Social conservatives have long said the fight for same-sex marriage will logically extend to other non-traditional forms of marriage such as polygamy. The homosexual community and same-sex marriage apologists balk at the idea, claiming this is nothing more than a slippery slope argument intended to undermine same-sex marriage by scaring people into believing that legalizing same-sex marriage will open the flood-gate for the legalization of other relationships society disapproves of for moral or social reasons. Recent events appear to vindicate the merits of the conservatives’ argument. A pro-polygamy message is emerging out of Hollywood.


Hollywood has been instrumental in shaping society’s view of homosexuals. The portrayal of homosexuals and homosexual relationships has been pushed mainstream. Popular TV shows such as Will & Grace, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, and Ellen have changed cultural perceptions of homosexuality by portraying homosexuals in a humorous light. It’s hard to disapprove of those who make us laugh. Other popular TV shows have featured episodes in which prominent characters experiment with bisexuality, often involving on-screen kisses between members of the same gender. There is an endless list of movies that include gay characters who are portrayed in a positive light as well: My Best Friend’s Wedding, The Mexican, and Brokeback Mountain to name a few.


Having sufficiently penetrated the small and big screens with homosexuality to reshape public conception of homosexuality from bad to good, Hollywood is turning its attention to another social agenda: polygamy. On March 12th HBO began a new series entitled “Big Love,” produced by none other than Tom Hanks. It is about a Salt Lake City businessman named Bill Henrickson, played by Bill Paxton of “Titanic” fame. Bill has three wives and seven children. While the show portrays the peculiar struggles of polygamous relationships, overall it portrays polygamy in a positive light. The message appears to be: “They are a loving family who has occasional family issues just like every other family. They are like the rest of us, so we should be accepting of them.”


On Tuesday March 28th, ABC’s left-leaning legal drama, Boston Legal, also aired an episode casting polygamy in a positive light. The show features an all-star cast including William Shatner (Captain Kirk of Star Trek), Candice Bergen (Murphy Brown), and James Spader (The Practice), and reaches a viewing audience of approximately 7.5 million households. In this particular episode Denise Bauer defended a polygamist, arguing that polygamy ought not be illegal because (1) today’s social climate is much different than in years gone by, (2) polygamist relationships “work” for those who are involved in them, (3) and because we are already practicing non-institutionalized “successive” polygamy in our high rates of divorce and remarriage, and non-institutionalized “concomitant” polygamy in our high rates of extramarital affairs.


Whatever you might make of these arguments, the fact that they are being made on a national TV show is significant. On the face of it the arguments sound pretty convincing, and I have little doubt that the show impacted the beliefs of many who watched it. I doubt that this will be the last bout of polygamy-friendly displays Hollywood will turn out. With each exposure the moral fabric of this nation will be trimmed down.


In days gone we got our philosophy from philosophy books and lectures; today we get our philosophy through the media. TV and movies shape the worldview of many people. They pushed the envelope in promoting homosexuality, and now they are beginning to push the envelope on polygamy. If Hollywood continues with this trend, I would not be surprised if public opinion begins to shift on this issue. And since the principles used to justify same-sex marriage apply equally to polygamy, I would not be surprised if a cultural and legal victory for same-sex marriage will also spell an “around-the-corner” victory for polygamy as well.