Several weeks ago I sat with my husband and watched the television program “Escaping Polygamy.” I had hoped to do some research behind the program but decided it was not the highest and best use of my time. And so, without the research, here are my personal thoughts about the program, people and message behind “Escaping Polygamy.”
In short, it felt to me like another staged and scripted television program. Although the intention might have been to make it appear more along the lines of a documentary, or what is more commonly referred to as a docudrama, it really felt more like reality TV, and reality TV isn’t really real.
Once upon a time, fifteen years ago or so, reality television was real. It was created as a way for television networks and producers to entertain audiences while dramatically reducing costs. Human beings love watching other people’s drama, and this is the reason that soap operas have been so successful for so many years. The brilliance behind reality television was to show real -life human drama without any of the costs associated with paid actors, script-writers and so on. It was pure entertainment for the viewing audience and made huge fortunes for the creators of those programs.
Reality television is no longer real, and it hasn’t been for a few years. Just as with any other television programs, many so-called reality shows are now scripted, pre-staged and planned. There is prompting and product placement. Participants are paid in the same way actors are, and some are paid really well. Many have had acting classes and media training to ensure they look good on television. There are publicity stunts and tabloid leaks to keep people coming back for more. And, to top it off, there is lots and lots of editing to ensure the show fits what the television audience expects to see. So much for reality TV. A friend of mine calls it Tabloid TV.
Okay, back to “Escaping Polygamy.” While I was not thrilled with it being staged, I do love what the movie was intending to portray, which above all else was to point out the stronghold of Fundamentalist communities other than the F.L.D.S. Several years ago, Warren Jeffs and his crimes brought the F.L.D.S. into the forefront, but the beliefs in the F.L.D.S. are not all that different from any of other Fundy groups. While the “Escaping Polygamy” television show felt obviously staged to me, I appreciate the girls who are using their stories and efforts to tell the truth about polygamy and their attempts to free other women from its bondage of so-called holy matrimony.
Underneath the supposed “lifestyle choice” of polygamy is the ownership of women in the name of God. I call this, men using God’s name in vain. Leaving polygamy is much more difficult than leaving the lifestyle; it is leaving the belief system that controls every thought, feeling, action and perception. It is physical, mental, emotional and spiritual control. This is the reason so many people can’t leave, and even if they do, many return after they have been set free. Indoctrination is that powerful! In the show “Escaping Polygamy,” one of the women returns to the cult; and although her leaving was obviously staged (in my perspective), her return is not far from the truth.
As for reality TV as a whole, personally I’m not a big fan of it or at least the way it is now. It feels to me more like fake TV. I used to be a HUGE fan of Survivor, and I actually auditioned for it when it was new. I could teach people a few things about survival…
Personally I find it sad that docudrama television and true television have become interlinked within tabloid television under the genre of Reality TV, because to me they are very different things. When it comes to true television, count me in. True television is real, raw and thought-provoking, and that is something I want to be a part of. I want to be in front of the camera and not just in the audience. I want to be a part of feeding people not just what they want, but what they need, crave and rightfully deserve. For me there is a social responsibility that comes with being in the media. The entertainment industry affects the world more than any other industry. It tells us what to think, feel and believe. I want be a part of telling a new story about humanity and new possibilities that cause us to rethink what we think we know. I want to be a part of telling the other side of the story.
Over the past few years I have been invited to share my perspective on television, and for that, I am extremely grateful. Last week I was invited to audition for a new television series under the genre of reality TV, although I have been ensured it won’t be scripted and staged the way so many other shows are. This is an opportunity for me to share my perspective that polygamy, specifically polygyny, is a human rights abuse against women. Sadly, may people who are enslaved don’t even know they are. While I hope this will be an opportunity for me to share my truth, I have no choice but to wait and see what the producers think of me. If this doesn’t work out, I trust that something even better is coming to me in the highest and greatest good of all concerned.
Of course, you will be the first to know, right after I tell my biggest fan, my husband.