I fell in love, and then I fell in love again…and again…

Polygamy - love‘Sister Wives,’ ’19th Wife’ and ‘Big Love’ usher in wave of polygamy programming

DAVID HINCKLEY © Copyright 2010 NYDailyNews.com.

Monday, September 13th 2010, 4:00 AM

Since television has developed a serial fascination with everything from cupcakes and hoarding to boorish people from New Jersey, it’s not surprising we’re now seeing multiple shows on polygamy.

What may be slightly surprising is this: Even when a show condemns the illegal practice of a man taking multiple wives, it acknowledges the appeal. And not just to men, who would seem to reap all the obvious benefits, but to some women as well.

Most of the estimated 20,000 pluralmarriage families in the U.S. call themselves fundamentalist Mormons, and while the mainstream Mormon church opposes polygamy, that wasn’t always true.

Revered 19th-century Mormon leader Brigham Young took many wives, and one, Ann Eliza Young, inspired “The 19th Wife,” a polygamy movie that airs Monday at 9 on Lifetime.

“The 19th Wife” portrays polygamy as a rigid, male-dictated system that offers comfort to some women and crushes the dreams of others.

A softer picture emerges in “Sister Wives,” a seven-part reality series starting Sept. 26 on TLC. It focuses on Kody Brown, a fundamentalist Mormon from Utah who co-habits with three women and has a fourth in the works.

Collectively they have 15 children, and the show suggests the Browns are challenged less by polygamy than by the same truism that challenges, say, the Gosselins: Caring for that many kids guarantees continuing dramas and crises.

Then there is HBO’s polygamist drama, “Big Love,” which like “The 19th Wife” portrays a community controlled by the Prophet, a man who is said to speak directly with God and who, in secular reality, can be dictatorial, greedy, self-serving and cynical.

“The 19th Wife” argues that because the Prophet makes a woman’s decisions for her, including whom she will marry, it turns her into property.

In real life, there have been charges that polygamist communities sanction underage marriage and incest. In “The 19th Wife,” the tipping point for community member Queenie (Chyler Leigh) comes when her friend BeckyLyn (Patricia Wettig) won’t defend herself against a false murder charge because it might offend the Prophet.

Yet “The 19th Wife,” based on a 2008 book, also suggests BeckyLyn and other women in plural marriages develop “sister wife” bonds that give them security and comfort. That interwife affection in “19th Wife” is overt. In “Sister Wives,” it feels more like mutual respect developed amid the common purpose of motherhood.

“We are raising children who have all of this exposure to these strong, awesome women,” says Janelle, one of Kody’s wives, “and I think you will see that they have turned out beautiful.”

One more non-surprise: Polygamists say they are simply misunderstood.

“Part of our reason for ‘coming out’ is it’s a story that needs to be told,” Kody Brown says. “By telling the story and not getting acceptance, necessarily, but lowering the prejudice, it helps all of society understand it.”

Source: www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/tv/2010/09/13/2010-09-13_sister_wives_19th_wife_and_big_love_usher_in_wave_of_polygamy_programming.html?r=entertainment


Please share:

Deborah (Discerning the World)

Deborah Ellish is the author of the above article. Discerning the World is an internet Christian Ministry based in Johannesburg South Africa. Tom Lessing and Deborah Ellish both own Discerning the World. For more information see the About this Website page below the comments section.

Name or Username
Privacy Policy

Editing Comments: After commenting you have 15 minutes to EDIT your comment. Click the gear icon at the bottom right corner of the comment box, then click EDIT.

Previous Comments: Please read all previous comment pages if there are any. Thank you.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Fairlight Wages

Fundamentalist Mormons aren’t the only ones practicing polygyny (the correct term) nowadays. The Christian Polygyny movement amongst Evangelical and Messianic groups are growing, just in a more quiet way. However, their reasons for doing so differ widely from the Mormons. They simply believe that God never prohibited the practice and even regulated it. The Bible is full of faithful men of God who had polygynous families and God never judged or condemned them for it.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x