Mormons can be fun – In Praise Of Big Love

April 4, 2009

A few months back my partner in crime Kristen Condon, after watching hours of movies and TV shows that I’d made her watch, said to me, “We are watching Big Love, its research for something I’m doing, and you might like it, its HBO”. I looked at the DVD. It looked like Desperate House Wives, but it was about polygamy, and that sounded strangely cool. So, we watched it…

By mid season 1,  I was hooked like Joseph Smith on his golden plates. This show was fucking classic… the best thing, drama wise, HBO has done since The Soprano’s and The Wire. I couldn’t believe it… its also a chick show. It has many story arcs all about female feelings and here I was, totally diggin’ it! In other words, it’s a work of pure genius.

But Big Love is not just a chick show. So, here’s Idea Fix’s male take on the whole ‘she bangs’.

Big Love is essentially about promiscuity on the conscious level, and the incest taboo on a subconscious one.

Bill Paxton plays philandering Bill Henrickson, a successful businessman and practising polygamist who has left a Mormon cult called the United Effort Brotherhood (UEB – a recast version of a Fundamentalist sect of the Mormon LDS Church) and formed his own polygamy sect. Bill has three wives, and a gaggle of kids. His first wife is Barb a neurotic 40 something who survived a health scare. Second wife is my favourite Nicki Grant played superbly by Chloe Sevigny, in her best part down pat. She is an Ex UEB cultist and daughter of the cults Prophet Roman Grant. She is the meat in the sandwich of the marriages and a firm believer in “The Principle”, the rules of polygamy. She is a constant wheel around which the show turns. She is fundamentalist LDS, a compulsive shopper and gambler, a repressed sex maniac, a xenophobe, and an OCD manipulative control freak. In other words she’s classic. Youngest wife is Margie, a hot, mildly dumb, early 20’s sexpot, who is fuckable, and grows on you after the first season. Bill is fucking all these women, on different nights of the week. The show makes polygamy seem appealing, though in reality one can imagine it would be a nightmare. He has kids with each wife. His eldest daughter Sarah, played by the hot Amanda Seyfried, is an 18 year old sex bomb with big eyes. Bill’s not fucking her, but there is a tension in these two characters, as Sarah is only two years younger than Margene, and could have been cast as a wife. Same Margene, and even Nicki, could be Bill’s daughters. Due to the three Mommies and many children who are not blood related, Ben Henrickson, 16, Bill’s oldest son has the hots for 20 year old third wife Margene. You can see trouble brewing there, and hint of an all in adult fuck fest, and a general mood of perversity surrounds the show. The whole Mormon religious thing just adds an additional strangely erotic dimension to it all.

Add to that Alby, the closeted gay son of Prophet Roman Grant, who has a brilliant scene when he allows himself to be seduced by a male hitch hiker. To hide/repress his faggotdom he lets out a scream of repression so hideous, I knew the show was genius on the spot. The always wonderful Harry Dean Stanton is the near 80 year old Roman Grant, Patriarch to the UEB cult, who also has a fondness for teenage pussy. He grooms fifteen year olds in a little book, called “The Joy Book”, and doles them out at 16 to various male members of his cult, as new wives and payment for loyal service. The best character in the whole show is Rhonda Volmer a 15 year bride to be of Roman who is a venomous viper and vixen out to fuck everyone’s life up, but you can’t help admiring her cunning ways. Played to the hilt by Daveigh Chase, Rhonda is a vamp lolita who has her own plans for taking over her life. The incest vibe of Roman and Rhonda, and various other UEB members adds to the unconscious main theme I suggested earlier.

Into the orbit of these characters is the excellent Bruce Dern as Bill’s UEB polygamist evil father Frank. Bill’s crazy Mom is portrayed by the wonderful Grace Zabriskie of Twin Peaks fame in a great complex part. Add to that a second religious cult lead by an amazingly ominous fruit cake called Hollis Green, and his butch dyke wife Selma, who dresses like a man and you have an amazing ensemble. Oh, did I forget to add these Mormon cultists behave like mafia clans killing each other off, committing crime and running human slavery operations?

By now you’ll have picked up its not just a show about Mormons, in fact its the most controversial and confronting new HBO show in a while.

On top of this the show preaches Christian values and supports notions of large families and traditionalism that somehow works in this context.

Believe it or not its a great ad for the Mormons! The cult of Joseph Smith is presented as a revisionist Christian church of active, on going and current revelation. The Mormons come out of this looking cool. Their odd rituals strangely alluring. Their fanaticism wonderfully traditional, and yet new. The Mormons have an interesting eschatological world view and a soteriological philosophy that enacts a direct union with Christ. This show has some serious theological chops, and can have you talking religion for hours. I tell you, it made me want to read the the Book of Mormon. How many TV shows can you say that about?!

Big Love’s plot is dense, suffice to say its well done, and just watch it. It comes highly recommended. I just saw Season 3, and its was a Revelation.

Here is a clip of 15 year old wife to be of Roman Grant, on television, after much Machiavellian maneuvers singing a haunting song that ends a great episode of Big Love. The song is called “The Happiest Girl in the USA”.

Recent HBO (since The Soprano’s) is like 70’s US independent cinema. The most authentic, exciting, innovative and serious cinema is now on TV and not at the cinema. Big Love is a work of perverse religious art. Did I mention the show is also the most non-multicultural US show, in a long while? Well, that, and the excellent Mad Men.

Without further adieu Rhonda Volmer…this clip gives me goose bumps. It will you, too, if you watch the show…God Bless.

One Response to “Mormons can be fun – In Praise Of Big Love”

  1. […] agree with Australian filmmaker Richard Wolstencroft, Big Love is a work of pure genius. I abhor Islamic practices and I am not converting to […]

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