Big Love is a thoroughly engrossing, masterfully plotted, and occasionally very funny show. If you're not watching it, you should be. Not convinced? Well, what if I told you that this week's epsiode of Big Love contained a depiction of a super-secret Mormon temple ceremony that ABC News tantalizingly describes as, "teaching of secret handshakes that allow members to pass by the angels guarding the entryway to heaven." Now do you want to watch?
From ABC News:
An upcoming episode of "Big Love," which chronicles the lives of a fictional polygamist family, is reported to be depicting an endowment ceremony, one of the most sacred rituals of the Mormon Church.
"It now seems the show's writers are to depict what they understand to be sacred temple ceremonies," read a statement from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "Certainly church members are offended when their most sacred practices are misrepresented or presented without context or understanding."
The statement says that before the first season of "Big Love" aired more than two years ago, HBO executives promised the church that the series wouldn't be about Mormonism.
But the church argues that "Mormon themes are now being woven into the show" and that Mormon characters are often "unsympathetic figures" who are "narrow and self-righteous."
It's ironic that the LDS Church bristles at the "narrow and self-righteous" Mormon characters on Big Love, because it's clear from that part of their statement that they have a very narrow view of the show. Maybe they haven't even seen the show at all. Although the main focus is on a fundamentalist sect, Juniper Creek, Mormon themes and characters have been part of Big Love since the first season. And while there are some thoroughly unsympathetic, narrow, self-righteous LDS characters on the show, like Ted and Cindy, there are also some LDS characters, like Heather and the Henricksons' neighbors, who are compassionate and very likeable.
Still, this controversy won't do anything but get more people to watch Big Love, and for that I am grateful. Going on and on about "sacred ceremonies" and "private temple rituals" is like dangling carrots in front of a hungry television-watching public. I watch the show every week, and I didn't even know that Barb (a fictional character, by the way) was going to undergo a meaningful ceremony in her temple (also fictional) this week. So, thanks for the heads up!
I don't think that the creators of Big Love intended to offend Mormons to the point of causing an attention-grabbing controversy. But why should the controversies and the anger be restricted to the Mormons? There are a number of groups that could be offended at Big Love to the point of causing a ratings increase. For example:
So far this season, we've seen a loony polygamist compound dweller massage a parrot's anus with a Q-tip, and a loony polygamist sect leader use a pitchfork to stab a pig that was sniffing his butch wife. Are the creators of Big Love saying that animals deserve to be mistreated by polygamist weirdos? Get irrational, PETA. It's easy for you.
Are all baptists "scary," short-tempered men who yell at families in casino parking lots? On Big Love, that's always the way they're depicted. In fact, that's the only way they're depicted, because there's only ever been one Baptist character on the show. Get angry, baptists. Why not start a flashy boycott?
3. Women with really, really long hair.
You like your very, very long hair, and don't want to be judged for it. Well, according to Big Love, your hair is an horrific accident waiting to happen. Is Big Love saying that having really, really long hair is inherently dangerous? Probably not, but women with really, really long hair should get organized and get mad about it in a public way.