Oh, Those Sister Wives
One remedy for breaking free of fatigue is to find a way to be amused.
Millions of women have somehow become interested in the TLC Sunday night show The Sister Wives. If you ask these women what the show’s appeal is to them, they say they don’t know. They’re not exactly sure why the series fascinates them; they’re not planning on joining the polygamist lifestyle, nor are they studying world religions, which is just as well because religion really isn’t the focus of the show, anyway. Most watch the “reality-based” episodes to study and albeit be entertained by the complexity of the interpersonal relationships this peculiar dynamic engenders.
The peculiar dynamic resides between the four wives–Meri, Christine, Janelle and Robyn–as well as their occasional interactions with the 14 children among them, interesting in itself, and most especially the one husband in command, Kody Brown–the self-proclaimed “guy with the big boy panties” at My Sisterwife’s Closet, the ladies’ latest entrepreneurial endeavor.
There is a lot to be amused by in this television show.
While women viewers may get sidelined by the appeal of having girl time together daily, the price of a few laughs and a good vent with the girls gets murky for viewers when the requirement is that each woman has to be intimate with the one husband who is husband to all; that’s right, husband-sharing. A bit of a deal breaker for most of us, but not for these sister wives, however.
Yet, the true comfort level of each sister wife is really the center of the question, and probably what has us watching so closely. While they each proclaim repeatedly that they believe in the polygamist lifestyle, most Sister Wives’ viewers are pretty confident it’s doomed to fail.
As we watch, count up the failures do we do. The women are often crying, sometimes bickering either with the kids or each other–and lately, with the master hair-tossler himself, their shared husband Kody.
Interestingly, Kody has a mop of blonde hair that rivals any of the women’s tresses in beauty. He keeps it sun-kissed and shoulder-length, perhaps as an apparent sign of his virility, but also we see, to disguise the balding head we know is just beneath it. This physical characteristic seems emblematic of his persona, which also carries an undeniable air of deceit. Somehow, we get the impression that Kody’s jovial, child-like playfulness is fooling no one but himself.
Most of the sister wives at any given time seem depressed; yet, they are full of smiles and long in-his-eye gazes whenever Kody is around. Perhaps it’s the competition to look and behave like the perfect wife as defined by their own family standards, or maybe it’s just that absence does make the heart grow fonder. With various commitments to each wife and the children she bore him, Kody flits from house to house in episode after episode, which appears to viewers more the attempt at creating the impression that he is all in. Indeed, Kody Brown’s visits give new meaning to the term “bosom buddy.”
The show can be confusing, and feminists especially can find themselves outraged by the subservience both handed to the wives by Kody, and so readily taken on by themselves. Viewers are constantly wondering what the women could possibly be thinking.
It is nearly impossible to tell what each of the wives really thinks, because they work so hard at going along with the tenants of the polygamist lifestyle and the expectations of the husband, Kody. In a most recent episode, for example, the #2/4 wife Christine finds herself frustrated with Kody after they share an anniversary trip away from the rest of the family. (It is Christine and Kody’s 21st wedding anniversary, and each wife has her own wedding day and anniversary date and celebrations.) Kody makes the mistake of saying at the start that it is his and Christine’s 22 anniversary, and when she quickly corrects him, he jokes, “Whatever; okay it’s our 100th anniversary!” Female viewers, and apparently Christine herself, find his childish retort exasperating. Shall we just say that Kody could use a few pointers in the art of foreplay?
To cover his slip-ups, Kody likes to pretend that he is above pedestrian concerns, such as how many years he’s been married to his first three wives or which wife he made love with last, whatever the inconsequential case may be (to him). Kody’s clearly got bigger things on his mind–which generally seem to center around himself, his beard or his hair. Nonetheless, he seems to want us to believe that it is “the family” that is the big picture, and the decided object of his concern and passion. Of course, we never really seem to see him go to work to provide for this ever-increasing family, as most of his time on air is taken up by trying to placate one of his tearful wives.
