Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Putting The “Glamy” Into Polygamy

Yep. I'm sure you've all heard that HBO is planning a “Big Love” celebration in a few short weeks. Big Love is HBO’s newest series, and it’s about polygamy; however, it’s a view of polygamy through a rather distorted Hollywood lens.

I’m no historian, and have no great insights into the early LDS practice of polygamy, other than what I have learned over the years; but, really, three gold rings, one for each wife? Can you imagine the Prophet Joseph, or Brother Brigham sporting a gold ring, for each wife? They’d never be able to even raise their hands!

HBO’s Big Love Gang of 4 (one husband–three wives) are all drop dead gorgeous. Bill Paxton, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chloë Sevigny, Ginnifer Goodwin are the Hollywood epitome of the modern day polygamous family, all beautiful, all young, all ready, for the all perfect 24/7 polygamous lifestyle. How accurate is this depiction of polygamous life in the 1800's, or even today in the fringe religious groups which continue the practice?

These are HBO's polygamous wives.

Below's a partial sampling of Brother Brigham's actual wives:

How will HBO treat the LDS connection? According to the Deseret News:

Shot mostly in California, some filming was done in Utah, and a lot of local sites — including the Salt Lake LDS Temple — are clearly visible.

Although the fictional family has familial ties to a polygamist clan and its evil leader, they've left that behind and are sort of independent polygamists.

The producers made a point of separating Mormons from those polygamists.
"People do have this misconception. There is a blurring of Mormons and polygamy in the same breath," said executive producer Mark V. Olsen. "I want (viewers) to get it. That is important to us."

LDS Church officials are aware of the HBO project and somewhat concerned.

"We know a little bit about it," said church spokesman Dale Bills, who declined further comment beyond an official statement about "Big Love" in the newsroom/comments section of the Web site: "Polygamy was officially discontinued in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1890. Any church member adopting the practice today is excommunicated. Those groups which continue the practice in Utah and elsewhere have no association whatever with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and most of their practitioners have never been among our members.

"The church has long been concerned about the continued illegal practice of polygamy, and in particular about reports of child and wife abuse emanating from polygamous communities today. It will be regrettable if this program, by making polygamy the subject of entertainment, minimizes the seriousness of that problem.

"Through its Los Angeles public affairs office, church representatives have asked the producers at HBO to consider a disclaimer at the beginning of the program, dissociating the practice of polygamy today from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The producers have said they are willing to consider that request."

In fact, a disclaimer will run at the end of each episode stating that the LDS Church does not condone polygamy.
The wrinkle in this production is the supposed "independent" polygamous status of this family. They aren't really affiliated with any one particular religious movement. Still, it will be interesting to see what doctrinal references there are about The Book of Mormon, or the Doctrine and Covenants, from whence the original LDS practice originated. Any mention of these volumes of scripture is going to perpetuate the myth that the Church is somehow still involved in the polygamy practice.

The real question is are you going to tune it a watch? I've thought about whether I will or not. I've liked most HBO series productions. Six Feet Under was one of my favorites. I suspect the suspense will compel me to watch and see how the story line goes. Perhaps I'll do some live blogging on the first show.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chloë Sevigny is "drop dead gorgeous"? Not even. Eeeew. Brown Bunny? EEEEEW!!!

Thursday, February 16, 2006 4:37:00 AM  
Blogger Aimee said...

that is just plain strange!

Thursday, February 16, 2006 9:45:00 PM  
Blogger Guy Murray said...

Aimee: Strange indeed!

Friday, February 17, 2006 6:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In contrast to the "glam" polygamy from Hollywood, let's not forget Mark Twain's comments in "Roughing It" about his visit to Utah:

Our stay in Salt Lake City amounted to only two days, and therefore we had no time to make the customary inquisition into the workings of polygamy and get up the usual statistics and deductions preparatory to calling the attention of the nation at large once more to the matter.

I had the will to do it. With the gushing self-sufficiency of youth I was feverish to plunge in headlong and achieve a great reform here--until I saw the Mormon women. Then I was touched. (Image from book) My heart was wiser than my head. It warmed toward these poor, ungainly and pathetically “homely” creatures, and as I turned to hide the generous moisture in my eyes, I said, “No--the man that marries one of them has done an act of Christian charity which entitles him to the kindly applause of mankind, not their harsh censure--and the man that marries sixty of them has done a deed of open-handed generosity so sublime that the nations should stand uncovered in his presence and worship in silence.”
"Roughing It," pp 117-118

Saturday, February 18, 2006 10:15:00 AM  
Blogger Guy Murray said...

manean: Yes, good ole Mr. Twain always had a very colorful way to describe the Saints. Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, February 20, 2006 8:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We're tv free for almost 2 full years now, and I have to say that this show coming along is the first thing that has really made me pout and stomp over that decision.

Of course, I'm the one LDS woman who simply does not mind the idea of polygamy at all--with the caviat that it is ONLY to actually be undertaken should the Lord deem it so and deliver that word through His prophet.

I'd *love* to watch this show. I'm vaguely considering sending out a general "TiVo & burn it to dvd for me" request.

Healthy marraige is vital to the successful practice of polygamy. Marriage based on respect, honesty, openness, willingness to grow and change together, etc. The nonsense that goes on in FLDS polygamous marriages are not problems with polygamy itself--marrying children is child abuse, neglecting & mistreating wives is domestic violence. Yes, *they* (FLDS mis-practitioners of polygamy) tend to practice all three together, but that does not mean that polygamy must be practiced that way.

Should the practice ever be reinstated through our church, and my husband called upon to enter into it, I sincerely think that we could make it work in a healthy, loving way. So, I look forward to a show that plays that out. I don't know if I'll get to see much, if any of it, as it airs, but I'd *love* *big love* to...

(Random conspiracy theory aside: Anybody else curious if there's a connection between the HBO series and the sudden appearance of the FLDS temple? Was there money changing hands to avoid potential defamation/libel/slandar lawsuits? Makes you wonder, eh?)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006 11:50:00 AM  
Blogger Guy Murray said...

Naiah: TV free? Wow--you have a great deal of dedication and discipline. I don't think I could take that plunge. But I'm sure there are many benefits in doing so. I don't have a TiVo, or I'd record it for you. I will probably blog about it--though I'm sure it won't be the same at all.

I'm not sure I'd be a good candidate for polygamy. I find that it is a full time job trying to be a good husband (and again, I'm certain I need improvemnet) to one wife, and it will be a lifetime commitment just for that!

Thursday, February 23, 2006 6:54:00 AM  

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