Monday, September 27, 2010


So, obviously, last night I watched TLC's new "extreme reality" show Sister Wives, about a Fundamentalist Mormon family with one husband, three wives, 12 children, and another on the way.  All you need to know about patriarch Kody Brown you can learn from his "the Rachel" haircut, his terrible chin beard, and his sunglass tan:

I mean, you're Mormon, right?  So you're not even allowed to have caffeine or a glass of wine.  Don't even front like this hairstyle is not going to be frowned upon when you get to heaven.  Seriously, this guy probably drives the Mystery Machine to work:

Kody's first wife Meri grew up in a polygamist family, and married Kody when she was 19.  She admits to having some jealousy issues, but it's unclear if they stem from her husband having other wives, or the fact that she has only been able to conceive and bear one child, 14-year-old Mariah, while her sister wives have proven much more fertile.  Meri seems to be very happy to live a polygamist lifestyle, since when her sister died, she saw how her sister's sister wives (keeping up?) were able to raise her children as her own.

Janelle, Kody's second wife, is peculiar in the sense that she grew up in a mainstream LDS family, so it seems unusual that she would have become amenable to the situation.  She works full time, and has six children: Logan, 15, Madison, 14, Hunter, 13, Garrison, 11, Gabriel, 8, and Savanah, 5.

Third wife Christine is the Kool Aid drinkin' -est of them all.  She too grew up in polygamy, and claims that she always wanted to be a third wife.  She never responded to the attentions of single men, and she has complicated theories about everything from the psychology of wife order to the fact that more people die each year from toasters than from sharks.  Christine's children all have dumb names: Aspyn, 14, Mykelti, 13, Paedon, 11, Gwenelyn, 8, Ysabel, 6, and Truely, on the way.  Christine has crazy eyes.

One of the most interesting things about the Brown family is that Kody was married to all three of his wives before his first child was born, so all twelve of them grew up with the same three moms.  That's what makes the season's prime drama so exciting - Kody's courting a fourth wife, so it would be the first time that the children have experienced a new mom coming into the family.  The woman in question, Robin, also has three children of her own, which would be quite a shake-up at a time when third wife Christine is heavily pregnant.

The pilot of the show does address some questions about parenting and sex, and very clearly distances the lifestyle of the Browns and their ilk from the mainstream Mormon community (lest all the lawyers of Utah and the Angel Moroni himself bear down on TLC).  They avoid examining how the Browns manage to be so public about their lifestyle given the myriad of tax laws they must be breaking.  It's very clear every time he's onscreen that Kody has a serious personality disorder.  His wives and children all seem considerably uncomfortable on camera, while Kody mugs it up and comes up with lame one-liners that not even his kids laugh at.  "She's a sister from the same mister, and he's a brother from another mother!"

So yeah, sure, consenting adults should be free to live in whatever "harmless" lifestyle they please, but religious polygamy totally creeps me out and the Browns do nothing to make it seem like they're any less weird than the polygamists typically portrayed in fiction.  What they lack in prairie dresses and complicated french braids, they make up for in misogynistic control structures and the fact that they want this chin-bearded nutcase to be the god of the planet they all get to live on.  But hey, I love cults and I love hating stuff, so needless to say, I will keep watching.

Sister Wives, Sundays at 10pm on TLC

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