And, Oh, there are a lot of tears shed on the set of Sister Wives.
In some moments, one feels incredible compassion for the women, but in most one feels even greater frustration and anger that each of them seems so un-evolved for a woman of the 21st Century. Between their denial and Kody’s audacity, we end up “hate-watching” Sister Wives, even as we yell at our television sets for somebody to wake-up and leave, or at least kick this man to the curb.
The attention from Kody never gets divided fairly among the wives or the children, but how could it. He is, after all, human? Interestingly, Kody addresses this problem and any complaints that come his way by demanding family unity. When on their brief and unsuccessful anniversary trip, Kody’s and Christine’s marriage therapist (you read that right) assigns the couple the task of building a tower from rocks on the beach, Christine complains that she has to do everything Kody’s way and that he doesn’t bother to consider her thoughts or desires. She tells Kody, who dominates the endeavor and makes the project a facsimile of the family, that she wishes he put the focus a little more on her and on their relationship because it is after all, their time together, and she would like some reassurance of his love. Kody shames Christine for speaking up and basically for putting their marriage before the family by being quick to tell her, “I am looking for a solid structure in our family. Honor our ENTIRE family, and I will love you.”
You get the formula: “Everybody has to love everybody, but I get a pass, while most of all, everybody has to love (and obey) me.”
Once one gets past the unnerving tone of Kody’s words to Christine, one can see that Kody’s agenda is to force her acceptance, bonding and cooperation of the other wives. In other words, by “honoring the family,” she must express no protest to anything Kody has to do in the name of keeping the other three wives happy. Naturally, because she really is human (while somewhat misguided), Christine responds nearly in tears, saying that she needs Kody to trust her, and she emphasizes the word trust.
Christine wants to assert that she is a good girl, a team player, fully on board and cooperative to his expectations (and really, demands). Yet, the irony is not lost that she is asking the man who kisses other women right in front of her and oh, lord in her pesky imagination to trust her, even though he’s the only man she’ll be kissing until the end of time. Still, Christine wants to underscore that she wants Kody to trust that she indeed loves her sister wives…
For her cooperation, Christine gets from Kody her first smack/peck of the filming, almost on the mouth but not quite–although it happens so fast it’s nearly missed entirely. Viewers have to wonder, probably along with Christine who’s got to feel it deeper within, what the *#@%’s up with that?
It’s hard not to get frustrated with Christine’s tolerance and regret, particularly when she pleads Kody’s forgiveness for “just not getting it” about the crucial intent of being tied into the family (which is really Kody’s intent). And it’s really hard not to get frustrated, if not angry, with Kody.
One has to wonder what Kody is avoiding; what he is trying to secure. The answer, as everyone seems to complain is the case, is that he favors #4/4 wife, Robyn, thus keeping a noticeable distance from the other three wives, both emotionally and physically. And herein the proverbial plot, as it were, thickens.
The truth appears to be that three of the (older) wives are all at least sub-consciously aware of Kody’s disinterest in them and his undeniable favoring of the fourth (younger) wife Robyn. As a result, there is a good deal of tension and frustration in each household and each of the wives seems increasingly depressed –including the fourth wife Robyn, but only because she’s taking a lot of flack these days for being Kody’s chosen girl.
Robyn’s perch shows us that in fact all these women are at the least psychologically and emotionally abused, because even the “winner” of Kody’s attention and affection is also naturally a “loser” when she is put in the position of being resented by the other sister wives. How are you going to get along with the family when nobody trusts you? This is to say that Robyn’s unique and also controlling personality plays right in to Kody’s mis-conceived agenda. As a result , polygamy ends up looking like a lose-lose-lose-lose, for each of the four wives and many more losses for each of their individual children. Kody is the only winner, and yet with most viewers, he is really the biggest loser of all.
This is Day 5 in the 31 Day Writing Challenge, 31 Days of Breaking Free from Fatigue
Day 5, #write31days
© debra valentino, all rights reserved, www.firstlightofevening.com