The MTV poly documentary finally airs (updated)
MTV just aired its much-anticipated "True Life" documentary titled "I'm Polyamorous," which has been in the works since last spring. The 1-hour show (which will be rebroadcast several times in the coming days) is told through the voices of two groups of young polyfolks putting their lives and thoughts on camera.
The show alternates between the two groups' stories. One is told by Kerry, 21, the tentative new girlfriend of young New York lawyer and poly activist Diana Adams. Diana introduces her to the concepts, the problems, the joys, her own main-squeeze boyfriend Ed, and the New York poly crowd. We see Kerry and Diana discussing where this relationship is going, what it means to Ed and vice versa... and talking through the issues when Kerry decides to invite a new boy on a date. Diana was her first lesbian relationship. We see them at their best when they are sitting face to face and working through a difficult topic: Diana's unexpected gut reaction to Kerry joking that if Diana were a guy everything would be perfect and what Diana asks of her to help get through it. Watch carefully; this is how it's done.
Eventually, New Date becomes happily integrated into the whole squiggle and Kerry is at bliss. But read the followup-story screens at the end.
The other group is a triad of cute-as-buttons gay boys in Charlotte, North Carolina... with issues. They're much less experienced or skilled in poly. Jim, Thomas, and Chris fell into a three-way polyfi relationship and moved in together before they knew there was a word for it, or knew that others have navigated and charted these waters. They go out on the town together, shower together, make love all around... and hit a serious crisis in sleeping arrangements. They have two small rooms with two overly-small beds. Jim, a Christian, is perennially left out at bedtime because one of the others has a phobia against sleeping alone and, we're left to guess, the third guy would be jealous if he wasn't the bedmate. Lonely prayerful agony ensues. Jim decides the group needs a fourth to keep him company at night and has a first date with a New Guy in secret. He then brings it up to the others guiltily and awkwardly, saying the three of them need a fourth for balance. Jealous guy erupts.
We see them visiting a counselor, who gives them a Poly 101 lesson on the fallacy of "Relationship in trouble? Add more people." Nevertheless, New Date gamely agrees to befriend the three of them to see how it goes. And go it does. They become comfortable as a group. They buy a copy of The Ethical Slut together and read aloud from it. They four-way kiss. Read the followup screens at the end; no spoiler here from me.
Overall, these are engaging, realistic explorations of joys and rough stretches in poly life as practiced by very attractive young folks. MTV and the people on camera have done the poly world a fine service.
And yet, they do come off kind of superficially. We see the people going to parties, meeting dates, and Talking About Relationships. As my wife Sparkler put it, "They have no jobs? No other interests? Where's their real life?"
I know one or two of the people, and in at least one case they have remarkable jobs and real lives. I wonder: did MTV edit out the boring grown-up stuff? Or was this a risk of making documentarians out of earnest amateurs intent on telling particular stories?
Added later: It turns out that, although the True Life series gives the impression that its subjects are filming and creating their own stories, the producers heavily pressured some of the people in "I'm Polyamorous" to make scenes they did not want to, and they had to resist these pressures hard. So I'm suspicious of how the show was edited after it left their hands. And see Kerry's entry in the Comments below (Comment #3) about their serious stuff being cut out.
UPDATE: The show is now available on MTV's website. Watch it here.
Here is MTV's blogsite for the episode.
Each premiere of a True Life episode draws about 1 million viewers, wrote the Los Angeles Times last year. The number for this airing may have been boosted by it coming on just after a rerun of the Video Music Awards the night before.
Diana and I made videos yesterday addressing those who traffic MTV.com and forwarded them to our personal blogs! They are cute and fun and up to share:
Kerry for MTV
Diana for MTV
For more information on our events and to join the mailing list, visit Diana's website, feministoutlaw.com.
Jim said before the show aired,
MTV is very excited about the episode and this will be a great opportunity for polyamory to be mainstreamed to a lot of people, especially young viewers out there. It's socially taboo to be polyamorous let alone gay, so having done this show I hope we opened at least one person's mind to our choice of lifestyle.
