Monday, December 21, 2009

Challenging Homophobia On “Big Love”

image “Big Love” is  a modern day sitcom based on the life of practicing fundamentalist Mormons in Utah.  Alby Grant, played by Matt Ross, was beaten last season in a bathroom after seeking anonymous sex with a man.  This interesting plot twist came to light after the Mormons vigorous opposition to same sex marriage.

Alby Grant has multiple wives and believes in the principal, yet he is drawn into dangerous positions in order to fulfill his sexual yearnings.  Can one possibly be gay and Mormon, especially if you belong to the fundamentalist section of the Church? Roman Grant, Alby’s father, has repeatedly defended the practice of polygamy by saying that it is just like same sex marriage and therefore not the business of the state.  Considering the opposition of the Mormon Church to same sex marriage, using it as a defence of polygamy on the show evidences the ways in which supporting privilege ignores the ways in which all manner of isms are supported.

Throughout the show, Alby’s interest in men has routinely been alluded to.  His obvious disdain for homosexuality speaks of an internalized hatred that is extremely damaging. Though “Big Love” is a sitcom, there are most certainly gay Mormons whose sexuality is in direct conflict with the stated beliefs of the church.  Because the church is all encompassing, those that do come out risk excommunication and being cut off from their family and  friends; this binds the gay members of the Church.

The new season of “Big Love” is set to air in January.  According to MNBC, “The first episode of the new season involves Alby, a son of the leader of a fictional polygamist group, in a "close encounter" with a male trustee. Both have been struggling with their sexuality.”   Apparently, the Mormon Church has already put out a statement reminding people that “Big Love” is just a work of fiction.  The Church doctrine is decidedly homophobic and sees gay sex as sinful behaviour.

The character Alby is certainly evil.  He threatens innocent people to get his way and he is desperate to become the prophet.  There are few redeeming aspects of his personality, however; his conflict is certainly something that is experienced by some Mormons.  The upcoming season promises to be controversial, not because there is something inherently wrong with homosexuality but because of the stand that the Mormon Church has taken against it.  Though fictional, the exploration of Alby’s sexuality is a recognition of the fact that within its midst, those that the church abhors are worshipping alongside them in pain.

The focus of fundamentalist Christians on sexuality reveals a form of perversion.  Reading through the bible it is quite clear that are a multitude of sins that most modern people are guilty of on a daily basis.  Though fundamentalists have chosen to fixate on sexuality,  Jesus did not utter a single word against it in the New Testament.  Their fixation with sexuality in deed speaks of a desire to enforce gender roles, as well as discipline bodies that do not conform, thus placing them in a position of power socially. 

If we were turn against everyone who broke supposed biblical rules, we would have a society of pariahs. It will be interesting to see if in the end the producers decide to allow Alby to be himself.   Succumbing to the  anti-gay sentiment of the Church empowers them.   Whether you know it or not, chances are that at some point you have befriended, interacted or worked beside a member of the GLBT community.   By forcing its members to remain closeted, the Mormon church not only causes pain, it refuses to acknowledge that they do indeed possess love for someone that they hate.  It is much harder to deny the rights and humanity of someone you love when they are not an abstract idea.