So, I caught an episode of Big Love today. I’ve never seen the show before, but it didn’t seem like I’d be completely lost if I watched one out of order along with my dinner.
Now, I watch a lot of TV shows while I’m eating. One of my favorites is House, which features all sorts of pleasantness, like a patient’s penis exploding, or House dragging a fifty-foot tapeworm out of someone’s gut. And nary a quibble emanates from my stomach as I chow down on some hastily prepared vegetarian feast. I might be a little squeamish, but I’ve always thought I had a cast-iron belly.
But apparently I’m not nearly so sanguine when confronted with what is apparently the entire subject of Big Love: crazy Christians and exploitative polygamy. Let me say upfront that I fully support any kind of union a person might want to have–gay, straight, multiples–with one caveat: all parties must enter the arrangement of their own free will, and have a reasonable expectation of even knowing what that free will is. By this I mean: the fifteen year old girl who has never set foot inside a real school, has been indoctrinated and prepared all her life for early marriage and childbirth, and can fully expect to be disowned by her entire family if she disobeys (or thinks for herself), might say that she’s becoming the seventh wife of a man fifty years older of her own free will, but we can’t honestly expect her to be capable of making that decision. The deck is absurdly stacked. I don’t think it’s the country’s place to condemn any variety of marriage people might like, but I think it’s telling that the only one you hear about is polygamy. What about some good old polyandry? Can I set up a religion saying that god has told me it’s pure and sacred to have at least three husbands? Now, a bit of that might have helped me keep down my dinner.
From what I could tell in this episode, Big Love is very well written. The acting is marvelous, and–maybe best of all– I saw at least two Veronica Mars alums: Amanda Seyfried (Lilly) and Kyle Gallner (Beaver). But it was hard to get too excited, because I was busy taking long, deep breaths after watching a sixteen year old girl attempt to reconcile herself with her impending marriage to the “prophet”: a skeevy old pedophile who conveniently thinks that morality is just another word for whatever he wants. In the Mormon compound, the women and children were all decked out in gingham and French braids, like a really sinister version of Anne of Green Gables. And let’s not forget the perhaps more mundane agony of watching teenagers grow up in a religion that says almost all their normal teenage desires will land them in hell.
The relationships between these characters make for strange and fascinating viewing, but I think next time I’ll have to take my Big Love in more bite-sized doses.