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A “Big Love” For Controversy?
When “Edginess” Morphs Into Political Correctness

[Carol Platt Liebau] 3/13/06

Certainly HBO is nothing if not ambitious. Home to popular and well-received programs like “The Sopranos,” “Six Feet Under,” and “Sex and the City,” HBO’s newest offering, “Big Love,” combines titillation with controversy – a recipe for cable success, if ever there was one. That’s because “Big Love” focuses on a polygamist and his relationship with his three wives.

If presidential contender Hillary Clinton loves “Commander-in-Chief,” the gauzy Geena Davis drama featuring a female president, presidential contender Mitt Romney must hate “Big Love.”

Carol Platt Liebau - Senior

Carol Platt Liebau is editorial director and a senior member of tOR and CRO editorial boards. She is an attorney, political analyst and commentator based in San Marino, CA, and has appeared on the Fox News Channel, MSNBC, CNN, Orange County News Channel, Cox Cable and a variety of radio programs throughout the United States. A graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, Carol Platt Liebau also served as the first female managing editor of the Harvard Law Review. Her web log can be found at [go to Liebau index]

Of course, the husband isn’t a mainstream Mormon, like Romney – the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (“LDS”) banned the practice in 1890, and unequivocally condemns it today, threatening its practitioners with excommunication. Rather, the fictional character belongs to a fundamentalist “splinter sect.” Nonetheless, it’s hard to deny that the program calls to mind some of the more controversial elements of LDS history, and predictably, many mainstream Mormons are outraged.

The program has attracted plenty of attention – including a largely favorable feature story on the front page of the L.A. Times’ “Calendar” section (followed by another front page review, which was considerably less laudatory), and pieces in publications ranging from The Washington Post and National Review (where it received a surprisingly favorable write-up) to the Hartford Courant and the Indianapolis Star. And it may, in fact, turn out to be quite entertaining.

But in fairness, it’s worth wondering whether “Big Love”’s creators would have dared to raise the hackles of other American minorities with such bravado. Certainly a drama about the unusual lives or practices of certain “splinter” segments of the gay or lesbian community would have been a provocative choice (and a timely one, in the wake of “Brokeback Mountain”-mania); same goes for those pursing the rapper-style “pimp and ho” lifestyles. Or think of the interest that would have been generated by an “edgy” new series on an American-Arab family belonging to a fundamentalist Muslim splinter sect. But it’s hard to escape the suspicion that the largely white and conservative demographics of the LDS population in America made “Big Love” a safely PC bet.

If “Big Love” turns out to be an enormous hit, no doubt we’ll learn much, much more about its creators – and whether they believed they were engaged in a “courageous” enterprise by bringing a program about a fundamentalist Mormon splinter sect to the small screen. But at this point, one thing seems certain: Controversy in Hollywood means little more than being willing to pick a fight with all the “right” people. -one-


Columnist Carol Platt Liebau is a political analyst, commentator and tOR / CRO editorial director based in San Marino, CA. Ms. Liebau also served as the first female managing editor of the Harvard Law Review. Her web log can be found at

copyright 2006 Carol Platt Liebau


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