Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Big Surprises: "Big Love"

What do you think of when I say the word polygamist? What images and words come to mind? Take a second and think about it before you continue to read this entry…………

All of those things that you’re thinking of are probably very similar to what I think of: patriarchal family systems, compounds, conservatives, fundamentalism, Jesus, maybe even sexual abuse or statutory rape. I think with any sort of extremist group, everyone has the ability to generalize. As with any sort of stereotype or generalization, there is a counterstory. That is why I have recently fallen in love with “Big Love.”

“Big Love,” a show on the HBO network, is about a modern polygamist family living in Utah. This family doesn’t wear old-fashioned clothes or live on a compound. Each wife lives in one of three suburban houses that were bought by the main character Bill Hendrickson played by Bill Paxton. Right off the bat, these set of circumstances do not sound familiar for the schema of polygamy. It’s clear that the writers of the show are trying to tackle this strange crevice of American society in a new way. This concept becomes even truer when you see how Bill Hendrickson’s masculinity is portrayed. The reason I love this show so much is in part because of this character. In such a patriarchal frame like polygamy, I found it really surprising that the main character is a strong masculine figure that is also a loving, and tender father and husband.

Although I found this counterstory in a strange place, I think it’s important to generate some conversation about this show and this character. It’s great to see this strong, ambitious man - living in social situation that is dominated by traditional concepts of masculinity - show tender affection towards each member of his family, especially his sons.

-Liz Harmon, Men Can Stop Rape intern (sadly, leaving our office all too soon) Share

1 comment:

  1. Can you please expand on this a bit? I'm not sure how showing a bit of tenderness exonerates anyone. I guess my personal experience consists of an ex-husband who cheated, abused, and controlled women. And yet he was capable of tender moments. Many abused women tell of tender moments.

    I haven't seen the show, so I'm not trying to attack. Just curious where you're coming from.