitude I felt that in light of the other couple they chose to illustrate the concept of polyamory, this wasn't the right choice of family to use to show the positive arguments.
If I was disappointed with the first family, however, the second family made the first look like Ozzie and Harriet. Jerome lived what was closer to a polygamous lifestyle with his three "women", as he called them. There was his wife Francisca with whom he shared a girlfriend Linda, and then there was Jerome's second girlfriend Angel who didn't really get on with Linda very well and with Francisca only marginally better. Jerome focused his attention on a) controlling his women and b) trying to hide their relationship from his children, two things I would never associate with polyamoury. Most poly families I know make a point of explaining to their children what is going on so that the children don't grow up feeling there is anything wrong with how their parents form and share relationships. In some circumstances it is not possible to let young children know about a parent's polyamourous life, but these children were living in the same house as their mummy and daddy and daddy's two girlfriends. The children, of course, were not stupid, and when questioned on camera were accurately able to identify that the entire group of people slept in the same bed.
And as if that weren't bad enough, Jerome dictated that his wife and girlfiend were not allowed to have relationships with any other men (though they could have relationships with women if he approved it) and were required to bow to his authority and his desires. He confidently told the camera that he couldn't handle having a strong woman in the house because he liked to be the "alpha-male" and that if there was an "alpha-female" figure around they'd constantly argue becuase he needs to be in control.
I was overall very disappointed with the families they chose for the documentary. They showed brief quotes from several people who attended PolyCamp, but didn't explore their relationships. They featured quotes from Kyrie's mum, and I did see Tree, Sandy, Chad, Orianna, and a few others at Polycamp, but the show ended on a slightly dismissive note.
It showed scenes from Polycamp, including men and women dancing naked on the grounds, and said something to the effect of "Is polyamoury a modern alternative to monogamy? Or are these people just a bunch of New Age hippies?" The only answer the viewing public could reach was "It's the hippie thing." The show entirely failed to explain the context of Polycamp to the viewer and also neglected to mention that being polyamourous fundamentally had nothing to do with dancing around a lawn with no clothes on.
Throughout the show the viewer was also treated to quotes from old couples at shopping centres in the UK saying that monogamy was natural, Christian, etc. and that polyamory sounded wrong and complicated. It ended with a quote from one of these couples.
An ordinary person who wasn't familiar with polyamory in general, and didn't know (some of) the people in the show, and the context in which they were interviewed, would be left feeling that what New-Age hippies got up to in their own bedrooms/gardens was their business, but that normal, regular, tax-paying, suit-wearing people just don't do that kind of thing.
The most I can say for it is that it did bring polyamory to people's attention, and those who feel like they might be poly but weren't aware of it before may have watched and decided to find out for themselves.
I live in Australia, and just recently watched the show including Jerome.
Whatever they did, Jerome was the one who made an idiot out of himself - not the production company. I note that while all the girls had to "control their jealousy" Jerome stated that he couldn't handle competition in the form of a man - I call that sexist and unfair, regardless of the bisexuality.
As for the polyamorous lifestyle, please don't bring children into it. My sister has been polyamorous for years, and it caused myself (she is 14 years older than me, so very much a role model) and her daughter and son much heartache.
When you're younger, you accept that kind of lifestyle, but once you hit about 14, you start to realise how abberant it is - how immoral it is. I'm fine because my parents were normal, but I hated my sister for a good many years.
My nephew hates his mother, and refuses to talk to her, and generally hates women, and my neice has 2 kids at 19, and won't let them see her in less than a towel.
You can talk about how good it is for you - but you are harming children, and that's all there is to it - I know, and everytime I counsel my neice, I know.
I'm wondering 8 years later how Jerome's quad is faring. Specifically, how wise was the decision to be in a documentary when he was so concerned about even his children knowing about him being intimate with his other partners? What happened both inside and outside the home when that information became public?
Post a Comment