The Corner

Hollywood Family Values

Those of you who had better things to do this past weekend (i.e. everyone), may have missed my little dustup with The New Republic. It all happened on the eve of Christmas Eve, when TNR put out a piece by Rob Anderson attacking my “Here Come the Brides.” I answered Anderson with “Triple-Dutch Wrong.” Maggie Gallagher (at the always useful marriagedebate.com blog) then waded in with her own take on the debate.

You can find more on all these issues at marriagedebate.com.

There’s one late-breaking element of this debate that I think deserves more attention: HBO’s new polygamy drama, Big Love. Newsweek is touting the show, which is scheduled to premiere in March in the slot that follows The Sopranos. Any chance that Big Love is meant to make a statement on the gay marriage debate? It certainly seems possible. One of Big Love’s lead writers, Will Scheffer, is a playwright. Scheffer explored themes of gay male identity in “Falling Man, and Other Monologues.”

This article makes it clear that a recent staging of that play was designed to make a statement in the battle over same-sex marriage. So it’s suggestive that Scheffer is one of the two creators and executive producers of “Big Love.”

With this show about a religiously devout and otherwise ordinary family that just happens to be polygamous, Hollywood is likely suggesting that Americans ought to get over their hangups about family structure and recognize that families should be anything we want them to be. Even polygamists can be “virtually normal.” As series co-creator Mark Olsen says in the Newsweek piece, “It’s everything that every family faces, just times three….The yuck factor disappears and you just see human faces. We found it to be a mother lode.” So this would seem to confirm the link between same-sex marriage and polygamy, except that here same-sex marriage is not being used to legitimate polygamy. No, polygamy is being used to legitimate same-sex marriage! In other words, gay marriage and group marriage are mutually reinforcing, and both depend upon the larger view that families ought to be whatever people want them to be.

Now imagine that Mel Gibson were to create a television series about gay men who converted to Christianity and underwent successful reparative therapy. What we’re seeing here seems like the real-life equivalent of that in reverse: a playwright of gay liberation produces a television series about pious Christians who just happen to be polygamists (with the ultimate purpose, I suspect, of deconstructing traditional marriage). Of course, the controversy over my imaginary Mel Gibson series would dwarf the shouting over The Passion of the Christ. By the same token, it seems to me that traditional Christians have every right to express indignation over HBO’s “Big Love.” And I expect that before long we’re going to see some.

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