The Invisible Web

Your Trip Into the Chapel Perilous

What If the Bachelorette Was Polyamorous?

Posted by invizweb on August 2, 2008

How TV shows represent open relationships—and how they could do better

By Tristan Taormino,for the Village Voice.

I watched The Bachelorette. There, I said it. I’ve always been fascinated by these reality dating shows where one person has multiple girlfriends or boyfriends simultaneously. Not only do all the suitors know about each other, but they live together, and some are even friends. On paper, the setup sounds like a recipe for a progressive vision of non-monogamous relationships. The execution is, well, a little trickier. For example, when 25 women vie for one man’s affection on The Bachelor, I can’t get over the subtext of patriarchal privilege: It always feels like a cross between a never-ending catfight and a bad harem fantasy. But when a new season of The Bachelorette (one girl, 25 guys) returned in May (this was the fourth one, compared to 12 installments of The Bachelor), I was anxious to see if, this time, it might live up to its radical potential. Imagine: an empowered woman with multiple partners, calling the shots!

See, when it comes to open relationships on television, there’s pretty slim pickin’s, starting with the scripted HBO series Big Love, which follows the trials and tribulations of a Mormon family consisting of husband Bill Henrickson, his three wives, and their seven children, all living in suburban Utah. They grapple with living in a non-traditional relationship, being in the closet about it, and clashing with their crazy relatives—most of whom live on a cult-like fundamentalist compound full of child brides in prairie dresses. The interactions here are often complex and nuanced, and can even resonate with people who identify as polyamorous. However, it’s all framed in the context of a controversial religious practice. I’d love the show a lot more if they got rid of the Mormonism and the wacky fundamentalists. But then it would probably last 10 minutes.

Read more.

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