Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I am a big fan of Big Love - Part 1: The opening credits

In case you haven't figured it out yet, I am a big fan of HBO's Big Love. Last night's finale of season 3 was perhaps one of the best television shows I have seen in a long time.

For those of you who don't know anything of the show (besides gross mis-caricatures made by protesting Mormons or the LDS Newsroom), Big Love is about a fictional drama about a suburban polygamous family living in Sandy, Utah. The husband and father, Bill Hendrickson, is a former "lost boy" from a fictional fundamentalist Mormon group in central Utah known as the United Effort Brethren (UEB). In his late teens Bill (who was the son of the UEB's former prophet) was kicked out of the compound by their current leader Roman Grant. After leaving the compound, Bill was taken up by a Mormon family in Salt Lake, was baptized, served a mission, and had a temple marriage with his first wife Barb. Several years later Barb was struck with cancer and during this time Bill felt that God wanted him to live the 'principle' (polygamy). Bill (and reluctantly Barb) marry one of Roman's daughters, Nikki - who helps nurse Barb back to health. A few years later Bill, Barb, and Nikki add a third wife, Marge, to their family. Bill runs a successful hardware department chain and the family lives in three side-by-side houses (with a shared backyard) in a suburban neighborhood.

Despite the false claims by some that the show is purportedly "blurring the lines" between traditional LDS Mormons and fundamentalist Mormons, anybody who watches the show will know that the show does quite the opposite. One of the key storylines throughout the series has depended on the idea that the Hendricksons are no longer practicing LDSaints and have to keep their situation secret from their neighbors who are almost all active LDS Mormons and assume Bill and Barb are simply inactive Mormons who have befriended and look after their two single-mother neighbors. The show is VERY clear that the current LDS Church does not endorse polygamy and in the third season Barb faces a church court and is excommunicated when the local leaders discover she is in a polygamous relationship.

Why is this show so great? Let's start with the opening credits...

I didn't notice (until Angela pointed it out to me last week) that the opening credits depict a short little 'plan of salvation' timeline. It begins with Bill in the premortal life coming to earth, he finds and is sealed to Barb, Nikki, and Marge (with a backdrop of the salt flats, desert, and mountains of Salt Lake valley), they are separated at death, they go through the veil, and finally are reunited on a celestial planet (with a terrestrial and a telestial planet in the background).


  1. You forget to mention how much you feel the spirit when you watch it.

  2. Hah - what a perfect song for that intro! I'll never listen to the Beach Boys the same way again.

    So as you can imagine, I'm totally cool with you liking the show, but I don't think I could ever handle watching it... It has nothing to do with me worrying about the LDS church's street cred, I just still have such an issue with polygamy itself. Even though I see it in a much different light that I ever have before (after meeting and listening to a few amazing polygamous women talk about their beliefs), I just don't see how it can ever NOT involve the subjugation of women. I probably get too emotionally involved to have a real discussion about it because it just eats me up so much. I've heard all sorts of arguments about it--the system actually allows women MORE freedom to do what they want; Brigham Young was progressive when it comes to women's rights; it's not at all about a man's big libido. Alright alright, I understand and can even accept those things... but it still seems like women become chattel.

  3. Steve M.
    At the risk of going all patriarchal, your insinuation here (repeated by others at FMH) that my wife is plagiarising, is completely wrong. Rebecca -- not being the blog addict that many of the rest of us are -- is not aware of Project Mayhem. We've been talking about this intro for weeks.

  4. I'm a non-member who became very very versed in Mormon theology s few years ago while a friend was thinking about converting. The first time I saw Big Love...four or so episodes ago...i had the same thoughts about symbolism, Exactly. And if you're going to show s clip sbout the symbolism, you have to show the opening clip, yes??


  5. Ronan,

    My comments here and at FMH were intended to be light-hearted, although I did find your wife's FMH post to be strikingly similar to Loyd's post. Blogs aren't peer-reviewed academic journals--even if this were a case of "plagiarism," I would not be so brazen as to call it that. Rather, I would see it simply as non-observance of a common blogging norm (i.e., linking to posts that inspire your own).

  6. I have to say that neither this post nor the one on FMH is exactly original.
    Anyone who spends any time on the Big Love comment boards at IMDB would have seen almost the exact same material about the opening credits posted about a year ago (from memory). And even then I doubt it was original.

  7. John, nobody was claiming that the content of either post was necessarily original. The main issue dealt with the coincidental timing of the second post along with the youtube selection.

    Oh well. It's all over now.


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