Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan M.

June 12, 2007

"Big Love," Season 2

"Big Love" is back (HBO; Monday nights at 9). The place it will occupy in TV history, cultural historians will someday write, is as TV's first serious exploration of life in a polyamorous family. (Never mind the broadly stretched definition of "polyamory.")

Season 2 began on June 11th and has been getting excellent reviews. For instance, from the Los Angeles Times:

...The folks at HBO needn't worry about the death of "The Sopranos." The Henricksons have got their backs.

Season 1 opened predictably — perhaps cynically? — with the sex hook. Meet Bill Henrickson, a normal, home-store-chain-owning guy who happens to have three beautiful wives, all of whom want sex every night....

Once creators Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer let go of the sex-juggling act, "Big Love" really hit its mark: as a daringly smart analysis of marriage and family.... It effortlessly captures the shifting politics that form women's relationships, the insularity of modern family life and general slipperiness of the American dream....

The first season ended and the second season opens with Barb having been outed as polygamous by persons unknown just as she was about to accept a mother-of-the-year award. Undone by anger and shame, she questions her commitment to the marriage, wondering whether she can "keep on doing this."

It is a question all thinking members of any sort of marriage, or life partnership, ask themselves at one time or another. Because this is polygamy after all, it is Margene, not Bill, who tells Barb, "I don't think I can do this marriage without you." Still, "Big Love's" greatest strength is that in showcasing three marriages, it is able to, strand by strand, unravel the complexities of the institution itself.

...In Season 2, issues of both faith and sex take a backseat to family politics and revenge. Barb's mini-breakdown solidifies the women's relationships — Bill may have the final word on things in the Henrickson household, but he sometimes has a hard time getting that word in edgewise. "There are four of us in this marriage, Bill," Nicki informs him when he is not dealing with Barb to the other wives' satisfaction....

That a polygamous family could live in the middle of America is frighteningly believable as [our everyday] idea of community becomes less about real sharing and more about carefully orchestrated play dates and dinner invitations/obligations. That a polygamous family could be made up of free-willed, interesting, lovable people is, at least in the world of "Big Love," equally believable.

Read the whole review (June 9, 2007). Or Google up lots more.

An actual Mormon plural wife in Sandy, Utah (home of the Big Love family), who is active in the pro-polygamy group Principle Voices, has interesting and thoughtful commentary about the show on her blog.

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Blogger Dawn said...

Thanks for this, Alan. I really must get Akien to download us this series. I've only seen that first episode, and it's clear that it's getting better, not worse. :^)

The shame at outing thing is just... so tangible, and such a real danger for those of us in alternative lifestyles. Based on our website and polyness among other things, I had someone try to blackball me with the Girl Scouts in my first year of leadership. So I know about trying to live freely and openly in a "normal" world. This stuff is HARD. I congratulate the show's writers for dealing with such real issues.

June 12, 2007 1:06 PM  

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