Big Love, Episode 4
By Rob Wilson
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
Rob is a member of this online community. This series of reviews is his first submission to us. He can be reached via email, or through our forums.

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.

As a member of the polyamorous community I truly believe that the HBO series Big Love is a cultural tipping point, for it will continue to generate media attention and that in turn will start people talking - and seriously thinking - about alternative lifestyles. It's easy however to get caught up in the lives of the characters and forget that this is just a TV show.

The most recent episode of the series does ask for some suspension of belief but also manages to touch on several things that our community should discuss with nonmembers and interested parties. So first a brief synopsis of this week's episode followed by some talking points.

Eclipse begins on a comic note, with Bill running around from house to house trying to find out which wife he should be sleeping with, only to end up sleeping on the couch since one of his seven children has commandeered his side of the bed.

Barb, his first wife, is offered a full time teaching position. One that she feels she needs and should take, not only to further their career but also to bring some much needed extra money into the home(s), clearly stating at one point that she is taking the position "for all of us." Bill, although happy for her suggests she run it past the other wives first, since it will affect their lives as well. Barb asks if they have veto power.

This scene opens up several points for discussion. Often polyamory is accused of being self centered; when in fact it takes the needs and wants of the other person(s) into consideration. In reality we're very aware of how our decisions will affect the other people in our lives. Scheduling is very important to us. Although she eventually accepts the job, the writers should be commended for exploring how this affects Nicki and Margene, the remaining two wives. However in the show Nicki does not take to the news well, and eventually a fight breaks out among the three women.

"This is not in the spirit of whom we are" Barb states quietly, ending the fight. Here is an excellent opportunity to talk about the concept of "fair fighting". Or even how we recognize that one member of our family can veto another member. It's not that we take sides, but try to listen to all sides for a disagreement in a cool and rational manner. We're also the first to admit that it doesn't work all the time, but we try to make it work a majority of the time.

Barb also clearly states that although she may be the first wife, that the rest of the wives are equals. Again, a simple phrase that does not belittle any member of the family and clearly indicates the importance and contribution of each family member.

We also learn a little on how the Henrickson family became polygamous. Barb was suffering from cancer at an undisclosed point in the past and Nicki came to help with the children and household. Somewhere in that time frame her husband started to believe in "the Principle", a Mormon belief that allows a man to take more than one wife. We learn that Barb either started to believe in the Principle herself, or loved her husband too much to see him alone in case of her death.

Instead of being jealous or angry over the developing relationship between her husband and Nicki, she decided to celebrate the love - a term sometimes used is Compersion. We also learn that Barb gradually come to the concept of polygamy, which indicates that our fictional couple(s) had long talks that explored every ones thoughts and feelings before proceeding to the next step.

We learn through trial and error. Here's hoping that the writers continue to explore the history of Barb. She has a lot to teach those interested in the polyamorous lifestyle.

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