Here's a link for the facebook event for the show.
I actually updated my network links:
In addition, Jim and his triad were profiled very nicely this same evening by their local Fox affiliate in Charlotte (WCCB-TV, Channel 10):
What is Polyamory?
By Morgan Fogarty
CHARLOTTE, NC It's being called the next sexual revolution! Polyamory: it's the act of having more than one committed lover. It's different from swinging, and it's not religion driven like polygamy. And, as the young men you're about to meet explain, it might be a non-traditional relationship, but they say it works for them.
Read the article and watch the broadcast (2 minutes; Sept. 14, 2009).
Interestingly, as the news announcer says, even though North Carolina is part of the Bible Belt, the strongest negative reactions that this newly visible triad are getting have come from the gay community. Some of whom seem to really resent out gays who don't behave Just Like Normal People.
And sure enough, the first comment to the TV station's article is from someone who's angry that a "trouple" represents Charlotte gays badly.
Also: here's a long profile of the group in QNotes, with a link to an audio interview.
Labels: gay/bi, millennials, MTV, New York, The Next Generation, True Life, TV
P.S.: There have been comments on poly lists that the show creates a stereotype that polys are all attractive young barbies and supercute boys. Well, maybe that'll offset the stereotype that polys are all gray-hairs from the 1960s.
If enough different images of polyfolks get out there, maybe people will get it that there are lots of different types.
(I'm still writing my follow-up on this episode for CL.)
What I will say for now, is that I agree that it does show that poly people come from different walks of life. That is something that I have always hoped would become more evident as polyamory enters the mainstream media. If anything, I think it will help people in my age demographic and below to know that there are people they can relate to in polyamory.
Thanks for the article!
This is Kerry here, shouting out to this awesome blog and everyone reading it. Thank you for your support of the show.
I wanted to follow up on a couple of great points made here:
1. Yes, there is A LOT of awesome footage that we gave them that was cut out. I was trying very hard throughout the filming process to get more interesting stuff into the show from our real, day-to-day lives: like my love of biking, my modeling career and my hobby of trapeze acrobatics. For the sake of time and entertainment, all that juicy stuff was cut.
2. Even more disappointingly, a lot of brilliant feminist talk was cut as well. Overall, I am pleased how the show portrayed us, we came off as relatively intelligent, sexually mature and in tune with the world, but some very empowering and progressive conversations were completely cut from the show...
So I think that as long as we remember that this is MTV, targeted to 13-17 year olds, we can call this production a raging success. We provided them a model for good communication and being in control of one's life. I am especially grateful that my biggest fear was avoided: I don't feel exploited!!!
Thanks again for everyone's support and enthusiasm.
I just saw this newer documentary, but that's not what I want to comment on. When I was 12 or 13 I remember seeing two back to back documentaries, one on a transgender man who wanted to marry his partner, and the other on people in group relationships. While I'd like to say "I immediately knew that was for me!" that isn't at all true. But, it left an impression on me. (I'm 24 and I remember the show very clearly, despite it being something that was just sort of on.) I think it led me to understand, along, of course with other things in my life, that relationships with more then one person could happen. That people did them. That they seemed happy (well some of them did). I've never been able to figure out what the show was, but I'm now pretty sure it was MTVs Sex in the 90s: It's a Group Thing (and maybe one about trangendered people). I guess my point is, these things do make a difference, if only years latter. I think it did for me.
They do all seem very young, but it's for MTV. MTV's target audience isn't interested in day jobs and such, they want to see other young people doing what they do - going to parties, making mistakes that they would make, etc. I think it was well done for what it was - it's impossible to explain polyamory in one hour, this gives younger people either a name to what they are already doing or a day in the life view of what it's like to be young and poly.
I am rather surprised that this blog and my own seem to be the only places (outside of MTV, Kerry, Jim, and Diana's own pieces) that I have found writeups on the episode. Could you point me towards some that I may have missed?
Check out my blog at http://rebyankl.livejournal.com
I was snooping around in old poly stuff - Kamala from Poly: Married and Dating is the background in the opening scene. I laughed.
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