America’s Guilty Pleasure/Obsession with Polygamy: What The Bachelor, Big Love, and Sister Wives Teach Us about the Ultimate Case of “Seeing Other People”

Polygamy is illegal and taboo.  That’s part of the reason it’s so entertaining!

I am the kind of person who never understood the concept of “seeing other people”- the idea that a person could casually and simultaneously date more than one person at a time.  In fact, I clearly remember (back when I was still in the “dating game”, pre-February 5, 2007) breaking off a few forming relationships solely because after a couple of dates I had realized I was wasting my time on a “seeing other people” kind of person.  Not that a third or fourth date meant serious commitment or that by being a strictly monogamous dater I was part of the “God told me you are the one so can I start courting you?” movement, via I Kissed Dating Goodbye. But to me, a person who wanted to be what I call a “polygamist dater” was just playing around. It didn’t help that I am a control freak when it comes to my time and my money. The way I looked at it, I dated smart, not hard.

This method of “seeing other people” is becoming a staple in our TV shows. Sure, The Bachelor is about a man trying to find a wife.  But the reality of it is, until the final five minutes of the last episode, the entire event is a polygamist’s dream, minus the religious restrictions.  Big Love (a fictional account of a polygamist family) and Sister Wives (an actual account) show us what life is like in a family of one husband and multiple wives in modern day Utah.  In both of these shows, the families are involved in an sect of Mormonism (known as fundamentalist Mormons) that is looked down upon and deemed completely unacceptable by the mainstream Mormons.

It’s like thinking that all Baptists are “snake handlers” just because there are still a handful of remaining Baptist groups out there who hold poisonous snakes during their church services.  Of course, several of the forefathers of Judaism and Christianity were practicing polygamists (like David and his son Solomon) though in the Bible I’ve never read anything good coming from a polygamist marriage nor have I ever read anywhere that God approved of it.  To me, the Bible is clear in that Christian marriage witnessed by God (not modern marriage recognized by the state) is between one man and one woman.  In the end, to associate all Mormons with polygamy just because they were most recent to condemn its practice (all the way back in 1890, nearly 50 years before marijuana was made illegal) and still have some remaining minorities still practicing it is unfair when we Christians and Jews have the same polygamist branches in our family tree.

So why are the TV shows The Bachelor, Big Love, and Sister Wives all popular in America? I’d say it has to at least have a little to do with the fact that America’s most identifiable religions (51% Protestant, 24% Catholic, 2% Jewish) have a polygamist past.  We grew up reading about it in the Old Testament, knowing that it sounded really strange and far from holy or normal.  So now when we can watch a reality show or a drama about polygamy, it subconsciously takes us back to popular yet ungodly marital practices of The Old Testament.  We get to see this ridiculous concept lived out in front of us by people other than Biblical characters.

We condemn polygamy in the real world.  But in the entertainment world, we are a secretly enthralled by it.  I can see why.  America is a big fan of “weird”.

Unnecessary Bonus:

The Ethnic Backgrounds of the Cast of Big Love:

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2 thoughts on “America’s Guilty Pleasure/Obsession with Polygamy: What The Bachelor, Big Love, and Sister Wives Teach Us about the Ultimate Case of “Seeing Other People”

  1. This is great!

    I’ve found that the scriptural accounts of polygamy and other familial, ahem…arrangements-i.e. incest, maid servant marriages (Bilhah and Jacob), concubines, etc…have been used by proponents of homosexual unions to dissolve any traditional pretense of “traditional marriage”. In other words, the argument could be that we cannot draw specific conclusions as to what marriage should or should not be because it is only implied in scripture.

    I’m currently working on this and would love to hear your thoughts…



    • Ryan, thanks for reading and thanks for asking my further opinion on it. To me, a government’s recognition of marriage does not concern me. To me, from a Christian perspective, marriage is a spiritual covenant between a man and woman before God- whether or not the government I am under recognizes that or not. I’m not opposed to gay marriage or polygamy simply because I don’t care about those issues from a political or governmental viewpoint; only a Christian perspective.


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