Polygamy as entertainment

Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d hear: “Polygamist reality television star Kody Brown and his fourth wife, Robyn, welcomed their first child together Wednesday morning.”

A polygamist reality star. Never thought I’d see the day.

Typically, polygamists have been viewed as Amish-ish pioneer people who live in under-construction houses in secret somewhere out in Colorado City. TLC’s “Sister Wives” has set out to shatter that stereotype.

Brown and his four wives, Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn, and their combined 17 children are the stars of this new reality show, which has sent TLC’s ratings sky-high since its 2009 debut. (And by the way, they are all very normal looking in appearance: no sky-high bangs, no petticoats, no bonnets.)

It’s interesting how such a controversial subject can be sold as entertainment. While several networks have tried to air shows featuring polygamist families (HBO’s “Big Love” being the most prominent), TLC’s “Sister Wives” is the first reality show based on an actual family, following their everyday lives.

The show documents this very untraditional family and their beliefs as members of the Apostolic United Brethren Church. However, the family’s religious views, while probably the most intriguing, have been kept mostly quiet during the show’s several seasons.

And while simply announcing the fact that they are happily involved in a polygamist marriage may seem controversial enough, the drama just keeps on coming. The Browns moved from Utah to Nevada while under investigation of the legality of their multiple relationships. (The Browns have filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Utah’s bigamy law.)

“We are disappointed in the announcement of an investigation, but when we decided to do this show, we knew there would be risks,” the family said. “But for the sake of our family, and most importantly, our kids, we felt it was a risk worth taking.”

I don’t understand this statement at all. It would seem, in my mind, that risking your wives and/or children being taken away from you and forcing multiple families apart, leaving many children with several single mothers, would most certainly not be a risk worth taking. The Browns have claimed the reason for filming this show was to make the public more aware of polygamist families and to combat societal prejudices.

There is never a reason for social prejudice whether based on religion, race or sexual preference. But the Browns have been aware of the laws in Utah, even though Kody is legally married to only his first wife, Meri. If plural marriage was something they felt was right, I have to ask why they’re surprised with this investigation.

Because this family has chosen the route of reality TV, for whatever their personal reasons, the fact is, it could be entertainment at the expense of their families.

They seem like a nice enough family, and I have to admit I’ve watched a few episodes here and there, mostly because I’ve been so interested in how four different women can honestly and truly love one another and share the same man.

Have you ever watched “Sister Wives?” What do you think about their views or decision to make their lives into a reality television show? And because there are children involved, do you oppose this decision?

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