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TV Review: Sister Wives – “The 4 Lives of Kody Brown”

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As the title of this episode of Sister Wives suggests, it focuses mainly on Kody Brown, the husband, and his struggles with maintaining intimate relationships with his four wives. There are also a lot of other topics interwoven throughout: Robyn, the fourth wife, reveals that she will be having a boy, there is conversation about some new family business ideas, and all the sister wives discuss the issues that Christine, the second wife, is currently having in her relationship with Kody.

Since they’ve moved to Las Vegas from Utah to escape possible prosecution for polygamy, the Browns have been living in four separate houses, one for each wife and her kids. The houses are as much as a mile apart, which means Kody is driving a lot to spend time with everyone. He’s frustrated and tired, although he really isn’t throwing a pity party about it.

Kody’s not a sympathetic character in our culture. Polygamy is still taboo in mainstream America. I’ve been reading a lot of the blogs and articles out there about Sister Wives, and I know that people tend to think he’s having his cake and eating it too, by being able to be with multiple women while they have to share him.

As someone who’s chosen a polygamous lifestyle myself, I see his flaws but I also sympathize with his plight. It’s true that he did choose his life, but so did each of the sister wives, and I believe they have that right. I also know that being a polygamous husband is hardly the paradise some imagine it might be!

Kody and each of the sister wives has a one-liner they speak during the intro to each episode, and his is “Love should be multiplied, not divided.” Personally, I think this is a little cheesy, but I get his point. The point of view most people have is that he is dividing his love, and that each wife gets less than she deserves because of this. But poly people find that love increases when it’s shared, because love is not a finite thing that can be divided like a pie. Polygamous women also have the love of their sister wives; in a functional polygamous household, there can arguably be a lot more love to go around than there might be with only two adults.

The situation as it is prevents this. The sister wives no longer have each other in the same way that they used to, and they no longer see Kody as much either. I think that the stress of all the changes is exacerbated by the break-down of their internal support system. As the glue that holds it all together, Kody is wearing thin trying to please everyone.

Christine is going through a crisis that’s totally new to her in watching Kody build the new relationship with Robyn. She’s mostly blaming it on Kody, even though she admits that she can see a lot of it is in her own head. This is a tough one to write about because I know a lot of people also blame Kody – they think she is justified in being angry with him, because they already are predisposed not to like him and can’t understand why’d she’d want to be with him in the first place. But the truth is more complicated than that.

Robyn is around 10 years younger than the other women, and she’s pretty, thin, feminine, and sweet. She really puts it on for Kody, playing the girl to get him to do things for her, making him the center of her attention when he’s around, working to keep the romance alive. Christine’s past that new love period at 17 years into a marriage, and in her difficulties she’s turned snarky and hostile, pushing Kody even further away even while he’s obviously still trying to get past the barriers she’s putting up. In contrast she sees Robyn having a much better time right now, and it’s making her feel even worse.

But Kody is right—jealousy arises when there’s fear that what you love might be taken away, because someone else is loved more. A lot of people think it’s a natural emotion, but it’s really more about something that happens in your head. Some people actually don’t get jealous! And it’s usually the people who are the most secure in themselves.

The Browns have just gone through a huge move with their 16 kids, they have financial difficulties, some of them no longer have careers, and there’s this new woman and her kids who still haven’t fully integrated into the family. Talk about stress! Some people on the web have predicated that one of the sister wives will leave, and I don’t think that’s going to happen, partly because they’ve been together so long and have so much that bonds them, but it’s certainly playing up the drama.

I think it will probably bring them closer together, in the end. With so many kids to look after, and no new women for 16 years, I don’t think they’ve had to deal with this level of emotional difficulties between the adults before. It would be easy to just bypass a lot of that and focus on handling business. This seems to me like it’s making them be more real with each other.

Robyn’s baby is likely to help the sister wives bond. As fundamentalist Mormons, the Browns place a very high value on having lots of kids. (I don’t agree with this personally, but I honor their right to their religious beliefs.) As hard as it may be for some people to understand, having kids with the same man brings these women closer together, gives them something very intimate and special to share.

If they can get a family business going together, as they are trying to do, that may also really save the day. In addition to being the financial vehicle they need to create a housing situation that will work for them, it could be the way they all reconnect more intimately again in the meantime.

They’ve all got to really be on board, though. At one point in this episode, Robyn confronts Meri on her reluctance to participate in trying new business ideas, and in her greater commitment to keeping her separate house a mile away from everyone else. Robyn laughs when she says it, but I think that’s just her way of trying to not get too heavy while still speaking her truth. I think she means it, and I think she might be right.

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  • http://quarryhillcreativecenter.blogspot.com Ladybelle Fiske

    Good job, Poly! I really enjoyed reading this and agree that Robyn (perhaps because of her closeness with Meri) feels that Meri is pulling away from the Brown family in some respect. Meri is in a different stage of life. Her only child is almost grown; her relationship with Kody seems in a more casual stage than it was in Utah. She would perhaps veer off on her own if it were not so difficult to do that, one feels. COuld this be particularly because her daughter, Mariah, is unhappy with the entire arrangement?
    I find Janelle’s disinterest in Robyn’s baby more than simply her disturbance over loss of work. It seems to me she’s never really gotten fully bonded with Robyn; in fact, all of the wives with the exception of Meri seem to have their problems with Robyn… but she’s a bonus to the group. She’s good with the kids, wants very much to be united with the other women, and is appealing and caring. Still, her youth and beauty may be difficult for the older women.
    C’est la vie! If only their religion permitted multiple husbands, things might pan out more easily.
    I wish the Brown family well, and also the new TV Open Thread commentator, Polygrrl. I’ll be writing about Sister Wives from time to time but am happy that Poly is taking Sunday nights.

  • http://www.polygrrl.com polygrrl

    Thanks for the feedback, Ladybelle! I’ll look forward to your future articles!

    I think you’re right about Janelle – she and Robyn are so different that it’s not a natural fit for them to be friends, and she also seems to be irritated by her. She has always seemed way too in her head to me, and not having her career seems to be making her deal with personal relationships more, which isn’t her forte. No shortage of drama this season!