The love flows for 'Big Love' at Sunstone session
By Scott D. Pierce
Deseret Morning News
There was a "Big Love"-fest at the 2006 Sunstone Symposium on
Friday. Members of a panel discussing the impact of the HBO series
about a family of polygamist heaped love upon it.
"All I can say is — I love it," said panelist Richard Dutcher,
the LDS filmmaker whose credits include "God's Army," "Brigham City"
and "States of Grace." "I want to direct it. I wish they'd give me a
"Big Love" centers on a Utah businessman and his three wives as
they muddle through life's everyday struggles — marriage, family,
children, work. All complicated by polygamy, their need to keep it
quiet and Bill's conflict with one of his fathers-in-law, who's the
head of an FLDS-like sect.
The co-authors of "Voices in Harmony: Contemporary Women
Celebrate Plural Marriage" admitted discomfort with the sexual content
of the series but in general were more than happy with its portrayal
of their lifestyle.
"They do have problems, just like any other monogamous family,"
said Anne Wilde, who is also the managing editor of the pro-polygamy
Mormon Focus magazine. "This is the message we like to get out — we
are so normal in so many ways. I think it has changed the perception
of the lifestyle."
"In truth, that's how we see ourselves. We see ourselves as just
another family," said Mary Batchelor, who lived as a second wife in a
polygamous family until the first wife left. She added that she
doesn't know any families just like "Big Love's" Henricksons, but she
knows of families who live the way they do and have similar
experiences. And Wilde praised "Big Love's" portrayal of the
"diversity" of polygamy.
"And I like the humor that it brought out. ... We do, believe it
or not, have a lot of humorous experiences in my family," Wilde said.
There was some quibbling. Dutcher criticized "minor little
things" like the pronunciation of words like "Palmyra" and
"recommend." Batchelor found the concept of the earlier wives issuing
orders to those who married later unlikely. And Wilde said she wished
the show had emphasized the religious aspects of polygamy more.
The panelists brushed off protests against the show, including
an e-mail campaign that circulated before "Big Love" premiered.
Dutcher said he "could tell by the tone of the e-mails that most of
them had never seen it."
Doe Daughtrey, a member of the Sunstone board of directors who
is doing doctoral work in religious studies at Arizona State, said,
"It escapes critics that while they complain that these people are not
us, they insist that 'us' be portrayed accurately," adding that she
believes "the response to 'Big Love' has, in my opinion, been driven
by the fact that these people are us."
Daughtrey said that women polygamists have become the "new
witches" to mainstream LDS society and that "it frightens us" to have
them normalized on the show.
But there was lots of love in the room for "Big Love."
"It's really been amazing to us in the polygamous culture that a
show like this could be so successful," Wilde said.
The show averaged between 4 million and 5 million viewers per week.