Saturday, February 09, 2008

It’s not that Polygamy is Immoral – It’s just that…

The more we watch Big Love the more disturbed I become by it and I’ve been trying to put my finger on what exactly makes it so difficult for me to want the characters to overcome their obstacles. My husband and I have been having these really outrageous discussions as a result, “Well, they’re the protagonists and they’re nice people, so I’m just rooting for them to succeed at what they’ve chosen – I don’t understand why you’re not, you root for the most immoral protagonists all the time! Why do you judge these people so harshly?” he asked.

And so I had to think about that. Because I find myself looking incredulously at my husband going, “I can’t believe you don’t think Bill's a creep! What is wrong with you?” And what is strange about that is my husband is rather quite moral (and normal) compared to me and so ninety-nine percent of the time it’s me who sympathizes with the “bad” character while my husband shakes his head and says, “I can’t even believe I’m married to you.”

As a for instance, we saw Rent on Broadway way back when and at the end my husband was holding me while I cried and cried, and he very sensitively said, “Baby, why are you crying? They’re just a bunch of homeless druggies – if they’d get a job they wouldn’t have all those problems.”

He’s a real bleeding heart, my husband.

But the time I disturbed him the most was when we were watching Six Feet Under and Brenda had random sex with some dude on a public restroom floor. As I went on and on about how disgusted I was, he squinted his eyes and said, “You’re not the least bit annoyed that she cheated on her fiancé or had random sex with a stranger – you’re just upset that she did it on the floor of a public restroom?”

“Well, yes!” I said, “That’s disgusting! What the hell is wrong with people?”

See - I can be flexible on morality, but hygiene is another matter entirely.

Which begs the question, why can't I live and let the polygamists live?

As I summed up the situation for my husband, I discovered the answer. “So basically,” I said, “When Bill’s wife was sick with cancer, another woman hung around the house a lot to take care of her and he decided he’d kinda like to bone her so (isn’t this handy) GOD gave him a ‘testimony’ telling him he should be a polygamist.”
Aha! NOW I know why I’m so irritated. Because listen, it’s human nature to find yourself attracted to people who aren’t your spouse, nothing cosmic or extraordinary about the experience. It happens. And if you want to divorce and move on or have an affair in secret or tell your spouse you’d like to have a threesome or whatever floats your boat – good luck with that, your business, not mine. But don’t blame God for your inability to keep your lust in check, because that just pisses me off.

But my husband argues on, “They all chose to be there, just because it’s not what you would choose, why can’t you hope they work things out? You just want them all to get the hell out of there.”

No, I don’t, I told him. Actually I think Nicki and Bill deserve each other and should move back to the compound with the rest of the in-breds. It’s just Barb and Margene who I want to get the hell out of there. It would be different if the whole thing was more egalitarian, but the way that each of the women have to be a hundred percent devoted to Bill and he can do whatever he wants, including develop another relationship with yet another potential “wife” at his whim is just irritating. (And I’m not even exploring, at this point, how he’s created two families of children who will never be able to acknowledge they even know who their dad is in public – how revolting is that?)

This led me to further examination of my own inability to just accept these people, because really, if I were a feminist worth her salt, I would root for Barb and Margene to make it work, because they really did choose to be there. They both know better and they both have options. The person I should sympathize with is Nicki – she’s the one who’s been indoctrinated since birth that she’s chattel and that she can only go to heaven by being a plural wife. But then it’s hard for me to sympathize with her, both because she seems to actually be satisfied with the situation (therefore what business is it of mine) and she just – you know, she just bugs me.

Whenever I suggest to my husband that Bill has it made and the women and children all suffer he says, “Bill is SO screwed and totally trapped – all those people to support, all those women bitching at him all the time – nobody would want that dude’s life – you’re crazy.”

“Maybe,” I conceded. “Definitely he doesn’t have it as nice as the compound guys whose wives do whatever they say and can’t ask for anything in return except sex.”

“Yeah,” my husband raised his eyebrows at me, “see that’s what I’m talkin’ about.”

Which under ordinary circumstances might lead to a laughing wrestling match, but this show does not bring out the best of my sense of humor.

And I know I shouldn’t push my Victorian romantic values on others, but aside from Barb’s unrequited (and disappointed) love for Bill, no one seems to really love each other on that show. I mean isn’t it weird how none of them seem to be emotionally involved? Anytime any of the women are upset about something Bill just shrugs them off (or shags them off, whichever) and he doesn’t share anything with any of them (maybe Barb a tiny bit here and there) – none of them are close to each other in any meaningful way. They’re all on their own emotionally speaking in this very utilitarian business-like arrangement. You know, like what did they say at the altar?

Wives: “I promise to love you and only you no matter what.”

Bill: “I promise to put a roof over your head and have obligatory sex with you every third night.”

I’m serious – what else does he do for any of them? Maybe I just don’t get it and I just can’t manage to open my mind up enough and I’m just a grouchy old hag, but Mother of God that show gets under my skin. What’s worse – I can’t wait to watch the next episode. Am I the only one?


Rachel said...

It's funny, my (girl)friends and I were just talking about this last week. Only we decided it would be a great idea. Of course, romantic love had nothing to do with it. Nor did sex. It was more the idea that women would have a community with each other -- sharing the housework and child-rearing and bitching and moaning. Instead of doing all that on your own. In fact, the one husband who was in the room was kind of offended at our ability to dismiss him so easily. And he's one of the good ones! Even amongst those of us who consider ourselves feminists, we opined that women bear much of the burden of family life, even when you have a really great husband. Whether that's true or not, or just a feeling we have, it made the idea of sharing that burden with other women seem really fabulous.

Staci Schoff said...

Rachel I agree that more communal lifestyles could be better for women, especially as compared to the isolated suburban housewife or the single working mother. I have a great husband and still, I know we could use a village around here to help us out!

But I still don't like the way this situation is just all about Bill. Or the way "God" was used to manipulate Barb into going along with it.

landismom said...

Thank you for articulating so clearly my many objections to this show.

And yet, I can't help watching. I think largely because I want all the men to get their comeuppance!

Daisy said...

Oh, the irony. Your google ads include one for "polygamy personals."

radical mama said...

I just can't watch that show. We all know that if they made a show about a woman polygamist, she'd be low down dirty whore, right? (Looking at you, New York!) As long as the double standard is there, I scream Bullshit!

Geekymom said...

I was really hooked on the first season of Big Love. Then we canceled HBO. In reality, I can understand a lot of your points. Even though I could never chose a life like theirs, they did how ever chose it. It sure makes for good T.V.
I miss watching it.

PunditMom said...

I love this post -- especially the vows at the end. That really does sort of sum it up, doesn't it?

Boudicca said...

We just started Season 2 of Big Love and there are so many things that bother me,which is very strange since my hubby and I are polyamorous. Well, it's not strange,really. I mean, polygamists have this whole religious doctrine that goes along with it and we just have nothing but pure faith and trust in each other. The way women are treated both in the traditionalist upbringing AND Bill's little harem makes my skin crawl. Plus, as I think I've tossed out before, they are doing it ALL WRONG.The way they live is just so not eco-friendly. That also makes my skin crawl...yet in a different way.

WriterMommy said...

My husband and I have had similar discussions about this show...but we keep coming back!

Anonymous said...

This show is banned in my house as it's demeaning to women. As for fundamentalist Mormons, they're a group of men who abuse and control women, using religion to substantiate infidelity, sexual perversion, and pedophilia. I can't believe that someone who posted on this blog said that such a lifestyle would be to a woman's advantage! Truly such a show glosses over the grim reality of polygamy.

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