Saturday, September 30, 2006

Big Love

Latter-day Saint/Mormon Characters
in the HBO series:
Big Love (2005)

"Big Love" (2005)
Pilot episode (series premiere) written by Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer
Pilot episode directed by Rodrigo Garc=EDa
Executive producer: Tom Hanks

Starring: Bill Paxton, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chlo=EB Sevigny (Chloe
Sevigny), Ginnifer Goodwin, Harry Dean Stanton, Amanda Seyfried,
Daveigh Chase, Garrett Gray, Mitchell Gray, Spencer Gray, Douglas

"Big Love" is an HBO series created by Mark V. Olsen and gay
screenwriter Will Scheffer. The series premiere was directed by
Rodrigo Garcia ("Six Feet Under", "Boomtown","Nine Lives"). When
production on "Big Love" was announced it generated considerable news
coverage, partially because the series was to be produced by superstar
Tom Hanks' production company, with Hanks as executive producer.

The "Big Love" series is about a business owner in Salt Lake City
(played by Bill Paxton) and his three wives. Paxton's character is a
polygamist, whose unorthodox lifestyle is based on his background as
what is sometimes known by the misnomer "fundamentalist Mormon."

HBO originally ordered 11 episodes of "Big Love" produced. Amanda
Seyfried was cast as "Sarah Henrickson," a teenage daughter of Bill
Paxton's character. Some of the audition sides for this part are shown
below. Cast as Paxton's three wives (all major roles in the series)
were Chloe Sevigny, Jeanne Tripplehorn and Ginnifer Goodwin. Other
actors cast for "Big Love" were Harry Dean Stanton, Daveigh Chase,
Garrett Gray, Mitchell Gray, Spencer Gray and Douglas Smith.

The series premiered in August 2005.

Executive producer Tom Hanks was himself a Mormon for less than two
years when he was a child, but he was part of the mainstream Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and was not a "fundamentalist
Mormon" or part of polygamist culture. Hanks' frequently-disrupted
family life put him in a number of different denominations while
growing up. In high school, Tom Hanks joined a Fundamentalist
Christian (Protestant) denomination, but did not remain active in it
into his twenties. When Hanks married Rita Wilson, he joined her
denomination: the Greek Orthodox Church. It is not known whether
Hanks' background provided any impetus for his deciding to produce
"Big Love."

Although "Big Love" is ostensibly about polygamy, much of its subject
matter and themes are actually a veneer for presenting the non-LDS
writers' GLBT themes and gay apologia.

The Biblical practice of polygamy was banned by the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints in the late 1800s, and anybody who
attempts to practice polgamy is not allowed to be part of the Church.
Wary of stirring up negative controversy, and wishing to avoid
accusations of anachronistic or dishonest storytelling, HBO publicists
issued statements that "Big Love" was not about Latter-day Saints and
would not be filmed in Utah.

However, excerpts from the teleplay for the pilot episode of the
series make it clear that at least some of the characters in "Big
Love" are written as mainstream Latter-day Saints. Series star Chloe
Sevigny told reporters that the show's producers intended to film in
Utah. In the excerpt below, some characters are members of the
mainstream Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They discuss
Church-related topics with a daughter of the central polygamist
character. This girl has clearly spent time in the mainstream Church,
although her family is apparently now separated from the Church.

The teleplay excerpts contain two cheers or chants spoken by a teenage
Latter-day Saint girl named "Jordan." (Jordan is not from a
polygammist group; she is a member of mainstream Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints.) Jordan's chants would strike most
Latter-day Saints as strange, and might even seem like yet another
indicator that the script writers were out of touch and were
inaccurate in their portrayal of Latter-day Saints.

Yet these chants were actually copied directly from a fireside outline
written by a regular Latter-day Saint Young Women's leader. The
fireside outline was not published by the official Church, but it was
posted on an independent website dedicated to providing supplemental
materials for Young Women leaders. (The "Young Women" organization in
the Church is for female Church members ages 12 through 18.)

On the "YW Connection" website (, there is a
Young Women Camp section
( On the index page
for the Young Women Camp section there is section with the heading
"Camp Themes." Some of the themes in this section include: Everyway
Heroes; Heroes of the Heart; Hold Your Torch High; Field of Dream;
Like A Lighthouse; Millennial Bugs; Mission Possible; Olympics; On
Safari, Searching For Heaven; We Three Queen; Quest for the Best;
Shoot For the Stars; To Know Ewe is to Love Ewe; Unity in the Hive;
United We Stand.

One of the Young Women Camp themes is "Major Leagues." It is a
baseball theme, and the page describing it
( features a
detailed outline of a fireside, complete with some camp cheers.

One of the cheers from this Young Women camp fireside touches on the
Word of Wisdom:

Drugs are an abomination.
We're the Mormon congregation.
That should be an indication,
Heaven is our destination!

Note how this cheer is repeated in the "Big Love" script:

(deadpan, understated)
"We're the Mormon Congregation.
That should be an indication.
Heaven is our destination. Yeah."

Another cheer used during the "Major Leagues" camp fireside is about
the law of chastity (moral purity):

We can wait! We can wait! We can wait to procreate
'Til aaaaaaaaaaafter marriage!

This cheer was also repeated in the "Big Love" script:

(the same throwaway irony)
We can wait. We can wait. We can
wait to procreate. Till
aaaaffffffter marriage. Yeah.

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