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October 22, 2014

Did Big Love go too far or was it no big deal?

by Allison Waldman, posted Mar 17th 2009 8:15PM
big love clan
Last week's episode of Big Love received more hype than any other show this season for one simple reason. The Church of Latter-Day-Saints (LDS) was protesting – in advance – the HBO drama depicting a secret church ritual. The church felt that the producers had gone too far by showing a sacred ceremony that was not meant to be revealed to those who are not members of the faith. While I respect their desire to protect their traditions, I think they should have waited till the show aired, because now that I've seen it, my attitude is simply this, "No big deal."

Not to be flip, but the traditions of many religions may look alien or unusual to the uninitiated, but that's not a reason to keep them behind a veil of secrecy. The scene was crucial to Big Love because it illustrated how Barb was still deeply entwined with the church she had been brought up in. Her falling away from church activities coincided with her marriage to Bill and Nikki and Margene. Her polygamy has kept her from church and she was feeling a spiritual void. Going to the church and having the "endowment" ceremony only reminded her of the choice she had to make – to be loyal to her parent's and their church or stick with Bill and her sister wives?

If LDS was concerned about their ceremony being cast in an unkind light, I disagree. Yes, it was unusual and I had never seen anything quite like it, but I was also fascinated. I imagine the first time a TV show presented a bar mitzvah – was it Buddy's bar mitzvah on The Dick Van Dyke Show – it probably looked (and sounded) alien. When Frasier showed Frederick's bar mitzvah in 2002, Star Trek's fictitious language Klingon was even inserted for Hebrew.

The bottom line is that the scene in Big Love was important and not exploitative. It added to the drama and was completely respectful and fair. It also worked brilliantly, setting up Barb's later scene when she was ex-communicated by church elders. The upcoming Big Love finale should be a doozy.

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