This is me losing a game of chicken for the second time in a row.
1. I don’t have HBO. I have never seen an episode of Big Love. I once saw a few minutes of The Sopranos in a hotel room. It was not a life-changing experience. Some friends who have HBO introduced me to Flight of the Conchords. This cracks me up. Recycling’s not part of it, but it’s still very important! I am not into boxing. I am very close to canceling my current non-premium-channel-included cable package. It is expensive, and a vast majority of the programming sucks anyway.
2. I have read a fair amount about Big Love, including the bloggernacle’s recent Big Love-a-palooza. Also, it was interesting to read David Byrne’s thoughts on composing fake Mormon hymns for the show. The attempts of some mainstream media outlets to make Big Love’s recent temple scenes seem very controversial was predictable and kind of sad.
3. I like seeing Mormon characters, themes, and stories in wide circulation. And Big Love apparently gets some things right–some Mormons I respect actually like it. Yet it also seems to get a lot wrong. More troubling: like an unconstitutional raid in Texas, Big Love apparently blurs certain lines because doing so serves an agenda, increases entertainment value, or both.
4. I have heard speculation that Tom Hanks is using the show to exact his revenge against Mormons for their involvement in Proposition 8. As you know, the guy who played Buffy Wilson on Bosom Buddies has declared Mormons everywhere unAmerican! Other speculation I have heard: Big Love exists to increase tolerance for non-traditional family arrangements. Both items seem plausible, but who knows? Either way, I doubt that the glib show people behind Big Love are doing the show because they have genuine respect or sympathy for Mormons, fundamentalist/polygamist Mormons, or any other similarly tradition-bound group of people.
5. Polygamy interests me as a writer. I have a story coming out in the next issue of Dialogue called “Triptych: Plural.” Flannery O’Connor talked about the South being a “Jesus-haunted” place. The characters in “Triptych: Plural” are mainstream Mormons who are “polygamy haunted.” Also, I thought it was funny to have a character (a missionary) use polygamy to change the subject in an interview with his mission president in this story. And I am working on yet another story right now about mainstream Mormons grappling with polygamy. I have even worked up the basic outlines of a mystery/thriller about a former lost boy/converted Mormon law enforcement officer who attempts to infiltrate Hilldale/Colorado City. My point: part of me feels like I should check out Big Love for research purposes.
6. Setting the Mormon content aside, Big Love sounds like a tacky soap opera with a fair amount of awkward, simulated sex. Does the fact that such a show seems culturally significant say anything about the state of narrative art? Or is this just bad TV? Bad TV has always been with us, right?
7. The temple is a sacred place to me. Temple ordinances are sacred to me. I understand that these things are not sacred to some people. Still, it is wrong to take other people’s sacred things, remove them from their sacred context, and exploit them for entertainment purposes. I understand what it means to hold something sacred, so I would never do that to other people’s sacred things. I wonder if the people behind the Big Love temple scenes simply do not understand this. Maybe they hold nothing sacred. That thought makes me sad for them. Anyway, I think it is natural for Mormons to feel injured by Big Love’s exploitation of sacred Mormon things.
8. I feel absolutely no shame about the temple, temple ordinances, temple garments, or anything else. I actually like the idea of the temple and everything it entails seeming less secret and cultish to outsiders. The church PR office struck exactly the right tone. The church is strong, and there is no need to lose our heads. There is no need to act ashamed or more cultish than we actually are.