With this episode of Sister Wives, we see the Brown family becoming a bit more comfortable with their celebrity as reality TV stars. The cameras interact more with the people around them, and Kody and most of the sister wives seem to enjoy being able to be open about their lifestyle in public, and are quite generous and fairly comfortable in answering questions. (Janelle has more trouble with this, but she does fine.)
They seem to be starting to respond more to their public audience this season altogether. This week they go right for the question of polygamy’s social acceptability by taking the cameras into Kody’s hometown, meeting with his childhood friends.
The whole crew caravan for the 15-hour trip from Las Vegas to Lovell, Wyoming, where they attend a parade and fireworks, go boating with one of Kody’s oldest friends, and see some other friends at a get-together that basically seems to have been created for the purposes of the show. Throughout this, the Browns go everywhere together as a polygamous family, openly talking about their lifestyle, which is fairly new for them for such public events.
The cameras interview random people on the street about their reactions to the Browns. People in general are accepting, but most do not approve. As several of the residents made sure to make it clear when interviewed in the episode, Lovell is not a place where polygamy is commonly practiced or accepted (where is?!).
Still, the reactions of Kody’s friends are mostly benign. What they express seemed quite real, ranging from incredulity to acceptance, with some admitting initial shock that they have since gotten over. One woman says that it makes sense to her that Kody would want sister wives and lots of kids, because he has always liked to be the center of attention! I think this has certainly shown itself to be true—Kody is a great guy to take polygamy public because he actually thrives in the limelight. Even though that quality is off-putting to some, people in general are fascinated.
Ken, his boyhood best friend, seems to still have a lot of animosity, even though they’ve supposedly come to a truce. Ken is still upset about Kody leaving the LDS church to join a small fundamentalist Mormon sect. He admits he feels threatened, and afraid that the Browns will proselytize and “confuse” other Mormons, since the basic tenets of their faith are so similar. He claims to feel duty-bound to ensure that Kody knows he will be going to Hell at death. Personally, I’m not sure this is the kind of friend I’d want around much!
The Mormon history with polygamy has always fascinated me. Polygamy was a big part of the early Mormon culture, but after much of the Mormon population relocated to Utah, it became clear that polygamy was a political liability. The church leadership ended it, at least for earthly existence (even in the mainstream church, a serial monogamist who remarries after a wife’s death is still believed to be married to all of them in the afterlife—for eternity!). Mainstream Mormons today are eager to distance themselves as much as possible from the “fundamentalist” groups who continue the practice of polygamy. I’ve never really heard whether there are any theological differences between the LDS and FLDS churches except for this practice.
I can’t really understand why polygamy would be a tenet of a religion—I totally respect their right to religious freedom, but to me polygamy is more a matter of personal lifestyle choice. I have chosen a polygamous situation just because it works best for me. Doing it for religious reasons, I would think that some people might choose it idealistically rather than really looking at what will work for them. I don’t believe polygamy is for everyone, even though I think it’s great for those it’s right for. In the Sister Wives family, I think the man and women involved are in it because they were attracted to the lifestyle as well as for their faith, and I think that’s why their situation works.
The wives talk about being very offended when people assume polygamy is about sex. The Sister Wives family chose their lifestyle because of their religion, but I think there is an element of personal orientation at play here too—these are people who prefer to live in a poly-fidelity circumstance. That doesn’t mean it’s about having more sex, but that they have these commitments to multiple people (the wives also have commitments to each other, even though they are all only sexual with Kody). Kody talks in this episode about being attracted to polygamy early in life, even while he was in a religion that did not advocate it. I think it’s just part of his personal orientation, and that the wives also are attracted to the lifestyle itself.
I disagree, in this episode, when the women refer to Kody’s relationship with each of his wives as monogamous. Obviously, he is polygamous. I think they are just saying that he has individual relationships with each of them, and that he’s invested in and committed to each one. They have a commitment and they are loyal to it, so it’s not about promiscuity or casualness, or a lack of ability to be in an intimate relationship.
The Brown sister wives say that women are always asking them how they do it, and what they really seem to want to know is why anyone would want to do it! It’s true that people want to know this; that’s why I’ve created my site, to provide some of those answers.