I never thought I'd even be talking about any lessons learned from “Sister Wives,” but here I am all the same. As one of the reality shows on TLC that still arguably teaches something, the show offers a look into the life of the Brown family, who practice polygamy. Let me start off by saying that I know polygamy is not a fundamental part of the Mormon religion, and that “LDS” and “polygamy” are not synonymous – something even the Brown family frequently states. That being said, there are still many lessons learned from “Sister Wives” that taught me a lot about their lifestyle, their choices, and their faith. Because polygamy is such a hot button topic with so many stereotypes, I think it's good to learn something largely positive.
Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. One of the most profound lessons learned from “Sister Wives,” for me, is that all families share many of the same traits. Whether you're talking about an alternative family or a traditional one, they share many of the same values, even if they go about them in different ways. The Browns spend time teaching and encouraging their children and trying to teach them good values. You and I might not share those values, but you have to respect them for their seeming devotion to their children. That being said...
It is so terribly tempting to disrespect the things we don't understand. Have you noticed that? Maybe you've been on the receiving end of that kind of behavior, or unknowingly exhibited it yourself. It's easy to sit back and watch shows like “Sister Wives” or “Honey Boo Boo” and shake your head, clucking your tongue over how wrong they are. Here's the thing, though: from what I've seen, the Browns don't necessarily proselytize. They don't force their religion or their lifestyle on anyone else, and they show respect to the choices of others. This proves, of course, that you don't have to agree with someone or practice a lifestyle yourself to offer respect to others. And that's pretty cool, isn't it?
I'm actually incredibly interested in polygamy, in that I followed many of the scandals avidly, and read up on the subject wherever I can. I particularly enjoyed escape, by Carolyn Jessop, Church of Lies by Flora Jessop, and similar stories from the brave women who escaped their admittedly abusive situations. That means that, like many others, I came to “Sister Wives” with a set idea in my head, believing every household to be a Warren Jeffs kind of horror show. There are many women, children, and families who go through untold forms of abuse, and there are awful acts perpetrated in the name of a prophet, but for those who know polygamy only through these scandals and the idealized, rather sexy portrayals on “Big Love,” “Sister Wives” offers a truer portrait of how some polygamist families live. That doesn't take away from the horrors that still happen, but it proves that there are both angels and saints in the mix.
The Brown family has actually participated in panels with former polygamists, people with scars and stories that can chill you. In those panels, one thing I've noticed is that the audiences usually take one or more of Kody's four wives to task for kowtowing to him and being generally meek – that is, for conforming to the general, stereotypical idea of the polygamist's wife. I can see that, but I think it's a personality thing. I see this family arguing in a way that a “traditional polygamist family” – an extreme one – wouldn't. Typical wives wouldn't get away with taking their husband to task, and these women – and even the children, sometimes – don't let Kody get away with everything he wants. Which is good, I think, because I'm still not sure how I feel about Kody.
In much the same vein, you get to see the family arguing. First wife Meri has just one daughter, Mariah, who has typical teenage fits all the time. Christine, who is arguably my favorite wife, and Janelle both stand up for everything all the time. Christine talks smack frequently, and I think it's hilarious. Robyn comes off as kind of self righteous on occasion, and get this – her sister wives call her on it.
As the family interacts with their children, I see something interesting. The mothers tend to be happy with whatever their children choose, especially in terms of deciding to live a polygamist lifestyle themselves. There's no pressure and no brainwashing – at least not on TV. Kody preaches that scripture as well, but you can tell he's kind of biting his tongue when any of his children make the decision that they want to have monogamous relationships. Maybe he says something behind the scenes, but it's nice to think that every child is allowed to make up his or her own mind.
I think the relationships in this family intrigue me the most – and I'm not talking about the relationships with Kody. Christine, I think, says in the opening credits that she married into a polygamist family for the family, not just the husband. She wanted sister wives. I think the other wives have mentioned this as well. Odd as it is, one of the biggest lessons I've learned from “Sister Wives” is that female friendship really can save you. To me, the focus is always on the dynamic between these four women. They aren't idyllic, they don't always get along, and they aren't always nice, but they're there for each other; they're going through this together. Kody thinks he's the head of the household, but I think he's just the hub of the wheel. He's got four strong spokes there, and although they connect through him, they work as a team. That's really kind of beautiful.
Of course, “Sister Wives” is just a show, and many things are likely changed, altered, or colored to make for better TV. I've no doubt that some aspects are sensationalized, while others exist only on the cutting room floor. I just enjoy seeing the different dynamics in each household, whether or not I actually agree with everything I see. Do you watch “Sister Wives”? What's your opinion on the show, or the Brown family?