Tuesday, September 28, 2010


“In the very essence of poetry there is something indecent: a thing is brought forth which we didn’t know we had in us, so we blink our eyes as if a tiger had sprung out and stood in the light, lashing his tail.” Czeslaw Milosz

“Art is theft, art is armed robbery, art is not pleasing your mother…the true self is aggressive, rude, dirty, disorderly, sexual; the false self which mothers and society instruct us to assume is neat, clean, tidy, polite, content to cut a chaste rosebud with a pair of silver-plated scissors.” Jeanette Winterson

“There are hardly any exceptions to the rule that a person must pay dearly for the divine gift of creative fire.” C. G. Jung

Four's company

Unless y'all've been buried under a tree lately, you'll know all about this new "reality" show on TLC called - what the hell's it called? Oh yeah, Sister Wives. Might as well call it Bob and Carol and Alice and Alice.

See, polygamy is fun now. It's cool. It's an alternative lifestyle, like composting and recycling and community gardening. Except that it's even more rewarding (or so certain people insist).

We have this guy named Kody Brown (not his real name - heh-heh) who lives in Utah, natch, and long ago married three rather large long-haired blondes (not that he has a "type"). They insist they all married this guy before any of their children were born, but then, hey presto, thirteen of them popped out (or should I say twelve and a half - one is still in the oven). This is not so much a family as a litter, a la the Duggars, the Gosselins, and that other family, the one that popped out the quints.

What's this fascination with raising such a mess of kids, anyway? Why is it being presented as such a barrel o' fun? It must be a modern-day version of the carnival side show. And what do you know - one of them really IS called Chrissie (well, Christine), though she's a little too stout to pass for that airhead on Three's Company.

We don't use the term "bigamy" any more - it's one of those words you have to blow the dust off of. Like polygamy, it's illegal as hell in Utah, as it is everywhere else. And the Mormon church is dead-set against it. Does it ever occur to this Kody guy (and who spells it with a K?) that he's not only living in sin, but living under the constant threat of arrest? Is breaking the law really the best example to his mass of kids?

But Kody has all that covered. In interviews, he literally says things like "shucks" and "dang it", insisting with sociopathic sincerity that he's merely obeying the laws of his religion. Having three kinds of nooky to choose from is faith-based, I guess, though I find that hard to comprehend.

Never mind: these wives all smile, smile, smile, and insist that their way of living is a free choice. Incredibly, they say it's up to their kids to decide what sort of life they will lead, but this flies in the face of the entrenched fundamentalism and profound, ruthless patriarchy of "plural marriage".

But there's a "surprise" here. Not content with all that vanilla, Kody wants a little chocolate in his life (or in the bedroom - though he complains of not having any "space" of his own, poor baby. I guess his only space is in these women's vaginas.) The impending addition of a fourth wife to the harem, a slim young brunette this time, seems stage-managed, almost a stunt for the cameras: or is that why the producers agreed to make this show in the first place? Is this impending shift of family dynamics going to make for good TV (bitching, hair-pulling, rrairrrrrrw!), or will it all be a whitewash of forced smiles and sweet sisterhood?

One of the worst Mormon/polygamist sayings is "Keep Sweet", and it might as well be embroidered on a sampler on the wall of every room (and how many would that be? Each wife has her own self-contained apartment, though nobody explains where they'll stash Wife #4). The truth is, Kody, who complains all the time about how tired he is (all that crawling from room to room?), will now have four flavours to choose from every night, with his only problem being keeping his "schedule" straight. It must be nice to be able to ejaculate on cue. Meantime, these sweet sisters have to grit their teeth and wait for their turn.

They're the unpaid help in the harem, programmed from birth to obey male-imposed rules in a patriarchal culture that withholds any control over their intimate lives. Though one of the wives (which one? Damned if I know, they're all blonde/bland) insists they don't "do weird" (i. e., Mormon orgies of four people rolling around on a king-sized bed), the whole premise of the show is more cringe-worthy than that last episode of Hoarders, where the old lady's house was so fouled with cat-shit that it had to be gutted to be made inhabitable.

So why do I watch these things? There isn't much on that's watchable besides Mad Men. And I will admit I have a fascination with the bizarre. I had no idea there was such a significant polygamous subculture in the States: I thought it was the province of crackpots who lived out in the desert with fifteen wives and a shotgun.

But is this Kody guy, this smarmy long-haired creep who oozes a sense of entitlement, this lone rooster in the henhouse, any less off-putting? While the family tries to figure out where to put the new wife (maybe Kody will build a shed for her out in the back yard), I contemplate the dynamics of other polygamous cultures in which the first wife always has the upper hand, the most power in a nearly-powerless situation.

Each succeeding wife has less control, and the last one, the little sister, has practically none. She is merely a sex toy for the husband, who has grown tired of all these breeding cows mooing around the place.

OK, so how long until she gets pregnant? Stay tuned.