I just finished watching this season’s second to last episode of HBO’s Big Love soap opera, and I believe there may be another hidden reason that the show makes Mormons uneasy. Much of the media’s attention has been on the fact that this episode portrayed a scene in a Mormon temple, however, the show did have one line that caught me: the main character expressly claimed that the Mormon church was just as corrupt as the show’s main antagonists who are practicing polygamy and generally in trouble with the law.
This theme has underlined the entire season of the show. Without giving away the details of the show, it is fair to say that the Mormon Church is not portrayed favorably. The Church noted as much in their non-statement regarding the temple portrayal. And true to form, the show continues to portray the main characters as sincere individuals who truly belief their faith and way of life (polygamy) will lead them to eternal salvation.
As many of the comments noted, the Mormon Church has officially said they were disappointed by the show’s attempt to portray a temple scene, along with this season’s general theme involving the Mormon church, but have not officially opposed or boycotted the show.
It would be interesting to see less focus on the temple scene and more focus on the veracity of the show’s attempt to portray the Mormon Church as somehow corrupt and sinister. There has hardly been any noise on this issue as compared to the controversy surrounding films such as The Da Vinci Code and The Last Temptation of Christ. That seems to be the deliberate strategy of the Mormon Church, but that doesn’t mean journalists can’t look into it.
True to form, much of the media’s discussion involves the portrayal of plural marriages. Here is The Chicago Tribune‘s The Seeker blog:
Wilde can relate to much of the show, which often illustrates how plural wives usually get along.
“One thing I have especially liked about the show so far is the family solidarity; even though the three wives have disagreements, they usually support each other in the long run,” she said. “I also like the fact that the Hendrickson family lives in a relatively upscale community, is not in an isolated area, is able to support themselves … dispelling the stereotypes that all polygamous wives are controlled and uneducated, dress in different styles, depend on government assistance.” . . .
But Wilde hopes more people do watch the show and realize that all Americans (including polygamists) should be granted equal civil rights. She said plural marriage between consenting adults should be a constitutional guarantee.
“By learning more about this lifestyle, they hopefully can see that a polygamous family is very similar to a monogamous family in many ways,” Wilde said. “Except there are usually more members of the family, thus more people to love and more people to love you.”
The show certainly has a significant element that is about polygamy, but there are questions that journalists aren’t asking about the portrayal of polygamy.
For instance, earlier this season the show briefly considered why the polygamous family only has multiple wives, and not multiple husbands in a relationship. The beliefs of the show’s protagonists only allow for a solo man to marry a plural number of women, not the other way around.
Under the current constitutional scheme for determining due process rights such as marriage, if the Supreme Court were to declare state bans on polygamy as unconstitutional, it would be almost certain that the restriction would apply equally to both genders. In other words, any number of people, regardless of their gender, could marry any number of other people. Not that there are cases at this point that would come close to advocating for this, but an interesting question for plural marriage advocates would be whether they are comfortable with that sort of interpretation of constitutional guarantees.