HBO as Gospel, or HBO vs. Gospel?

Categories: Media

Viagra and polyamorous red herrings

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It's not often I agree with Slate's William Saleten. I find his abortion-reduction schtick tiresome and not a productive plank in the debate, for instance. But in the wake of Strib columnist Katherine Kersten's cautionary rant about gay marriage leading to the legitimization of polygamy, I'm willing to take up with Saleten, albeit temporarily. Saleten writes in response to the Washington Post's Charles Krauthammer, who earlier this week advanced the same argument as Kersten--namely, that HBO's new drama, about a suburban clatch of polygamists in Utah is the next salvo in the pervert culture wars. History, Saleten argues, is rife with examples of flirtations with the kinky gone awry.
I'm sure polyamorists are right that lots of people "find joy in having close relationships... with multiple partners." The average guy would love to bang his neighbor's wife. He just doesn't want his wife banging his neighbor. Fidelity isn't natural, but jealousy is. Hence the one-spouse rule. One isn't the number of people you want to sleep with. It's the number of people you want your spouse to sleep with.


We've been this way for a long time. Look at the Ten Commandments. One: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." Two: "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image... Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God." Three: "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain." In case the message isn't clear enough, the list proceeds to "Thou shalt not commit adultery" and "shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife."

In case you haven't seen the show that's got Kersten et. al. all a-twitter, let me just add one thing: The husband at the center of "Big Love" is something of a hapless character who resorts to more Viagra than any cardiologist would endorse and who spends a lot of time sorting out fights about money, cars, and schedules. His extended family also makes frequent, painful treks back to the hills to visit the much more exploitative polygamist clan from whence they split. It's hardly an endorsement of "the lifestyle."



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