Friday, April 07, 2006

Well, Steanso had an interesting morning in court. Someone phoned in a bomb threat, and the courthouse had to be evacuated for an hour or so. The general consensus was that someone was trying to put the brakes on a trial that was going on up in felony court for some kid who shot and killed some other kid (sorry I can't be more specific, but I just don't know much about the case). The weather was pleasant outside, though, so as we were standing around waiting for the building to be checked, I got to catch up with some people that I haven't seen much since I started the new job. If we'd all had cocktails in our hands it would have felt more like a fundraiser or a happy hour party than a bomb scare.
Last night I watched an episode of Big Love with Crackbass. It's an HBO show about a polygamous family out in Utah, and although the episode that I watched didn't really go into any specifics regarding the religious beliefs of the main characters, it was implied that the protagonists had split off from an ultra-conservative Mormon sect (living out in the Utah hills) in order to move to the city and incorporate themselves into "normal" society.
Steanso tries to be pretty open minded about just letting people live their lives in any way that they see fit, but for some reason this show just kind of bugged me. I'm honestly not sure why it bugged me, but it did. I've seen a couple of news magazine shows about polygamist groups out in Utah, and I think that maybe some of the things that I'd seen on those programs made me feel uneasy about the whole thing (including the assertion that many woman who are involved in polygamist marriages become involved in such relationships because they are paired off with and "introduced to" their prospective husbands at a very early age- often 13 or 14- with their husbands being much older than they are).
But even if these women were adults when they were making the decision to enter these relationships, I think the whole thing would still make me uneasy.
And I'm not sure why. These are other people's lives and their decisions regarding family dynamics and how to live should really be none of my concern.
But it bugs me. Maybe it's the whole one-sided nature of the power structure of polygamous relationships, with multiple women vying for the attention and support of a single man, or maybe it's the fact that I just can't imagine anyone being truly happy in such a situation unless they had undergone some serious religious indoctrination (probably rising to the level of brainwashing, in my opinion), but for whatever reason, I don't like it. I'm not saying that people shouldn't be allowed to live this way if this is how they choose to exist, but I'm saying that personally, I'm not a fan of the lifestyle. Rubs me the wrong way. And this show kind of bugged me in that it kind of tries to show us how seemingly normal polygamy can be. But until I see just as many polygamist families forming with three husbands for everyone wife, I just don't see anything fair or healthy about the structure of these family units. If people are truly happy this way, though, am I being small minded? Not sure. Maybe.
I hope everyone has a great weekend! Shrug off the shackles of your air conditioners (they're making you soft) and go visit the world for a little while. The sun is not your enemy.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

diva has two live-in male lovers (legally, one is my husband), a wife (which unfortunately is not legally recognized in texas), and is currently looking for a girlfriend. just so you know....

not kidding.

does that bug you?

honestly, the traditional utah/mormon polygamy issue doesn't sit in the center of my inner peace, either. but i know that an outsider can never see or understand the true dynamics of another's relationship. too much happens behind closed doors and inside people's heads for us to comprehend others' true feelings, perceptions, and actual experience.

steanso, i still have complete faith in your open-mindedness.

Steanso said...

To be honest, I think the thing that bugs me about polygamy (at least the way that it seems to play out in Utah) is the inequity in the relationships. I just don't see how you can have a healthy relationship if the people involved aren't on something that approximates an equal footing. You have this guy who's sleeping with a bunch of women, but they're all sworn to be faithful to only him. Maybe it's because I've never been a big fan of subservience (in any form), but the whole thing bothers me.

The League said...

Diva seems to be living more of a free-love lifestyle than a "big love" lifestyle. My only real exposure has been the good folks who live up in Colorado City, AZ. The situation is largely as Steanso described it. Teen-age girls who've lived their whole lives in Colorado City married to adult men. There's little to no exposure to the outside world.

As creepy as I find that aspect, keep in mind that birthing ratios remain about 50/50 boy/girl.

Where are all the boys over the age of 18 once they start wanting wives? Zoinks.

The feds or state authorities haven't been able to do much as the cult (and they are a cult) is very insular. Nobody is officially married on the books, so it all looks kosher. They've built walls around parts of the town so no outsider can see in. The cops are part of the cult, so not only are the cops supporting the child-brides, but they're also running outsiders out of town.

The leader is wanted by the federal gov't, but nobody dares go in as it may end up making the Davidian debacle look like a weenie roast.

lee said...

Diva,

That is such metaphysical manure it is almost beyond belief. This is far, far from a question of open-mindedness. Seriously. Polygamy is illegal, immoral, and genetically dangerous. It stifles the herd. It disenfranchises women and is so obviously a tool of oppression that it is pure farce to cop out behind the argument of "an outsider can never see or understand the true dynamics of another's relationship". Even the Mormons don't believe that it works and they ought to know a thing or two about it. I challenge anyone to name a successful woman in the history of this country or even this world who shared her husband with multiple wives as a matter of polygamy. It cannot be done. That is no accident, and it is COMPLETELY ridiculous to associate criticism of polygamy with some closure of the mind. Open minds don't tolerate oppression. They act to prevent it.

