Monday, 20 April 2009

Movie Review: Big Love

Okay, so this isn't a movie, but a TV show on disc. The idea remains the same.

In case you're unaware, Big Love is about a Mormon man who has three wives living in separate houses with a common backyard. He has something like seven children. The show is about the interrelationships in their family and about the difficulties they're having with the extended family they left back in Juniper Hill, a fictional Mormon community.

I watched two episodes out of curiosity. I had a hard time getting into the series, but started to enjoy it after a while (I watched two episodes, after all). The characters became realistic and interesting by the end of the first episode. That's always the hazard with pilots, of course. Too much introduction-type stuff.

What I enjoyed: Roman, the patriarch of Juniper Hill, is quite villianous, and enjoyably so. He's a scary man.

The characterization was generally good, though I have a hard time feeling for Bill, the husband.

Some of the interrelationships between the wives are amusing or interesting. I can see how real life polyamorists dislike the portrayal on this show: the younger two wives seem to manipulate and backbite quite a lot. There were also scenes of good cooperation and kindness, though. Some of their interactions were enjoyable to watch.

I liked the introduction of a character over these two episodes, who becomes the eldest child's friend. She's your average Mormon: non-polygamist, listens to popular music, involved in community. She's also very funny when other people expect her to be up-tight or authoratarian and she isn't. At one point she bemoans, "Why does everyone assume I have no sense of humour!"

What I disliked: Other parts of the back-biting. Some of it got beyond interesting and got a bit uncomfortable. Using sex with a shared husband to get back at each other doesn't seem fun to me. Unless you're that husband, of course...

Bill. Honestly, I was hoping that they'd at least try to make you sympathetic to his having three wives. I wanted to see how they'd do it. But no. He just has three wives and seems like a douche. The way he handles their interaction is not admirable, I think. He lets them use him as a weapon against each other. And it really seems as though his interest in his wives is as sex-toys and baby-factories.

The domestic stuff. I do not want to watch things about growing bills and out-of-control babies and toddlers. I especially do not want to watch things about growing bills and out-of-control babies TIMES THREE and made worse by the emotional nonsense about one of the wives worrying about not measuring up to the other two in general mothering. I did not enjoy those parts. This is why I will never understand people who have more than two kids.

The representation of Mormons: Since there's only one Mormon who doesn't agree with polygamy in this series, and since most of the non-family Mormon live on a compound, you can see that the representation will be a bit wobbly. While I can tell that they are trying hard to make real characters, I think that a lot of it is a more nuanced attack on Mormon communities. Now, I have no problem with attacking groups that practice what amounts to paedophilia--attach away, I say--but I do think that depicting them as rough, vicious, and manipulative simply because they live in a segregated community is a bit too far. Half of the hijinx that went on in that community had nothing to do with child brides or lost boys; it seemed as though the producers just wanted to sensationalize them even more. Not cool, in my opinion. Most Mormons are pretty normal people, even if we don't think they believe very normal things. This show contributes to the on-going generalization of all Mormons as inbred redneck polygamist perverts.

Verdict: I enjoyed watching this episodes, but likely will not og out of my way to watch more of them. I liked most of the characters, but the central character was less personable and I was not keen, either, on some of the possible reprecussions of the show. I hear it gets better by the third season, though.

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