TLC's Sister Wives: A Multiple Wives' Tale

As a network, TLC often walks that fine line between informative and exploitative: Do you care about the relationship between these two little people, or are you more interested in the novelty of little people making chocolate? Do you want to see the 600-pound man lose weight, or are you just using him to make yourself feel better about your relatively minor belly?

Enter Sister Wives, the hot new reality series from TLC. That’s right—we’re mere steps away from the inevitable 19 Wives and Counting. Sister Wives follows the polygamous Brown family: Kody; his wives Meri, Janelle, and Christine; and a combined total of 13 children. I originally wrote down 12 in my notes, which means the show is counting the yet-to-be-born-but-already-named Truely. That, or TLC slipped one of the Gosselins in with the others and hoped no one would notice. (Ooh, spin-off idea! Kody picks Kate Gosselin as his new wife in—title’s negotiable—Kody & Meri & Janelle & Christine & Kate Plus 8 Plus 13. You’re welcome.)

The premiere of Sister Wives was sort of an hour-long FAQ to get us better acquainted with the Browns: Are they Mormon? They’re part of a particular Mormon sect that still practices polygamy. Do the wives constantly fight for their husband’s attention? Not really. They’ve got a rotating system. Do they occasionally, you know, all play together? Heavens, no. That would be too weird.

Many convincing arguments surfaced during the first episode. Meri described the family's built-in support system: She knows that if she were to die, Janelle and Christine would help raise her kids as their own. Then there’s Kody’s motto, which sounds like something TLC told him to say but fits nonetheless—“Love should be multiplied, not divided.” That’s a message I can get behind, even though polygamy isn’t something I’m personally interested in. I’ve got no moral qualms with spreading the love, and I appreciated the parents talking about how they want their kids to make their own choices, to marry for love and not from obligation.

But something's still not right—and there are certain elements of polygamy that the first episode of Sister Wives did not address. Why is a husband allowed to have multiple wives, if a wife can’t have multiple husbands? These women have jobs; it’s not like they’re Kody’s captives. But there’s still a pretty obvious inequality issue that I can’t overlook. Kody gets a different wife every night. The wives? They wait their turns. I’m not saying anyone is being horribly oppressed here: I’m just saying there’s a necessary element of subjugation that makes me uncomfortable.

Hopefully, Meri, Janelle, and Christine will assert themselves more loudly, especially as Kody tries to bring another wife into the arrangement. There was definite dissent here, no matter how casually Kody tried to deflect it. I got the sense that marrying another woman wasn’t really anyone’s decision but his—the discussion felt like a formality. If Robin does join the family, which the previews appeared to indicate, here’s hoping the wives either accept a little less time with their husband or do something about it. Who knows: Robin could be a force for good. Maybe she’ll even convince Christine that toasters aren’t death traps.

So is Sister Wives informative or exploitative? Honestly, it could go either way. I'd say TLC's (cold, corporate) heart is in the right place for a change—these subjects are clearly trying to justify and defend their alternative lifestyle. But in doing so, they may unearth a different kind of exploitation, one that's tougher for viewers at home to watch.

What did you think? And will you keep watching?


Follow TV.com writer Louis Peitzman on Twitter: @LouisAtTVDotCom

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I think I must have missed the last episode of Sister Wives. I think it was episode 6; the last one I viewed was where Meri and Kody were in Mexico celebrating their 20th Anniversary. Can somebody please tell me if there was another episode after this one. Thanks
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That **** is F*#kin NASTY ! Hes a dirtbag and those chicks are sick sluts ! Anyone who does that **** needs sum therapy .
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Apparently he is legally married to his first wife and he "married" the other 3 in something like commitment ceremonies.
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I missed the show. How do the explain the legality of more than one wife?
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I find the show interesting but very disturbing. Where are the marriage bonds? In my opinion Kody has commitment issues, he is manipulative and controlling. His uncontrollable "love" is actually an excuse to publicly cheat on his wife...wives I must say. Ironically the women are too naive to believe they are equally sharing his love and are sadly submissive. How could one keep falling in love? Maybe that wasn't love. In reality, Kody doesn't love anyone more than himself. I will keep watching the show to see how "out of control" it will get. Maybe they should rename the show "uncontrollable love".
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This disturbs me. The guy has it good - he doesn't need to practice self control or be committed to one woman. But the women? Why do they get involved with polygamy? They can't have more than one man. They have to wait their turn while he sleeps with another woman. I'm not attached, but there is no way in heck I would stand around and politely wait while my husband slept with another woman. No. Way.
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"Why is a husband allowed to have multiple wives, if a wife can’t have multiple husbands?"



Its because they are practicing a biblical polygamy. In biblical polygamy only a man can have more than one wife. A wife is only allowed to have more than one husband. Now if you have a problem with that, I suggest you take it up with a few local pastors and maybe consult God since God is the one who made the rules of polygamy (polygyny.) Maybe they should hire writers who will be more educated on topics they are writing about over here.
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I found the show fascinating, but bewildering at the same time. All of the children see pretty happy, so that is positive.

At first glance, all three women look like real sisters and get along wonderfully, but there seems to be some favoritisim by Kody for his 2nd wife , Janelle, who currently has the most children.

Meri, his first wife, has only one child and seems a bit sad. Is it because she does not have more? Does this affect her relationship with Kody?. One major concern: Do Kody and his wives worry about STDs?

(Yes, apparently I really got into this show!)
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I couldnt move from in front of the TV I love the show cant wait to see more but its sad after 16 years with the three wives there comes another
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They are definitely diffrent than the other polygamist families i have seen on TV
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