What am I going to do when Big Love ends next week? Where will I get my periodic Mormon polygamist fix? Enter Sister Wives, TLC’s latest reality series about a FLDS (Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saint) polygamist family, the Browns, who live in or near Salt Lake City and have twelve children. The Brown’s patriarch, Kody, has three wives (Meri, Janelle, and Christine) and is a freelance advertising consultant (or something along those lines) who practices plural marriage in a large, yet dismally sparse prefabricated home. Where Big Love is intense, albeit sometimes overdramatic, Sister Wives resembles just about every other reality program on the air; the difference is its subject material.
I am fascinated by Mormon polygamists and have been prior to Big Love’s entrance into HBO’s premier line-up five or six years ago. After reading Jon Krakauer’s book Under the Banner of Heaven I couldn’t help finding their way on life intriguing, not because conversion is even a potentiality but because the mindset necessary is so distant from my own. I have no idea what it would be like having multiple partners at the same time, believing in any form of Mormonism, or living in Utah. It all sounds so unappealing. Beginning, Mormonism is such an odd religion; a newer faith and probably the only religion founded in America, aside from Scientology and various cults (Scientology isn’t a cult?). I personally find their formative story absurd but, like most religions, I’m willing to set aside my personal feelings and not insult a Mormon’s faith, at least to their face. However, where Catholicism, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, or any other belief structure are unbelievable to me and seem a bit outlandish, Mormonism’s reached a new level of silly – only surpassed by Scientology or maybe some New Age religions. All these faiths place the individual, and their relationship with god, outside the context of the world they inhabit. The planet is secondary to humanity, especially in Western Christianity since the Enlightenment, and this is responsible for our current environmental woes.