So. Just when you think tv has reached its limit as far as the depiction of “acceptable lifestyle choices” go, along comes its daring younger brother, reality tv. Though it’s never certain whether the subjects of so-called reality shows are meant to be cheered on or laughed at, one thing is certain – if you’re sure a particular topic will never make it into the homes of “regular people” (whatever that means,) then a reality tv show is probably being made about it.
In July, the first (ever, as far as I know) reality tv show about poly couples aired on Showtime in the U.S. called Polyamory: Married and Dating. The show chronicles everyday issues in the lives of two poly families. First, we have the triad of Vanessa, Anthony and Lindsay; the show also follows a quad: Kamala and Michael, who are married with a child, and Tahl and Jennifer, who are married as well.
In the series’ pilot, Kamala and Michael ask Jennifer and Tahl to move in with them. Vanessa and Anthony share their discomfort with Lindsay’s new relationship as she ignores them while spending time with her new lover, Kristoff, well into the throes of NRE. We are treated to family meetings, where the communication between family members is frankly astounding, and of course, some hot canoodling and soft-core poly sex action and nudity – lots of it!
Issues around navigating poly life all seem serious and relevant, as well as complex – for example, Jen’s sister comes to visit and has trouble accepting the extra bed in the bedroom for lovers who want to sleep over – “I just don’t get it,” she whines repeatedly. And there’s Kamala’s reluctance to ‘share’ her girlfriend Roxanne with her husband – “I’m just not ready to share my girlfriend yet!” – and Michael’s opinion that this selfishness goes against the philosophy of a poly relationship.
The show’s focus on the interpersonal juggling of emotions that goes into living the poly life sheds light on how simple this lifestyle choice isn’t. As Jen states in a clip from a preview of the show, “If you’re not ready to do personal work, then definitely polyamory isn’t for you.”
Of course, many a skeptical eyebrow has been raised over the veracity of reality tv. Are the people actually actors, and their dialogue really a script? To this question I offer a shrug of the shoulders, because when it comes down to it, who cares? It doesn’t matter to me whether or not the people and scenarios on Married and Dating are true to life; what does make a difference is if the material is approached respectfully. The best that we in the Poly community can hope for is that people watching will begin to understand why this choice has emerged for some of us, and for an open conversation to begin in the mainstream. If in the meantime we’re all treated to some sexy poly entertainment, all the better!
Have you seen the show? Do you think it’s a realistic portrayal of poly life? What, if anything, is missing?