On September 25, 2011, Sister Wives began its third season. Although I had enjoyed writing about the show each Sunday last year on Blogcritics’ “TV Open Thread,” I wasn’t certain I wanted to do the same this year.
To write about the show last year, I had to stay up later than usual (my husband commutes 120 miles a day, and needs his sleep). Yet this wasn’t the full reason I had second thoughts about writing (at least in the TV Open Thread section). I also want to write about other things; but at the bottom my reason was that I had, and have, some doubts about whether this show depicts an image of multiple relationship to which I can relate.
Last year a surprising number of people responded to my Blogcritics articles on Sister Wives: some with curiosity, some with tolerance and positive support for the Brown family, and some with disdain for a life that encompasses four wives, sixteen children, and one husband and father.
My point of view is this: I have no problem with the issue of poly-marriage, but I do tend to feel that if a man is going to have more than one wife, the woman (or women) should be free to do the same. A children’s rights activist since I was a child myself (so were my parents), I felt a good deal of concern for the Brown children as they fled Utah for Las Vegas at the end of last season. I had often wondered what, exactly, was the point of my publicizing and supporting this way of life?
It is not the multiplicity that bothers me. It’s the conservatism, the restraint of the younger generation; the certainty on the part of Kody Brown that he should be the one and only head of the family; and his lack of concern for the feelings of other family members in doing what he wants to do.
He expressed concern for Meri, Janelle, and Christine, his other three wives, when he married the younger and more attractive Robyn last year, but I never got the sense that he really had any intention of not marrying her if they asked him not to. (I suppose men are often the same about this sort of thing, marriage or no marriage.) One gets the same feeling with his children– he feels he cares about them, but is he really aware of their wishes and their concept of what they need?
In the first episode of this season, Meri and Kody’s teenage daughter (who found leaving Utah and her church very difficult) refuses to come to church with the family, because she feels it’s wrong to bring cameras into a religious situation. Kody seemed baffled, but gave in (probably because he was worried that she might run off back to Utah if he tried to force her).
They try attending a local church, but the wives quickly express the sense that they can never be at home in a church that does not support polygamy. It’s interesting because they seem to suffer a good deal from sharing a husband, yet they defend polygamy strongly, in a way that might surprise those who have never lived in a multiple relationship. I think it isn’t so much Kody they defend (though of course they love him) as the relationship with one another, despite their early distrust of and discomfort with Robyn, with whom Meri, the oldest and legally married wife has now created a sisterly, confiding relationship. They like being with and helping one another, and they like to have their kids be a part of one another’s lives. This is something I can understand, and I am sure there are many out there who do as well– even if it’s only from the perspective of a big, extended family with many cousins and aunts and uncles.
The Brown family also deals with Robyn’s announcement that she will be having a baby in early October. Meri seems welcoming about it; Kristine hugs her. But Janelle seems focused on her own problem, almost unaware that Robyn is miserably awaiting her approval. Janelle, though, claims that her lack of response to Robyn’s announcement springs from other issues, such as her loss of a job (she was one of the family members who always worked), and other issues involved in moving to Vegas. The women are each living in a different house, rather than one house with three apartments (and an extra house for Robyn) as things were in Utah. I imagine this does bring up all sorts of feelings, though you’d think that at least some of the women would prefer having their own house.
Another issue is that they are all concerned about the older teenagers getting involved with members of the opposite sex. They have pools, and they want to have pool parties; but, calling themselves “conservative,” they become disturbed by co-ed hanging out in the pool, something that probably seems entirely normal to most “outside world” teenagers.
Do I want to write about the Brown family? Yes, within certain parameters. I’m interested enough to watch it and write a column every few episodes.
Readers, let me know what you think of this arrangement, and feel free to post your thoughts and feelings about the show and the Brown family here. I’ll be glad to discuss it all with you.