Thursday, August 9, 2012

Polyamory: Married and Dating - A Review

This review has been coming for awhile. I knew about the show, Polyamory: Married and Dating, from early on and while I've seen Showtime doing some interesting things, I was nervous about them covering this particular topic. I've been non-monogamous for about 12 years. I stopped using the word polyamorous for a few reasons, but primarily because it seemed like it was becoming sort of limiting. I also have a degree in Communications focusing on film and television and have worked in the industry for a number of years, including producing my own reality/travel series pilot. I'd like to think I have some decent insights into both the show and it's content.

I watched the second and third episode and for those not familiar with it, the show follows two groups of people. One is a married couple, Anthony and Lindsey, who are both dating Vanessa (they refer to themselves as 'The Triad').  The other is two married couples dating each other, Michael and Kamala and Jen and Tahl.

The series, which runs 30 minutes per episode over a 7 episode season, covers their interpersonal dramas, their dramas as they date 'outsiders', and their group sex. It's fairly graphic and the conversations, while surely edited, don't appear to be censored at all.

The easy way to review this show would be to discuss the various situations and dialogues that the characters get in. We could discuss why Kamala has a hard time sharing her girlfriend, Roxanne, with her husband Michael or anyone else. Or we could talk about whether or not it was ethical for Vanessa and Anthony to ambush Lindsey on her date with her boyfriend Krystof.  But that's a diversion. That's the slight of hand that the show's producers deftly create. Unfortunately, it's a trick that works on polyamorous folks as well as monogamous ones. We're just as vulnerable to media manipulation as anyone else.

I can't discuss the true character of the people involved in this show. They may be wonderful people making an altruistic attempt to show the inner workings of their unusual lives or they may be narcissistic sociopaths out to make a buck. The truth probably lies somewhere in-between as it does with most human beings. And there's the rub. We really can't know these people. At all. In fact, we're worse off than if we met them on the street. Bad information is worse than no information.

Let's go back to the scenario where Anthony and Vanessa ambush Lindsey during her date. Did Anthony and Lindsey come up with the idea to do that? Or did the producers? Was Vanessa actually surprised or was she told to act surprised? How much was edited from the scene? We have to realize that we aren't seeing these people's lives, we're seeing the reconstructed, re-editing of a staged version of their lives. A shadow of a shadow produced by a company that has profitability as it core standard.

Really, all you have to watch of Polyamory: Married and Dating is the opening credits.  You have quick cut scenes of bodies grinding on each other, running around, laughing, women kissing women (note: no men kissing men), lots of skin, all set to a rock music score.  They're all pretty, well off, white people in Southern California. Some time is spent discussing jealousy issues and personal limits and far more time is spent showing group sex and displaying the women's bisexuality.

Do they have jobs? They seem to just roll out of bed, fuck and then go on dates. I laughed out loud in episode three when Kamala arrives at her girlfriend's house in her silver Prius. As she walks up the drive, what car does Roxanne have parked there? A silver Prius!

It's as though the producers ran the polyamorous community through a media strainer and came up with a half dozen people who were attractive,  filmable and most of all, willing to have their personal lives dissected for a period of weeks or months.  Forget words like 'average' or 'representative' or 'cross section'. I'd love to hear about the people in all of their lives who refused to participate in the show. How many of their lovers or friends were invited on and said, 'I want none of this'?

Already, I see people all over the internet saying things like: "@MoeTruth For the people who don't know what polyamory means...It consists of having a side lover while married to someone.."  Of course, to argue that means arguing against the title of the show, Polyamory: Married and dating. I realize that trying to capture an entire lifestyle in a half hour show is daunting. Of course these two groups of people are not necessarily representative of all polyamorous people. But they never say that and the show is setting a precedent that may be hard to alter for those of us who have to deal with this on a day to day basis.

As I said before, I don't know the participants in this show and I'm refusing to make any kind of personal judgments about them. I just don't know anything about them. What I know about this show though is that it's about pretty, privileged people navigating the dramatic waters of daily group sex.

In the show, Jen said, about her sister's take on polyamory, "I don't think she understands that it's not all about sex. I think that's what she thinks it is." Gee, wonder where she could have gotten that idea?

1 comment:

Anthony Cristofani said...

"But they never say that and the show is setting a precedent that may be hard to alter"

actually we do say on the show don't make the mistake of thinking we or any family is representative of polyamory, or representative of ANYTHING.

Also, it's not hard to alter, the first impression. The waves that come now, after the floodgates of the mainstream have been opened, will go a long way to showing other perspectives/ways of living. There have been quite a few noble, beautiful, healthy portrayls of poly in the underground, but that's where it stayed. Now those people have a window opened for their work. The uphill battle against stigma/bigotry/legal problems just got easier for the wonderful poly community (and sympathetic activists) to address towards a larger audience (and smaller, to keep many styles/levels of discourse available)
Thanks for your attentive critique though! Good writing.