Roberta’s Funeral
Big Love, Episode 6
By Rob Wilson
Monday, April 17, 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.

HBO did their research and although Big Love is far from perfect there have been enough positives to make for some interesting debate in the polyamory and related communities. Episode six however covered some serious ground that I personally don’t know enough about to address in a comprehensive manner. Something that I feel is a negative and may give the wrong impression of our lifestyle and finally, a positive.

Bill’s mother Lois Henrickson, played by Grace Zabriski, is the second wife to Frank (played by Bruce Dern). Roberta was his first wife and has recently died, putting Lois into the first wife position. Unfortunately Frank and Lois can’t stand each other, and Lois may have poisoned Frank at the beginning of the series, which puts Lois into an awkward situation.

When pressed by her son Bill, she states that the reason she wishes to move into the first position is to make her kids ‘legitimate’ and to protect herself. It seems that everything she owns is in the name of the Priesthood Council (the board that runs the commune) and she fears that.

Exactly who is considered family is an ongoing discussion within the poly and gay/lesbian community. Although much needed and welcome strides have been made by the homosexual community, many of their benefits are still deigned to the polyamorous. There are many who believe, and so do I, that this will be the civil rights battle going into the next decade. Trusts, wills and other legal issues are being hammered out now by various polyamorous communities. I would highly recommend reviewing the various links on this site to learn how to protect yourself and your various beloved others.

Now for the negative issues. Nicki, played by Chloe Segivny, is not what polyamory is about. It sadly makes for good TV. Her character is selfish, childish, manipulative and dishonest. - four things that would most likely end a polyamorous and most likely a monogamous relationship in real life. It all begins when Nicki grows irate at Barb who is trying to reset their schedule so Nicki will have Bill when she is most likely to be ovulating. However Nicki believes that she should get extra time with Bill when her temperature spikes are the highest. After Barb leaves, she swallows a birth control pill and then tucks it away in a safe hiding spot.

Later on, after one of her credit cards is refused at one of Bill’s stores, Barb has to bail her out. Nicki, it appears, also tried to use a discount card available only to family members and is being suspected of identity theft. Once alone in the car with Barb she explodes, stating that she feels that she should not have to ask Barb’s permission for everything. She also resents the lack of public life with Bill and her feeling that she has no control over anything. Barb states that she does appreciate Nicki for all she does, which softens the fight but does not resolve the underlying issues of the fight.

Afterward she tells Barb that she hopes she has a little baby girl - in honor of her.

Polyamory is about expanding love and honesty, and although jealousy and disagreements occur with all parties involved it has been my experience that the parties involved are normally able to find some common ground. Or at least part on good terms. I have seen this happen time and time again in my relationships and with my polyamorous friends.

Nicki is letting the green-eyed monster named jealousy eat her very soul. Her comments to Marge, the youngest of the three wives, are nearly abusive in scope. Her manipulation of the family, stating that she wishes to have another child where clearly she doesn’t, is nearly psychotic in nature.

These are the behaviors that destroy monogamous relationships as well as polyamorous ones. One positive I gathered from this episode was when Barb told a friend of hers, and a fellow polygamist, about her affair. Barb loves the excitement of sneaking around, however she is warned about getting hurt. Although she understands how difficult it is to feel special in this type of relationship, Barb needs to remember that there are two other women that are also married to the same man, and they love him also.
The message, although subtle was very clear. We must take all our partners hopes and dreams into consideration; what we do not only affects ourselves but those around us as well.

The show ends on a high note when Bill returns home after several days away at the compound where he was raised, attending Roberta’s funeral. Ben, his oldest son watches from a distance as the wives and various children all rush in and welcome him home. Later, Ben and Bill are sitting by the pool and they talk about polygamy. Insert the word “polyamory” into the speech the father gives the son and you see why I believe that this show has some redeeming values.

Ben -“Do you think I could have more than one wife someday?”
Bill - “Plural marriage is a tremendous responsibility, it can be terribly abused. It’s not for every man. God calls you to it and we have to answer with fortitude.”

My old dog-eared American Heritage Dictionary defines fortitude as “Strength of mind that allows one to endure pain or adversity with courage.” Polyamorous relationships do contain their fair share of adversity, but the rewards can be truly amazing.

folks have read this article.