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Sister Wives: Divergent Voices in Mainstream Media

Since I spent Spring Break as an intern, I didn’t have much time to do anything, but work, sleep, and of course, watch a little television in between. As I was preparing for the week last Sunday, I turned to TLC, which is one of my favorite television network. Sister Wives was just starting, so I decided to watch a little bit of it, even though I must admit that it is far from my favorite television show on TLC. I watched the first 5 minutes and started thinking that this television show was a direct connection between divergent voices in mainstream media.

Sister Wives is a television show featuring Kody Brown and his 4 wives…Meri, Janelle, Christine, and Robyn. Together, Kody and his wives have a combined 13 children. The television show began because the Browns wanted to share their “divergent voice” with the world, showing their normal lives in a society that tends to disagree with their lifestyle. As I watched I realized that nothing was “normal” about their lifestyle. Their financial situation, their family situation, and their living structure were all so different compared to what is accepted by society in 2011. The show is in its second season showing viewers not only the wonders and struggles of their lives, but also what it was like for the 3 wives as Kody was pursuing his fourth wife, Robyn.

There is no doubt in mind that this family is not a “divergent voice” in mainstream media, but that is something that they weren’t considering when the show debuted. According to Kody, even with the television show, the Brown’s were trying to keep their lives a “secret” from the outside world. Personally, I do not know how they felt their lives would stay a secret with a television show, on a popular television network, displaying such a different family within society. As we have discussed during class discussions, viewers like negative attention on “celebrities” or even people before they become “celebrities.” I think that viewers like different, and many even thrive on people being different. Needless to say, Sister Wives has gotten around and has even created some legal issues for the family.

In addition to the television show Sister Wives, the Browns have recently decided to come out on national television as polygamists. Recently, the family was on the TODAY show making their big announcement to the world. They were happy to share with everyone and want to be accepted, as if a television show entitled, Sister Wives, did not give many of us enough of an idea about their lifestyle. Because of this announcement, Kody Brown is now being investigated for a felony bigamy by the Utah Police Department.

Even with the recent media and law enforcement attention that the Browns have been subject to, the Browns are still happy that they have come out to the world about a lifestyle that they still feel is “normal.” There are other polygamists practicing in the United States, but until the show “Big Love” polygamists practiced in secret, outside of mainstream media.

“When we decided to do this show, we knew there would be risks,” the Brown family said in a statement Tuesday. “But for the sake of our family, and most importantly, our kids, we felt it was a risk worth taking.”

The debate over polygamy will most likely go on forever, but one thing is for sure. The Browns are a “divergent voice” in “mainstream media.” And as we know, mainstream media can be good for divergent voices or can be bad for divergent voices. In the case of Sister Wives, mainstream media has created consequences for the divergent voice of the Browns. I plan to continue to follow the divergent voice of the Browns and will analyze what happens when mainstream media creates consquences for divergent voices.

One comment

  1. I think that the HBO show “Big Love”, focused on a fictional adaptation of polygamy, also helped “Sister Wives” become popular because this somewhat taboo topic became accepted when put in the mainstream. The show helped actual divergent voices get their own spot on television because of the success of “Big Love”, showing how mainstream media can make divergent voices more visible.

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