A Little Love for Big Love

| 6 Comments

All the disks of season 1 of Big Love are somewhere in my Netflix queue, but I can't be bothered to move them closer to the top. First of all, I'm currently far too preoccupied with getting through season 2 of both Project Runway (which I'm rather obsessed with--if I had any skill in making patterns and such instead of just sewing them together, I'd be auditioning to get on) and Battlestar Galactica (which I respect and am intrigued by but find kind of tedious--the tone and tenor of each episode is too unvarying).

Plus I can't get all that excited about a watching a show that will require me to look at both Bill Paxton and Chloe Sevigny, two of my least favorite actors. I honestly don't understand why they are ever cast in anything. Shows with just one of them are bad enough, but I will really have to grit my teeth to make it through an entire season of something where the two of them share screen time. Chloe is so whiny, and has SUCH horrible posture: I want to slap her across the shoulder blades and scold, "Didn't your mother ever tell you how important it is to stand up straight?" As for Paxton, I find it a shame that he's not torn to pieces by aliens in every show he's in.

But I will watch Big Love some day, because I feel a commitment to seeing how Mormons are depicted in the mainstream media, yada yada yada. Then there's also the fact that one of the most interesting panels I attended at Sunstone was on Big Love, and two of the panelists were women who work on Mormon Focus, the pro-polygamy magazine that supposedly served as the inspiration for the series. These two women consider themselves "independent" polygamists, meaning that they are not affiliated with some fundamentalist group telling who to marry whom. And they LOVE the show.

These women, who were articulate, bright, educated and capable, if very conservatively dressed, love the show because they feel it portrays polygamists truthfully, sensitively, generously. It does a good job, they say, of depicting both the affection between the husband and the sister wives, as well as the strife than can occur. It also presents the polygamists as "normal" people who choose an alternative lifestyle.

Polygamy is seen by many people as extremely repressive for women--and I'm certain that in many forms (particularly the variety overseen by the likes of Warren Jeffs), it is extremely repressive. Nonetheless, the women in independent polygamist marriages are much more vocal and visible than the husbands, because the husbands can be prosecuted for bigamy and the women cannot. The women are vocal and visible in part because they are arguing for the decriminalization of polygamy between consenting adults (which I'll discuss further in a future post).

Neither woman on this panel, it should be mentioned, is actually in a polygamist marriage right now: one is a widow, and the other was a second wife, but not long after she joined the family, the first wife became unhappy with the arrangement and left. So these women are left in the position of espousing a lifestyle they cannot currently enjoy. It will come as a shock to learn, I'm sure, but it's not actually that easy to recruit "independent" women to "independent" polygamist marriages--independent women tend to want an independent husband of their own.

So that's why I will, someday, watch all of Big Love, just like I watched Orgazmo. I've seen two episodes of BL already, courtesy of some friends with Tivo, and I admit I wasn't overwhelmed, one way or the other. It didn't irritate me the way Angels in America did or impress me with its rigorous accuracy the way the South Park episode on Joseph Smith did. When I try to remember it now, I remember mostly annoyance: I was annoyed by the way the youngest wife dressed--no one trying to pass as Mormon would wear such skimpy outfits--and by the fact that the characters mispronounce "temple recommend," putting the stress on the last syllable of "recommend," as if it's a verb, when Mormons stress the first syllable--stuff like that would be so easy to fix if they just had a Mormon as a consultant for the show! And I didn't find Bill Paxton a good fit for the role he plays: he lacks a certain... glossiness Mormon priesthood holders exude, so the fact that I hate him to begin with made his position in the show even more annoying. But I've been told by plenty of Mos and Post-Mos that overall the show is pretty good and gets enough things right that you can enjoy it quite thoroughly. So I'll watch it all, truly I will--when I get done with the stuff I really want to see.

6 Comments

I watched a couple of episodes of "Big Love" this summer, and was favorably impressed from a TV-watcher standpoint -- I thought the acting was fairly good as well as most of the dialogue. I'm surprised that the independent polygamist women thought so favorably of "Big Love," considering that it
1) depicts Mormon polygamy, not a same-household version of hip polyamory;
2) shows what seemed like more competition and strife in the household, especially over religion and who was a good enough Mormon woman, than love and cooperation;
3) has the characters bound to both normal, non-polygamist Mormonism (through the 1st wife) and the more fundamentalist strain (through the husband and 2nd wife) and has plotlines that turn on how incredibly screwed up the fundamentalists are -- I saw only two episodes, and one was about a child bride married to a geezer, and the other about intrigue on the council dangerous enough that one old man who rebelled had to be put into some equivalent of the witness protection program.

