Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The New York Times Hates On Big Love

It never fails. Every time the New York Times writes about the critically acclaimed HBO drama Big Love, there's always this undercurrent of hostility toward the polygamy and religious fundamentalism that form much of show's backbone. How else to explain a review of Big Love's third season that ends with a recommendation for a book by an author who abandoned polygamy and then abandoned Mormonism all together.

Long time readers will remember I was critical of the Times coverage of Big Love back at the start of the new season in January, when a different critic echoed similar feelings about the show. Of course, the complaint back in January was that the characters of Big Love weren't religious enough and that their religion was just a smokescreen for their polygamy, but that was before the show spent an entire season on faith and the characters struggles to meet their commitments to Heavenly Father.

It's just precious that the liberal New York Times can't come up with reviewers who are accepting of different lifestyles and open-minded enough to appreciate the characters of Big Love and their story for who and what they are. The undercurrent of hostility I mentioned isn't in regards to faith in general, but the faith of fundamentalists, whose religious beliefs lead them to make choices that right-thinking liberals wouldn't make. And I wonder if it's not just the polygamy, but this focus on family and reproduction as God's commandment that the Times reviewers find particularly troublesome.

Here's what the latest review had to say about Bill's three wives, Barb, Margene, and Nicki, yet again, missing so much of what the show is about.

Yet in spite of its seeming celebration of diverse family arrangements, the show bristles with so much submerged pain that nearly every character seems marked for spiritual death, the way characters on “The Sopranos” used to be marked for actual death. The wives’ endurance is wearing thin. They have lost their capacity to contort themselves for Bill’s orthodoxy. They can no longer be one, when they are so decisively three. And you don’t have to object to polygamy on principle, anymore, to see that it’s strangling the women of “Big Love” — even as, maddeningly, it seems to meet their needs.

Yes, there's a lot of suffering in Big Love, but that's because it's a television show, not a family picture album. To the extent the woman on the show find suffering in polygamy, their suffering comes from the very sort of judgments the outside world (like the Times reviewers) are passing on these woman. Barb has suffered spiritual crises because she's been alienated from her family and faces excommunication from her church. These are crisis brought on by how people view her marriage from the outside looking in, not from her marriage itself. Nicki spends this season dealing with temptation and facing the demons of her father and the daughter she had secretly left behind- again all factors outside the marriage. And Margene faces her mother's death and the struggle to balance work and family, hardly anything unique to polygamy. That the wives do things at times to hurt each other and the family, but that's no different than any marriage, any family. This notion that "the wives need to contort themselves to Bill's orthodoxy" is preposterous and really has me wondering how anyone who watches the show can fail to see the strength these characters draw from their family and the value they find in it.


Anonymous rose said...

You too busy protesting w/ the anarchists at the G-20 to give us any new material?

12:56 PM  

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