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tv talk: 
r. & mrs. 
mrs. mrs.:  
big love

by Yee-Fan Sun
1 2 

I like to fancy myself a pretty open-minded person. Though my own life is nothing if not vanilla mainstream -- hitched at 26 to the same boy I'd been with since high school -- I've never presumed that my way was the only way. In fact, I'm pretty sure the world would be a dull, dull place indeed if everyone's relationships looked exactly like mine (or yours, or his, or hers; it's diversity that makes this wide world so infinitely interesting). I'm all for guys marrying guys, and girls marrying girls, and people living together for an eternity without marrying at all, and all these folks having the same rights to live and love and have kids or not have kids as anyone doing things the long-established conventional way. The way I generally figure, as long as it's among consenting adults, love is love, regardless of the physical package it comes in, or some silly piece of paper.

So, yeah, I was kind of surprised by my reaction when I first read that HBO's newest drama, Big Love, was going to center on some religious guy and his three wives. Ugh, I immediately thought, a show about a fundamentalist polygamist wacko? Yuck. Polygamy bad.

So much for my oh-so-enlightened acceptance of those who live differently.

In my defense, it's not the multiple partners thing that bothers me; while juggling more than one relationship at a time does strike me as way too much work to be appealing to me personally, I don't see why it shouldn't be a valid choice for others, assuming all parties involved are a-okay with it (see consenting adults, above). No, I suppose my problem is with a specific sort of polygyny rather than general polygamy: the idea of one husband being allowed many wives, but not vice versa, is one that just seems hopelessly unfair to the women, and hence, rather backwards. We've all read the newspaper stories about cultists living in some dusty compound in Utah, or Arizona, or Texas; we've seen the pictures of crazy-haired old men surrounded by their ten wives of progressively younger age, a gaggle of children dressed in absurd pioneer garb gathered at their feet. The stories of rampant abuse in such environments are well chronicled; the men have all the power, and the women and children end up like slaves. That, in my mind, is polygamy, and I have to admit: it gives me a severe case of the heebie-jeebies; it seems wrong with a capital ewwwww.

Still, when it came to Big Love, I knew I'd be checking it out. This was HBO we were talking about, after all, the same network that's produced such TV goodness as Six Feet Under and The Sopranos and Deadwood. I've long since learned that what a show is about -- funeral directors, murderous mobsters, outlaws in the Wild West -- isn't what marks a stellar series from a stinker. Judge any of those shows based on the two-sentence synopses of their basic premises, and I'd have missed out on a lot of my favorite TV viewing ever.

Indeed, with its premiere this past Sunday, Big Love looks promising. The show introduces us to Bill Henrickson [Bill Paxton], owner of a successful DIY home improvement store that's on the verge of expanding into a franchise. Squeaky-clean, God-loving, and family-oriented to the core, Bill seems like he should fit in just dandy with the fine upstanding Mormons that make up most of his comfortable suburban town just outside Salt Lake City. Every evening, after a long hard day at work, Bill pulls his shiny SUV into the driveway of his big bland house in his nice bland neighborhood, heading back to the family fold. All looks pretty standard except that when Bill walks in the front door, three honeys await his return home. There's strong, sensible Barb [Jeanne Tripplehorn], Bill's first wife, a substitute teacher who's had three kids with Bill, two of whom are now teenagers and one who's a bit younger. Next up is prim, prickly Nicki [Chloe Sevigny], mail-order addict and mother to two rambunctious little boys. Newest of the bunch is sweet, baby-faced Margene [Ginnifer Goodwin], who's just given birth to a second child close on the heels of her first, leaving her completely frazzled by the demands of new motherhood.

keep on moseying kids!

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