Big Love, Big Opportunities
Rob Wilson, Monday, March 13, 2006
Rob is a member of this online community. This is his
first sumbmission to us. He can be reached via email, or
This will be an ongoing review for the entire 12 weeks
of the HBO drama Big Love. Previous editions of
this review can be found in the
Monthly Columns archives.
not a review of the new HBO series Big Love with
Bill Paxton, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chloe Sevigny, and
finally Ginnifer Goodwin as a modern day Polygamist and
At least not in the traditional sense. As I watched the
premier episode, I was more curious how the writers
would show how a non monogamous relationship may work
then in the actual storyline. Big Love has the
possibility of becoming a story about dysfunction and
sex, but as I sat and watched I also found several
subtle things that we in the polyamourous world can
point to and say “This is very true.” Such as the
support network created by an extended family.
It is my hope to be able to go through each and every
episode of the series and start a discussion about how
the family interacts, how we can encourage constructive
conversations about polyamory and how to correct the
errors the show may have and reinforce in peoples minds.
A brief introduction to the show is required. Bill
Henrickson is a successful business owner living in
modern day suburban Salt Lake City, Utah. To the outside
world he has a lovely wife who is also a teacher and
three children. The oldest is a sixteen-year-old girl, a
sports loving son who is fifteen, and a daughter who is
At night however he goes home to one of three houses he
maintains. A large privacy fence keeps out prying eyes
and all three houses share one large backyard. In each
house lives one of Bill Henrickson’s wives and the
various children they have born for him..
So let us begin with the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of
the series so far. First the good news. The show started
off with all the family gathered together about the
table sharing dinner. Notice the important word -
family. Not a separate dinner with each wife, not a
harsh word between the wives; a general sense of well
being and community was instead implied.
Also, of interest was the sharing of resources between
the family members. All three wives are shown at the
table dividing up the income, working out a fair and
reasonable way to “share” the attentions of their mutual
husband and discussing various things. Later on in the
show, the first and second wives (played by Jeanne
Tripplehorn as Barb and Chloe Sevigny as Nicky) go with
Bill back to the rural community where he was raised,
leaving the youngest of the wives, Margene, played by
Ginnifer Goodwin, to watch the five youngest children.
It quickly becomes obvious that Margene was way over her
head while watching the kids, one for example pees on
the kitchen floor, but who comes to comfort her? Not
Bill, but the other two wives who cradle her and express
mutual support and love for each other.
At the end of the episode, as Bill opens the second of
his home repair super stores he gazes lovingly at the
faces of all three wives while they in turn look back at
him with a mixture of pride and love.
Not that everything is a bed of roses in the Henrickson
household(s). His first wife, Barbara generally rules
the nest and may be seen as Bill’s primary partner. This
creates some conflict with Nicky, who seems to suffer
some jealousy issues. Even going so far as to whine “But
Barb got to redecorate her house!” and shooting dirty
looks at her.
It is that petty jealousy that I’m curious about. How
will the writers show the conflict between these two?
Will it fester or will the writers show the two women
sitting down and discussing their differences in an open
and honest manner? It’s a drama of course, so expect a
catfight eventually. In that conflict though lies the
seeds for our community to talk about the concept of
“fair fighting,” meaningful discussions and how jealousy
can be used as a form of personal growth.
I do believe that the show places to heave an emphasis
on sex. Not only is Bill sleeping on a rotation with all
three women but he is expected to have sex with one of
them on any given night. This leads to an addiction to
One of the wives coos that she misses him, it's been a
whole three days since she has had sex. Then again this
is HBO, so I guess it's just a matter of time before two
or more of the ladies end up in bed with or without
Bill. Although sex in any relationship is important, it
is not the primary reason one enters into a polyamourous
relationship (I would hope).
What is really ugly in the series for me so far is that
the Bill and family seem to want to take the moral high
ground, they are seen praying in several scenes for
example. Yet when they visit the rural community where
Bill was raised, referred to as "The Compound”, your
immediately hit over the head with the introduction of
child brides and a sense that women are a second class
citizen or generally abused. Exactly how Bill feels
about this and his upbringing will have to be explored
in future shows.
Overall the first episode of Big Love has the
potential to create discussion and can certainly be used
by the poly community to show that our lifestyle has
several advantages over the traditional monogamous
lifestyle. We just need to make sure that we stress the
strong points of the series and not get swept up in the
The next episode of Big Love will be Sunday,
March 19 at 10 PM EST. Check your local listings if you
missed the premiere episode.
Rob Wilson, March 13, 2006
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