The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


‘Big Love’ gets no love, but asks some tough questions

As a self-proclaimed tv-aholic, I must confess that my drive for wanting to watch television lately has been lower than your grandfather’s (sans Viagra) sexual one.

While the primetime programming on the major networks might force a smile to creep across my face, I often find myself either bored or annoyed, and searching through the OnDemand menu to watch an old episode of ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ or ‘Entourage.’

And luckily now there is a new selection on the HBO Series menu for me to choose from, as well as a new series for the critics to cry about.

‘Big Love,’ HBO’s newest piece of original programming about a man married to three women, has supporters and opponents of plural marriage alike, up in arms about the controversial new show.

Bill Henrickson (Bill Paxton) is the average suburban dad, trying to take his business of home improvement stores to the next level, deal with his sick father and even crazier mother, support his family at home financially and emotionally and deal with his worsening impotence problem that arises from spreading his time thinly between his three wives. The wives characters are played by Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chloà Sevigny and Ginnifer Goodwin.

The Henrickson’s are a modern-day Mormon family that lives in Salt Lake City in three houses that share a backyard. Each night Bill rotates from house to house and from wife to wife. Sharing one husband creates tension between the three wives, however their familial bond remains stronger, as the women look after each other’s children, ass well as one another.

The Henrickson’s keep their situation secret from those around them, as plural marriage is illegal in the U.S., and was outlawed by the Mormon Church, or more politically correctly, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1890. The LDS says that any of their members that practice polygamy will be excommunicated. Although the exact number is unknown, it is estimated that about 20,000 to 40,000 people still practice polygamy in the U.S.

The LDS released in a statement that ‘Big Love’ has an “unhealthy preoccupation with sex, coarse humor and foul language,” and that the show is “lazy and indulgent.” They believe that ‘Big Love’ and other programming like it (such as documentaries, films, etc.) will only further negative stereotypes of the Church, such as forcing young children into plural marriages. Groups that support polygamy are afraid of the show doing the same thing, and exploiting their beliefs.

The show, executive produced by Tom Hanks, however, presents the practice of polygamy in a more informative rather than exploitative manner, that its opponents make it out to be. While sex is a big part of the show, the abuses of polygamy, and a healthy questioning of the practice is presented as well. The oldest Henrickson child, Sarah (Amanda Seyfried) lets her friends know that she does not agree with her parents’ lifestyle, and finds it strange that a friend of hers is marrying a man old enough to be her grandfather.

Personally I do not agree with the idea of plural marriage. If and when I get married, I don’t want my husband to even look at another woman, let alone marry one.

The stereotypes of polygamists (the abuses of women and children) are a despicable and disgusting display of humanity. However, what ‘Big Love’ shows is that not all polygamists are like the stereotypes. And while I understand that the characters are fictional, their presence in the mainstream humanizes them to something more than prairie dwellers that marry their granddaughters.

The plot of ‘Big Love,’ I believe, however, stretches beyond making polygamy an acceptable practice. After watching the first episode of the season, I was sure that most polygamists did not look or act like the Henrickson’s: a clean-cut suburban American family.

I thought they were more like their relatives on the show, who live on a compound in the woods, isolating themselves from society- strange and weird. However, after doing some research and talking to people who know more than I do, I now think that I probably wouldn’t know a Mormon from a Christian from a Jew.

I disagree with polygamy. I find it strange, unnatural and weird. But, does that mean it shouldn’t be legal? My initial reaction is to say no, however, there is a vast population that thinks homosexuality is strange, unnatural and weird- so does that mean it should also be illegal? What about the prayer practices of Jews, who cover their eyes, and wave their hands over candles while chanting in a foreign language. Strange to some, yes. Should it be illegal?

While ‘Big Love’ may be displeasing to critics, I feel its plot goes beyond exploiting or advertising the LDS and other Mormon sects. It gives them a chance to be seen differently in people’s eyes, and have the same positive affect on other factions that are discriminated against.


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