With a large mug of coffee and plenty of coughing and sniffling, I steeled myself to watch episode 6 of Showtime’s Polyamory: Married & Dating. I was genuinely expecting to hate it as much as episode 5. I didn’t. So today we have snarky bullet points with what I hated, followed by what I loved, and then some thoughtful analysis. If you are one of the people who really hated my review, go read this instead. Jessica Karels writes really thoughtful reviews. Unlike mine.
Throwing Some Shade
- Is it just me, or does Kamala have to make everything about her? I would love a scene where Jen and Michael are hanging out playing “Go Fish!” over a couple of beers without that heifer having to be in the center of everything.
- Tahl is kind of a weasely little turd. “Oh, I have no idea why our pics are on a swingers site!” We should believe him because he’s so mature and trustworthy, right? Why is his brother on a swingers site anyway? Maybe he picked up that things weren’t kosher with Tahl?
- It was a relief to get a good glimpse of the triad’s bookshelves, because they own more books than I have ever read and I kinda needed a visual on that. Luckily I own weirder books than they have ever read, because I have grimoires sandwiched between my Chomsky and Zinn.
- Coming out is a big deal. It’s emotional. Making your family go through that on camera is crappy. “Hey Mom, I have something big to tell you and cameras are going to be there, so if you disapprove you’re going to look like a total bitch on national tv!” Makes me wonder what some of the conversations that happened afterwards and off-camera sounded like.
- Vanessa must be an orphan. Poor orphan girl, bikini dancing in clubs. Where is her family?
- No one has siblings, cousins, aunts or uncles in their life. So very post-modern.
- Kamala has trouble respecting Tahl because he isn’t out to his parents? This drama queen needs a reality check. Not everyone can come out, not everyone needs to come out and not everyone is safe to come out. As a Pagan this was the single most abhorrent moment on the show, and it took my loathing of Kamala to new heights.
- Still no gay men. Or bi men that I can tell. Seriously, what is up with that?
- Devin will need counseling from Wil Wheaton once he’s older and realizes he was on a reality tv show where his mom had naked sexy time a lot.
- No one was able to come out in terms of values. It was all awkward and tense. There was no “I love these people as much as I love Jen, and we’re stronger, better and more loving people when we are together.”
- Activism implies you are delivering a strong message about an issue important to you in your own words to an audience that is uneducated. Reality tv isn’t activism. Hipster t-shirts are not activism. Bumperstickers are not activism. Facebook statuses are not activism. This show is not activism. It’s still freak of the week reality tv with a few warm fuzzies to keep it from being pure trash.
- I HATE the opening credits. All it screams is SEX! It’s a porn opening and demeaning. It’s not even good porn.
Spreading the Love
- Anthony is an arrogant ass online, but I liked him and the rest of the triad in this episode. They seemed like real people for once.
- Anthony’s parents are awesome. As is their house. I want that house.
- The process of the triad coming out was lovely, and well done. I still think it’s wrong to put your loved ones on the spot on camera, but if you feel you must do it, this is an example of that being handled well.
- NO ONE HAD SEX! Wonder of wonders! Miracle of miracles! Must have made the producers constipated.
- Shabbat makes me happy. It’s the only thing the quad has done as a group that I didn’t detest.
- Jen is seriously the star of the show. She’s the only one in the quad who has any common sense.
- Shlomo, Tahl’s dad, was so quiet and composed. I love it. That would have been my dad’s reaction, and then he would have quietly changed his phone number and written me out of the will. Shlomo wins most realistic reaction award in a sea of self-conscious, timid acceptance.
- Again, I love Jen. I think she’s the only one not on high doses of Prozac. Relationships are hard, and she seems to be the only one not scared to admit that.
So now some thoughtful analysis.
Reality tv shows only feature people who are willing to be on reality tv shows. Let’s just face it, that is a class of people that includes Snooki, Fiona Horne, and Donald Trump. Also, reality tv isn’t real. It’s scripted and spun for maximum drama without any of the cast members consent. So while each cast member on the show might be the best thing since sliced bread in real life, they are not being accurately portrayed on tv. Even if they are vapid, sex-crazed drama queens, the show is still pushing the envelope a little further in how it frames and presents them. So a lot of online angst has been directed at the cast members, and for good reason. It is not because we think they are as bad as they are portrayed, it’s because they signed up to be made into a tv freak willingly.
That really sucks, because we are in a post-Family, post-Big Love and mid-Sister Wives world. When it comes to portraying plural relationships in the media, it seemed to just keep getting better! Until this turkey came along, and a lot of us are rightly miffed. Despite the too-few warm fuzzy moments, this show is a step back in quality, storytelling, representation, reality and human interest. I’d rather see Fred Armisen spoof polyamory on Portlandia, because even if it would be mocking, there is still truth in jest.
I was a huge fan of Family, and as much as I adore Terisa Greenan, I harbor a super-fan’s resentment over the show’s end. I thought Big Love was a revelation. The sex was there, but it was clear that it wasn’t just about sex. I think the biggest compliment that Sister Wives has received is that it’s been said they make plural relationships boring. Bingo! That is life!
Sister Wives is a good show, and it’s also a bad idea for the family. It’s one of those reality series that really is about activism, and because of that you can’t stop watching while simultaneously wishing the Browns would end the show. And it has had it’s own disappointments. Portraying “good” polygamists, I recently found out that some of the wives were on welfare during the first season. But the relationships portrayed seem far more honest and real than anything on P:M&D. Maybe part of it is because there is no “transitioning away” on SW. They are in this relationship for the long haul, so they have to make it work. When people are steamrolled and subject to lateral oppression they talk about it, they express it, they give it space and work towards making it heal. When those things happen, they often happen for pragmatic reasons, not simply because someone thinks they are entitled to sex, or thinks treating people like possessions is somehow evolved. We end up admiring the Brown family so much that we end up hating ourselves for watching the show, prying and being complicit in this horrible medium of reality tv.
When the triad expressed that they are committed for life, even if that means they may not always be having naked sexy time, it was the one shining moment of the show. It was the only glimmer I saw that made me think this show might be able to redeem the rampant asshattery and gratuitous sex that has made even the staunchest pro-poly people loathe it.
But then I saw the preview for next week, involving weasely Tahl and “my treating Jen like she’s crap is somehow noble” Kamala having against-the-rules-naked-sexy-time. I’m not looking forward to seeing the show sink to those new lows. I’m sure the producers are absolutely tickled pink, but after this uplifting and promising episode, that preview just made me want to take a shower.