When looking at how polygamist have been portrayed recently on reality TV, the focus has been on only two families...The Browns and their 'friends' The Dargers.
According to TLC's reality show model, polygamists are lovable, loving people who are just like the rest of America except for the fact the husband has more than one wife.
As shown by our favorite polygamist Kody Brown, he believes "Love should be multiplied, not divided". Seemingly thousands of people became instant fans of the Browns. And Kody - a balding, long-haired, disheveled kind of guy who hasn't had a real job in years has plopped his four wives in not one McMansion (heaven forbid they should have to share a kitchen) but in four separate almost identical McMansions in a gated cul de sac.
We also had a brief look at another polygamist family, the Dargers who, like the Browns, are independent Mormon fundamentalists. Besides having a bald head, Joe Darger possesses a look that projects rigidity and no nonsense. His family is well disciplined, and his three wives can function under one roof, can work with each other in one kitchen and are confident enough in their relationship that Papa Joe can show affection for a wife in plain view of the other wives.
It also doesn't hurt that his wives are all cousins, and that 2 wives are identical twin sisters.
But is this really an accurate depiction of polygamy in the USA today?
Well, thank you for asking. National Geographic has taken on the task of presenting yet another view of polygamy in the USA. This time, however, instead of focusing on a single family, the focus is on an entire community: Centennial Park, AZ. The name of the series: Polygamy, USA.
Now, before you start jumping for joy, please take a look at the disclaimer shown at the beginning of the episode:
"The following program reveals the lives of practicing polygamists.
Due to the sensitive nature of their beliefs, some individuals have requested that their names be changed."Why would names need to be changed? OK, OK, we know that polygamy is illegal (the narrator told us so) but we here at SWB also know that as long as the polygamists aren't breaking any other laws (like marrying their 12 year old daughters to 70 year old men or their adult cousins for an example) no state law enforcement agency is going to go all Short Creek /YFZ Ranch on their behinds.
So I suppose that disclaimer is in place because many of the men who live in Centennial Park are successful businessmen whose clients may not appreciate doing business with polygamists.
I'm thinking Kody Yellow would have been a good name choice. Or maybe Kody Red.
But I digress...
Polygamy, USA uses the standard program template of reality television...but since it is NatGeo and not TLC, instead of a Kody Brown type narrator, there is a professional male voice doing the honors. The guy's voice is so smooth if you close your eyes, you will think you're watching a documentary on the Yanomamo Indians of the Amazon. And loving every minute of it!
So here's a brief synopsis of the first episode:
|Part of large McMansion viewed from Hammon's truck|
|Picture of same McMansion showing most of its full glory|
The polygamists who live in Centennial Park are hardcore. And some of them live in really big houses. Really really big houses that strangely enough are not shown when Arthur Hammon is driving his truck down the streets of Centennial Park. But I was able to find one on the internet.
|Missionaries...the future old coots of Centennial Park|
The Daughters of Zion (the female population) are hardcore, too. For goodness sakes they GRIND their own wheat. When they turn 18, they are expected to marry BUT they let God decide who that lucky fellow will be. So, if God reveals to the woman that the 90 year old geezer being propped up at the church meeting is her intended, she will approach the church elders with her revelation. If the elders approve of her choice, they will approach the old geezer and tell him he's won the jackpot once again. If all parties approve, the young lady will then be "placed" with the new family and, voila, she becomes a wife.
|Arthur with his not so hardcore son Ezra|
This guy is so hardcore he makes General George Patton look like a freakin' coward. And he can't hide his disappointment in his less than hardcore son, Ezra.
I suspect even the cats and dogs are hardcore too, but strangely enough, none were shown at all. Weird...like do they serve the strays ground up in the meat loaf at the Merry Wives Cafe up the road in Hildale?
Like any other reality TV show, there's got to be drama and Polygamy, USA does not disappoint.
Even though the narrator said Arthur had 3 wives, something immediately caught my attention. He has all these little kids. Now, these little ones did not come from the 2 wives introduced in the show...frankly, those 2 women looked older than Arthur. And we weren't introduced to wife #3. Of course, I have come to the conclusion that Old Arthur has hooked himself up with some young Daughters of Zion to give birth to his spirit babies. When you factor in the conflict between Old Arthur and his son Ezra because Ezra wants to date and kiss a girl, oh yeah, this looks like it's going to be good storyline. Especially when later it's mentioned the reason for single young men not being allowed to date was because that young man could be dating another man's future wife.
If you ask me, it's simple. Ezra might be dating a future wife of his father. And what is sad about this is the Centennial Park Daughters of Zion are taught from a very early age this is their lot in life: to be married at 18, have lots of children and lots of sisterwives. And to cook and grind wheat and clean. And to braid their hair FLDS style. And to be ready to accept marriage to any man between the age of 18 to whatever. They are told it's God's will - He will show them who they are to marry, but why do the elders need to have a final say? Shouldn't God's will suffice? Not with this group, apparently.
We met two of Arthur's nephews, Hyrum and Joseph Burton (not their real last name). Their mother, called "Aunt Susie" by her brother Arthur, apparently was gravely ill. When a picture of her was shown, I suddenly realized I'd seen this woman before. Her name was Susie Timpson, married to the man considered as the Leader of Centennial Park - John W Timpson and she passed away in November 2012. She was in a documentary on polygamy that was featured here on SWB: TLC goes inside the world of POLYGAMY - Part 1 - Part 3 . She appeared in Part Two, towards the end. She's the lady who speaks last and is wearing yellow with the matching yellow earrings.
But don't fear, I found a picture from the NatGeo website and it appears to point to a young Daughter of Zion being called to make Hyrum her husband. Since he's literally wrestling with this young woman, I have a feeling they are now married to each other.
Or is this his brother Joseph?
You know, I don't know for sure now since those boys all have the Hammon eyebrows.
We also met the Thomsons (not their real name). Now, they were featured in Lisa Ling's documentary on Centennial Park. I believe on that show they were living in double wides. They now live in a beautiful big home.
I get the sense the two wives, young 2nd wife Becca, and older wiser 1st wife Marleen, are still trying to adjust to each other. I mean it's gross they share the same man, but unlike the Browns, hubby Isaiah doesn't race from one wife's bedroom to another every 2 days, the wives go to HIS bedroom instead. Let's just hope he change those sheets every 2 days, yuck. And on a 2's company, three's a polygamist date at a Thai restaurant, Marleen tries to make light of another sister wife joining their 'happy' family by requesting that the new wife be either Mexican or Chinese so she can cook up Marleen's favorite foods for dinner. I think Isaiah failed to see the humor of her 'joke'. In fact, I think Isaiah thought she was serious. And then the look on Marleen's face when Isaiah brought up the subject of more babies. Don't worry Marleen, more babies mean Isaiah will be spending even more time away from home making money to feed those mouths. And for you that means more time alone with Becca, making her young life more miserable.
Yep, I can't wait to see how the 'Thomson' circus plays out this season.
Last, we met the Cawleys (real name). There's really nothing exceptional to say about them except that the husband, Michael, talks as if he's channeling Mister Rogers. Or Warren Jeffs.
I can hear him now..."It puts the lotion on it's skin and rubs it in. It does this whenever it is told."
I'm sure he's a nice enough fellow, but I'd check to see if he's hiding something in his basement before being his best friend, if you know what I mean.
Next episode: The Winter Ball.