Monday, March 21, 2011
Big Love - I wasn't ready for the end.
A Big Love affair of mine ended Sunday night. Yes, Terry knew all about it. In fact, he was having his own Big Love affair, and so was Tori. It was a family thing.
In case you’re not familiar with the HBO series, Big Love, well, that’s the affair that’s over. The series came to a shocking end Sunday night, and I have to say, I’m really going to miss Bill, Barb, Nicki, Margene, and their special kind of polygamist big love.
We got hooked on Big Love with its pilot episode back in 2006. Bill Henrickson was your typical suburban husband living outside Sandy, Utah, with his wife and three kids. He owned Henrickson’s Home Plus – a family take on a big home improvement store such as Home Depot. Barb, his wife, was a substitute teacher. Their kids were wholesome (when their parents were looking), normal kids.
And then, in the house next door to Bill and Barb’s house lived Nicki with her two sons, who were also Bill’s two sons because Nicki was also his wife, although second in line behind Barb. Nicki was the queen of do-it-herself, fix-anything she can get her hands on, prairie-dress wearing, braid-down-her-back wife from the compound. She was one of many daughters of the prophet of Juniper Creek, Roman Grant. With Nicki and the Grants came boatloads of trouble.
And, finally, in the house next to Nicki lived sweet, innocent, always happy, always perky, Margene, Bill’s very young third wife who started out as a babysitter for his kids. Marge had two sons with Bill when we first met her; she would have one more – a girl – before the series ended.
It was quite a tribe to keep track of, and believe me, I haven’t even scraped the surface of minor, yet infinitely important characters. This show was so well done, though, that it was hard to get lost in all of the faces. The characters were so well drawn – Roman, Alby, and Adaleen Grant; Don Embry (Bill’s business partner and fellow polygamist); Hollis and Selma Greene (fundamental polygamists such as the Grants with very violent tendencies – a lot like the Grants); and a host of others who came and went through the three houses and the compound at Juniper Creek over the course of the last five years.
I loved this show. Last season (Season 4) wasn’t the best for me, but the other four, especially this last of the series were original in their conflicts and characters, plot lines and settings. Big Love is an unforgettable show about people trying to live the lives they believe they are destined to live.
The Henricksons – Bill, his three wives, and most of their children – believe in plural marriage. All three wives entered into it freely and their children were free to choose their own paths, if plural marriage wasn’t for them. (For some of them, it wasn’t.) The conflicts, crises, and celebrations that came about because of these unusual dynamics made me laugh, cry, rage, rant, and clap my hands. I felt I knew these people, and I cared about them as much as anyone can care about fictional characters. That’s what art does, right? It stirs something inside you.
Big Love also made me think about plural marriage and made me consider why it’s illegal. If you only look at the compounds (the Warren Jeffs of the real world), then you think – that’s horrible! But there are real polygamists in the world living as the Henricksons lived in Big Love. They live hidden in the open. But what I wonder is, why should they have to hide?
It’s not against the law for a man to marry a woman and have countless extramarital affairs with other women. It’s not illegal for him to father children with women who are not his wife. He will not face an indictment for those crimes – those are moral and ethical issues but they don’t make him a criminal.
So here’s what I don’t understand. Why is it illegal for a man to marry more than woman? I’m not saying I condone it, or that I’m a fan of it. But what I am saying is, it seems hypocritical for the affairs to be legal and the marriage to be illegal.
In Big Love’s case, Barb was willing to open her marriage to Bill to Nicki and then to Margene. Bill and Barb had ceremonies making the other two women part of their marriage. It was these ceremonies that broke the law. If Bill had simply built Nicki’s and Marge’s houses, moved them into the houses, fathered the children, provided for them financially and otherwise (as he did) but did all of that without a ceremony, the state would have had no problem with him.
The state also would have had no problem with him if he’d had affairs with Nicki and Marge and then forgot they existed.
How can this hypocrisy be acceptable? We have laws in place to protect children from abuse; we have laws in place to prevent human trafficking. These are the crimes Warren Jeffs was charged with. Why not go after him for that? Isn’t that plenty? Why does polygamy have to be a crime?
I know I’ve digressed, but I don’t really care. Big Love was a great show. I wanted one more season so badly, but the ending of the series was breath-taking. It tied things up so much better than I ever thought they would be able to do.
I own the first three seasons on DVD and will soon own the last of it as well. That way, Bill, Barb, Nicki, Margene, Alby, Roman, Lois, and Frank will never be that far away. And I know that they’ll continue to make me laugh and cry, rage and rant, and clap and gasp for years to come. Good TV never goes stale.