If that's a generous depiction of polygamists, the skeptical one would have to run on the Lifetime channel: Tori Spelling chased by her crazy polygamist husband!

I'm surprised that the independent polygamist women thought so favorably of "Big Love," considering that it
1) depicts Mormon polygamy, not a same-household version of hip polyamory;
2) shows what seemed like more competition and strife in the household, especially over religion and who was a good enough Mormon woman, than love and cooperation;
3) has the characters bound to both normal, non-polygamist Mormonism (through the 1st wife) and the more fundamentalist strain (through the husband and 2nd wife) and has plotlines that turn on how incredibly screwed up the fundamentalists are

In Utah, which is where these women are from and where Sunstone, the annual syposium on Mormonism I attend, is held, independent polygamists ARE Mormons (usually excommunicated, since the church shows no tolerance for the practice) with considerable loyalty to the doctrine if not the institution of the LDS church. They are quite conservative by the standards of the rest of the world, and utterly horrified by the idea of "hip polyamory."

Keep in mind, these women publish the pro-polygamy magazine that served as inspiration for the show, the title of which I have finally managed to track down: it's Mormon Focus.

You don't talk about polygamy in Utah without talking about Mormonism and Mormon fundamentalism. You can be repulsed by it or not, but that's how it is.

I LOVE "Big Love" (and also "Battlestar Galactica," but whatever)! But I will say that I DO NOT think it's the Best Show Ever. It's interesting because it has some really complex relationships, and because I kept getting emails from Mormons about how we must "demand" that HBO cancel it. So naturally I HAD to become obsessed with it. I don't think it's as engaging as it could be, but it's oddball enough that it's engaging JUST BECAUSE of the concept. I, too, always detested Chloe Sevigny, but she's growing on me. Her character is a horrifying bitch to the millionth degree, and I'm thoroughly enjoying that.

Holly, no real pressing need to move your Big Love discs up higher in your Netflix queue. What you saw in whichever two episodes you saw via TiVo is what you'll get in the other eleven.

I style myself something of an armchair expert of HBO drama series. (The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, and the excellent Deadwood. I plan to launch into The Wire someday soon. Big Love is nowhere near the quality (writing, acting, etc.) as the aforementioned shows. Were it not for my interest in the Mormon angle, I probably would have stopped watching midseason.

Bill Paxton is a fairly limited actor, but give him something in his wheelhouse (i.e. a sarcastic, pompous, comedic role) and he's pretty good. I'm thinking of his early roles in such movies as Aliens, Weird Science, and True Lies. I liked him quite a bit in A Simple Plan as well. And the movie Frailty, which he also directed, is not to be missed.

As for Chloe Sevingy, I like her. What is it about her that I like? She's got a glazed-eyed, waifish, hippie, damaged or lost soul quality... (I'm rambling)... or a natural, fearless, I'll-do-anything quality somewhat unique to the honed and polished Hollywood actresses we normally see. (She did, after all, felate Vincent Gallo on screen in The Brown Bunny -- not that that makes her a good actress, just, I don't know, unpredictable.) Maybe she's not even acting, maybe she's just being Chloe. Whatever the case, she's always held my attention on screen.

I've seen a few minutes of it but am in line with the Chloe and Bill aren't a draw for me tone.

I know you'd mentioned Angels in America in another post and I remember practically cheering but can't remember if I commented. It was something I fully expected to like based on everything I'd heard but then the award winning writing and dialogue was some of the most unnatural sounding stuff ever to be put into actor's mouths. I could go on but I won't.

Orgazmo I sort of remember and I loved the South Park Joseph Smith episode too.

I don't know you well enough yet to see exactly where you are on the Mormon scale, so I'll show a bit of restraint. Although since you liked the "South Park" episode I suppose that explains part of it.

I'm obsessed with "Big Love." I'm kind of obsessed with Chloe too, although that's only because I'm another kind of Mo. Some friends the other night were talking about her "dead eyes" and I thought "yeah, that's right! Cool!"

I know naught of Bill before this show, although I'm not impressed by the Michael Douglas moves he keeps making with showing his bare ass. Please Bill, leave something to the imagination. We'll all be better off.

Leave a comment

Pages

OpenID accepted here Learn more about OpenID
Powered by Movable Type 5.12

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Holly published on November 5, 2006 9:46 AM.

Buffy, Fiction and God was the previous entry in this blog.

Teaching Carnival is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.