Sister Wives - A Review
For the past five and a half years, the TLC network has aired a wildly successful show called "Sister Wives." The series debuted on September 10. 2010. The Browns and their journey have captivated millions of fans and have restarted the debate on plural marriage in the United States. People who watch the show are divided on whether or not the family is morally comprehensive or not. It is a complicated discussion, to say the least, but the show has made a big impact on 21st Century America.
I'm someone who grew up in a relatively small town in North Georgia. A child of the sixties, I remember when everything in my hometown was either in the downtown district or at Bryman's Plaza. There were no malls. This was way before K-Mart or Walmart came to be such retail giants. Grocery stores were locally run family owned places like Green Spot, Town & Country, Big Apple, and two chains known then as Winn-Dixie and Big Star. The black families lived in town and the white families lived in the county. I didn't have a black classmate until I was in high school. And everyone went to church somewhere. Religion was a major part of every family. And families were the cornerstones of the community. This was Southern USA in every sense of what was then the south in this country. Bigotry and prejudice was still very present. People were mostly Baptist. There was a generous Methodist community. Churches of God and Churches of Christ were present. We had a small Catholic populace and an even smaller Jewish congregation. The matter of plural wives was non existent here. And when it did come up, everybody agreed it was a sin. A horribly offensive way to live.
Growing up in the seventies, I was exposed to television and all the cultural revolutions that were going on in our nation at the time. I became much more liberally minded than most of my brethren. I began learning about the United States of America, what principles it was founded on, and what it means to be an American. I was able to look past what my parents and grandparents believed and see everything in a "bigger picture" sense. Yet I still didn't give the subject of plural marriage too much thought because nobody around here did that and I didn't know anyone who was involved in a family of the sort.
I was middle aged by the time "Sister Wives" began. I remember watching the first episodes with a great curiosity. I wanted to know what made these people tick. An offshoot of the Mormon Church, the practitioners of plural marriage were mostly located in areas of Nevada and Utah. I thought it was an interesting entry in the reality television genre to feature a family who lived a nationally illegal lifestyle. I also thought they were very brave to come out in such a public sense. And soon I became a fan not only of the show but of the Browns themselves. While everyone around me was morally outraged by the Browns and the show itself, I found myself cheering them on. I didn't see a sinful situation or a bad example for others. I saw a basically balanced family with amazing adult guidance. I saw people who only wanted to live their lives and raise their children without the threat of criminal indictment. I saw people who were willing to risk their freedom to bring their lifestyle choice into the public domain and maybe, just maybe, make a difference for other plural families by their example.
Kody Brown is the patriarch of the family. He leads an incredibly complicated life. He not only has the responsibility of leading the family as its head but also in being the main breadwinner. For nineteen children and four wives. A part of me wanted to ask him: "Man, are you insane? Why would you take on such a task as this?" But I watched him take care of each child, of each wife, and spend generous amounts of time with each family. He had their love and their respect. Somehow he was making it work. And in almost six years I have never heard one of the children on the show complain about needing more time from their dad. I am impressed by that itself.
Meri is wife #1. She and Kody married when they were young and have a daughter together. Meri is much more grounded than she thinks she is. She is very much the one who holds this family together. She has not only consented to live a plural family style of life but she has opened up her own insecurities and vulnerabilities to show just how difficult this life has been on her. Yet she gives her sister-wives support and she rarely lets anyone other than Kody know how she often struggles with their dynamic. She holds it together, for herself, and for everyone else. I don't think this situation would work without someone like Meri to keep things in place and flowing. She also is not afraid to let people see when she messes up, when she is human. I see Meri as the compass for this family.
Janelle is wife #2. She has six children with Kody. She had a difficult adjustment coming into the plural family. She leads in a different manner from Meri. They have developed a close friendship over the years but do disagree in principal on a lot of the dynamics of their situation. Yet they support each other and care for the children and want only for the family to continue to thrive. Kody may not realize how lucky he is to have two women with such different outlooks who can put aside their personal differences for the good of everyone else.
Christine is wife #3. She also has six children with Kody. Christine is much the stabilizing factor in the family. She fought her own demons about being in a plural wives circumstance and she overcame her fears by forming individual friendships with her sister wives and by working on her relationship with Kody with openness and acceptance. She offers support to others without compromising her own integrity.
Robyn is wife #4. She was a divorcee with three children of her own who came into the show after it's debut. She and Kody have had two children of their own since then. Robyn managed to come into this situation without any malice toward her sister wives. She accepted the lifestyle and readily embraced it before she married Kody. She's strong but she relies a lot on Meri to keep her grounded and aimed in the right direction. In fact, during season five, Kody wanted to adopt Robyn's children from her first marriage and Meri, who was the only one legally married to Kody, offered to give him a divorce so that he could marry Robyn in a legal sense and make the adoption possible for the sake of the children. It worked out for everyone involved but Robyn was lucky to have Meri there and willing to make that sacrifice for her, for her children, and for the family as a whole. Once again, Meri proved that she was the foundation for the wives. Whether they recognized it or not.
The show has taken a lot of twists and turns since it began. We saw the Brown family have to uproot itself from their home in Utah and move to Las Vegas to avoid possible indictment by the state of Utah over their situation. We've seen the wives overcome personal differences to stay united for the good of the family. We've seen Kody juggle four wives and four households to live the life he believes he was meant to live. The children have been well documented in their observations of the family they are a part of and whether it is a dynamic they would want for themselves. Nothing, in my opinion, has been left to chance. And I have indeed become a full fledged fan of this family and their show. I say to others leave them alone and let them have their happiness. Who are we to say they're wrong? It's not up to us, as their societal peers, to approve of or to judge them. It is our responsibility to go about our own lives while allowing them the same gracious right.
Tonight the Brown family will begin the sixth season of their hit show and they will once again allow millions of people into their world. Most fans have come to the opinion that I have about them. A lot of people still decry their lives and their situations. I say to them show me that you've done better in your life than they have in theirs. I say to them prove to me that they aren't entitled to live their life as they choose; just as everyone else in America gets to do.
So bring on season six of "Sister Wives." I'm in their corner. And so are millions of other people. They have shown us that we can't allow anyone to tell us how to live our lives. Our personal freedoms are worth so much more than society's approval.