Sister Wives & Polygamy

I have an obsession with polygamy. I will admit it. I am not sure where it started but either way I am riveted by all things related to the concept. So, it was only natural that I would be elated when I found out about the TLC reality series – Sister Wives!! I have to say I have been let down. I was all like, hey man – where is all the sex? Where are the crazy people from the compound? Why are these wives kinda frumpy?

Kody has been a polygamist his entire adult life, and while it’s not legal in Utah where he lives (or anywhere else in the U.S. or Canada), he was born into the culture, inculcated by his polygamist father and the Mormon community in which he was raised. And so, 20 years ago, Kody married Meri, and then Janelle a few years after that and then Christine a few years after that.

Like most fundamental church-based beliefs, polygamy is a man’s world and it’s clear from Sister Wives that what’s in it for Kody, who is a charming, youthful man with much energy and rock star hair, is that life is a smorgasbord of interesting if compliant women, with Kody as some kind of working-class American gigolo representing the main course. He earnestly tells viewers in the first episode that he’s doing the show because he wants to “come out of the closet” and stop hiding his lifestyle from the world, and then goes on to walk us through his life, through his home’s three separate apartments, with their separate kitchens and bedrooms, and he chats about keeping a calendar to chart his rotating conjugal services and admits he often gets confused about what door he’s walking through, joking that “I don’t have my own space.”

The show is at once compelling and unsettling, partly because for Kody and his wives, and their 12 (soon to be 13) children, life does seem rather normal. They kiss and hug and fight and bicker. They complain about chores and go to the mall and worry about the future. The kids seem bright and content, and it’s clear from the first episode that theirs is a loving home but, I still wonder what really is going on behind closed doors.

Sister Wives is the real-life version of the HBO hit Big Love, a scripted tale of a man with several wives. Sister Wives is many things, but mostly it’s fascinating, and a surprising eye-opener for those who have opinions, if not knowledge, about the troubling issues around polygamy.

If Kody seems the big winner in the lifestyle, his wives will tell you they are no less happy with the arrangement. Meri and Christine were raised in polygamist families, while Janelle, though a Mormon, was not. They are smart and articulate, offering no apologies about why they willingly, as young adult women, chose to be sister wives. Plural marriage works for them, they say, and if they seem at times like some kind of Stepford version of a polygamy ad campaign, all pretty and polished, there is a twisted logic listening to them talk about their upbringing, about their roles (Christine is the stay-at-home mom while Meri and Janelle work outside the home, as does advertising salesman Kody), about who has sex with Kody (all of them, but not together because “we don’t do weird”), about jealousy and child-rearing and fears and finances and what they know is criticism in wider society.

It is only minutes into Sister Wives, the new TLC reality show about a polygamist family, when you figure out what’s in it for Kody Brown.

Kody has been a polygamist his entire adult life, and while it’s not legal in Utah where he lives (or anywhere else in the U.S. or Canada), he was born into the culture, inculcated by his polygamist father and the Mormon community in which he was raised. And so, 20 years ago, Kody married Meri, and then Janelle a few years after that and then Christine a few years after that.

Like most fundamental church-based beliefs, polygamy is a man’s world and it’s clear from the Sunday night premiere of the seven-part Sister Wives that what’s in it for Kody, who is a charming, youthful man with much energy and rock star hair, is that life is a smorgasbord of interesting if compliant women, with Kody as some kind of working-class American gigolo representing the main course. He earnestly tells viewers in the first episode that he’s doing the show because he wants to “come out of the closet” and stop hiding his lifestyle from the world, and then goes on to walk us through his life, through his home’s three separate apartments, with their separate kitchens and bedrooms, and he chats about keeping a calendar to chart his rotating conjugal services and admits he often gets confused about what door he’s walking through, joking that “I don’t have my own space.”

The show is at once compelling and unsettling, partly because for Kody and his wives, and their 12 (soon to be 13) children, life does seem rather normal. They kiss and hug and fight and bicker. They complain about chores and go to the mall and worry about the future. The kids seem bright and content, and it’s clear from the first episode that theirs is a loving home.

Sister Wives is the real-life version of the HBO hit Big Love, a scripted tale of a man with several wives. Sister Wives is many things, but mostly it’s fascinating, and a surprising eye-opener for those who have opinions, if not knowledge, about the troubling issues around polygamy.

If Kody seems the big winner in the lifestyle, his wives will tell you they are no less happy with the arrangement. Meri and Christine were raised in polygamist families, while Janelle, though a Mormon, was not. They are smart and articulate, offering no apologies about why they willingly, as young adult women, chose to be sister wives. Plural marriage works for them, they say, and if they seem at times like some kind of Stepford version of a polygamy ad campaign, all pretty and polished, there is a twisted logic listening to them talk about their upbringing, about their roles (Christine is the stay-at-home mom while Meri and Janelle work outside the home, as does advertising salesman Kody), about who has sex with Kody (all of them, but not together because “we don’t do weird”), about jealousy and child-rearing and fears and finances and what they know is criticism in wider society.

Turns out, in real life, polygamy isn’t so exciting……a couple of dowdy chicks married to some  mediocre dude.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  • Goodreads

  • %d bloggers like this: