November 5, 2006
A Little Love for Big Love
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.
Posted by holly at November 5, 2006 9:46 AM