Big Love: I'm Not a Feminist, But…


Last night, the women of Big Love were doing a lot of talking back. (Which is just as well, considering.)

Though Margene’s storyline — her growing independence, the sexual tension between Ben and her — receded in this episode, her Toastmaster’s speech helped kick off an episode in which the women of Sandy increasingly pushed back at the patriarchal structures — on and off the compound. But she’s not a feminist. Or a businesswoman. Or anything like that.

There was the resurfacing of Ana, the least interesting character to date, this time pregnant, and she says it’s Bill’s. I can’t help but thinking that the writers were being impish in this scene in the way they talked about Ana making a choice about her body and her baby, with Bill saying, “This just can’t be an independent decision on your part… this is my child,” and “This baby was conceived out of our love.” As it turns out, Ana has less of a problem with having Bill — and his money — back in her life, than with sharing her life and childrearing with a team of women.

Sissy Spacek’s character Marilyn may be brazenly manipulating Barb to get the casino account and piss off Bill in the bargain, but that doesn’t mean she’s not right about Barb’s selfless sacrifice and the boys club of the casino management.

Nikki continues to try to come to terms with her damaged upbringing, in part by projecting anger on Margene and her self-actualization. “You could not do the things that you do without us. We are the women behind the woman,” she snarls. “We take care of your children, the cleaning…” All true. (By the way, who takes care of the kids when they’re all out to lunch and Sarah and Ben are out of the house? We haven’t seen Margene’s little ones all season.)

Poor Dale is also struggling with the expectations set by his religious and societal commitments. He’s been fighting his homosexuality for thirty years, through electroshock and aversion therapy and more. “Your job is made harder by the cultural confusion that exists around homosexuality,” the Bishop tells him.

This is perhaps the most blatant parallel the show has drawn between homosexuality and polygamy. Still, I was surprised to see Bill actually evince the slightest twinge of compassion as Dale wept. Is it his past as a Lost Boy, the oft-alluded to things he did for money? Or does he genuinely see them both as unfairly kept in the closet?

This was by far the most haunting scene of the episode. Nikki showed up at her mother’s sealing looking like Jem, presumably trying to live a childhood she never got to have. The chambers of horror of the motel re-enact the most horrific part of life on the compound: the marrying off of sickeningly young women to much older men. For now, Nikki managed to save her daughter from meeting her fate. It’s not clear why J.J. acquiesced — possibly it’s a stopgap measure.
By the way, no clip of J.J. seducing Adaleen. I can’t handle it and don’t want to subject others to it.

Barb finally said what so many viewers have been thinking: Bill’s wild ambitions seem a lot more about his narcissism than what anyone else wants. God bless her for asking him to live up to his lofty ideals — and God bless Jeanne Tripplehorn. This is also the first time we’ve learned that Bill and Margene slept together before they were sealed.

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