Today Kody Brown — star of polygamist reality show Sister Wives — reported to court with his four wives Meri, Janelle, Christine, and Robyn, intending to prove their challenge Utah’s polygamy laws. Nearly two years after Big Love‘s Bill Henrickson ran for Senate expressly to take “The Principle” (a.k.a. polygamy) mainstream, it seems a curious case of life imitating art. We know how things ended for poor Bill, but what of the Browns, whose own series was spun off of Love‘s popularity? Do they have a chance that their love might be one day accepted by the public?
Said the Browns’ lawyer, Professor Jonathan Turley, “We believe that this case represents the strongest factual and legal basis for a challenge to the criminalization of polygamy ever filed in the federal courts. We are not demanding the recognition of polygamous marriage. We are only challenging the right of the state to prosecute people for their private relations and demanding equal treatment with other citizens in living their lives according to their own beliefs.”
It’s a tricky topic. Polygamy, as of now, certainly falls under the delightfully dismissive (and very large) umbrella of “alternative lifestyle” for the vast majority of Americans. The notion that a man would want to legally marry more than one woman makes people squeamish to say the least. And yet, clearly there is an appetite for this kind of content. Big Love ran for five critically acclaimed seasons (picking up a Golden Globe for Chloë Sevigny along the way), and Sister Wives is on TLC — a network that skews toward the apple pie demographic. Is this a case of reality television subtly, slowly shifting reality, or is it simply an instance of America wanting to objectify a novel curiosity on the boob tube, but no more?
U.S. District Judge Clark Waddoups has yet to announce his decision on today’s hearing. “The court gave us a fair hearing and we will await his decision,” Turley told reporters. “We are committed to pursuing these claims on behalf of the Brown family wherever they take us in the legal system.”
What do you think PopWatchers? Do you think a reality show can bring the kind of high-profile attention to the Browns’ case that will help them? Or do you think the scrutiny of the public will actually be an obstacle to their legal case? Will America now (or will it ever) embrace polygamy?