Lee

Steanso said...

Wow, Lee. Did you get your ass kicked by a bunch of polygamists in some kind of bizarre polygamy ritual that I'm unaware of? I'm guessing (knowing Lee) that he's probably not really quite as angry about this issue as this comment came off, but that he nonetheless feels pretty strongly about it.
I think that Lee's point (mainly) comes in a frustration with the argument that "an outsider can never see or understand the true dynamics of another's relationship". Working in a court that specializes in domestic violence issues, I hear variations on this argument a lot as defense attorneys try to defend the abusive actions of their clients (abuse which is typically occurring within the context of a sexual/romantic/domestic relationship). We see variations of the "outsiders can't understand" argument in defense of things ranging from spousal abuse to pedophilia to rape.
I don't think Diva is defending or advocating oppression in any way, though (actually, knowing her, I can pretty much guarantee that she's against abuse of any kind). However, in defense of the argument for open mindedness, you have to keep in mind that polygamy is not confined to the Mormon culture and that not all people see it as necessarily leading to oppression. In Africa and other parts of the world where tribal lifestyles are more common, the practice of supporting multiple wives is something that has gone on for centuries, and the people who live in those cultures may not see it as particularly oppressive, but might instead see polygamy as a natural state of affairs in a region where some men can barely support themselves while other men have more resources than they can use. Still, just because they don't think see the practice as oppressive doens't mean that it doens't have an oppressive effect of the lives of the women who live under it (which is, I think, what Lee was getting at when he said that it's difficult to point to many examples of successful women who grew up within a polygamist culture). I think the main thing is that we don't let our fear of being close minded get in the way of our convictions that people (especially women, in this case) should not be abused or oppressed. If we allow our desire to remain open minded to be used as a shield by people who want to do evil things to others, then our logic has turned against itself (i.e., we don't want our desire to remain nonjudgmental to become so powerful that it overcomes our ability to protect members of our own society).
Anyway, "stifles the herd" Lee?

lee said...

Diva,

I ain't mad at ya.

CrackBass said...

Hey Steanso:

Remember when we were watching Big Love last week, and you said "I just can't figure out what the puropse of this show is?" (or something to that effect)... Well, this is the purpose. Just like the Sopranos or Six Feet Under, it is a something that people will talk about (or blog about) a great deal. It is a polarizing issue. It is water cooler fodder. It is ratings gold. Gold, I tell you! Yes, there is gold in them hills, them Salt Lake Hills.

Steanso said...

My point was that I can't believe that this is a subject that will sustain an ongoing series (or an ongoing show). I understand that people are interested in polygamy or things that are different than them, and it doesn't surprise me that people want to talk about these issues (thus the many news magazine shows about polygamy). My question was why someone would want to watch a show about this subject week after week. I'm guessing that a lot of people will watch it because it's on HBO, though, and at the moment people seem pretty enchanted by whatever HBO puts out there. By the way, I don't think the Sopranos is all that innovative (although it's well executed, there have been MANY films and TV shows about the mob), and on Six Feet Under, the actual funeral home business aspect of the show seemed to quickly become a very minor part of the plotline in relation to the ongoing soap opera-esque plotlines that were dealing with romantic entanglements and other aspects of the character's lives. I think that if Big Love survives it will do so by developing the characters to make them more interesting and by downplaying the polygamist angle (as a matter of fact, although it's probably not very realistinc for true polygamists, I would bet you will quickly see some other male love interests show up to compete for the attentions of the female characters, because just watching women act catty while they fight over Bill Paxton won't remain interesting for very long).

Lunch with Jason said...

Steanso said: My question was why someone would want to watch a show about this subject week after week. I'm guessing that a lot of people will watch it because it's on HBO, though, and at the moment people seem pretty enchanted by whatever HBO puts out there.


I think it can/should be forgivable that Big Love is still in the exposition or prologue stage of its infancy; it’s only 3 or 4 weeks into the run of the show. HBO series (indeed all good stories) have some sort of back ground information on the characters; but it's always merely a device for the story telling itself. What made/makes Six Feet Under and Sopranos good was/is the writing, the humor, the tension, and the odd juxtaposition of the characters lives (who are in such different professions and personal situations as us) with our own faults, our own moral crises. This is what great storytelling is made of. It’s too soon to know whether Big Love will rise to the level of other HBO dramas. But my vote: give it a chance.

As to the subject matter of Big Love, I personally find it somewhat exhausting to watch. I can’t imagine trying to deal with the chaos of multiple wives. (And, yes, my wife watches it with me, and I’ve let her know that.)