Opinion | Pop Culture

How I Learned to Love a Show about Mormon Polygamy

Despite its troubling views on marriage and family, HBO's 'Big Love' always felt like an allegory for real people I know.

Years before TLC launched its polygamous reality show Sister Wives, Tom Hanks and company produced HBO's award-winning drama series Big Love, about a family of polygamists who emerged out of a creepy Mormon splinter group.

I've watched all five seasons of Big Love, including Sunday night's series finale. Creators Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer told the Los Angeles Times this week that the series emerged from their marriage, with the goal of communicating the idea that marriages can endure change. What appealed to me about the show was how it parsed the challenges of breaking free from a closed religious community while grappling with the community's best ideals and penetrating reach.

The fact that the show was built around polygamy wasn't a hindrance for a variety of reasons, not the least because of a conversation I had with an African friend who compared American "serial monogamy" unfavorably with his own culture's polygamy. Also, by dislocating the faith ...

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