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Home / Articles / Opinion / Private Eye /  Big Love for Utah
Private Eye

Big Love for Utah

Bill Henrickson is no fictional candidate — he's already in the Utah Senate.

By John Saltas
Photo by HBO // Big Love
Posted // February 3,2010 -

Just when I thought Utah couldn’t suffer any more negative stereotyping, along comes a fresh batch of episodes from HBO’s Big Love. I happen to be a big fan of Big Love. I like the acting. I like the cast. I like the drama. I like second-guessing who among us is tipping off the Big Love writers about all the seedy nuances of our local polygamist communities.

I’m also a big fan of Utah, so I get kind of twitchy when I laugh or recoil at a given Big Love subplot, then realize that folks not living here are getting a healthy dose of negative Utah values. It goes with the television turf, I guess. I still think everyone living in the 90210 ZIP code is a ditzy blonde. I think New Jersey is full of pasta-eating Italian mobsters. I think, if I’m murdered, I want it to be in Miami so that Horatio can solve my crime in an hour—not like the local Susan Powell missing-person case that can’t even get a decent DNA analysis completed between commercial breaks.

Thanks to Big Love, I think Utah is a beautiful state that will be the first to be destroyed at the Second Coming.

What Big Love Needs Now Is a Roller Derby Rink

To soften that image, and to change God’s aim, I’d like to suggest to the Big Love writers to script one of the female leads into a local roller-derby league. Roller derby is kid gloves next to the punches flying on Big Love. I like roller derby as much as the next guy and have since the 1960s when it played on local television every Saturday. I remember when the true precursors to the feminist movement, women such as Joan Weston and Ann Calvello, used to whack each other ’round and ’round. Adding a roller-derby fist to one of the characters in Big Love would send the dual message that not only is Utah a hip kind of place, but it’s also a place where women can, and do, fight back. Strong females have never had it easy in Utah, in polygamist circles or otherwise. Big Love could change that perception with just a skating rink.

That said, if you haven’t tuned into Big Love this year, here’s why God is taking aim at Utah: Bill Henrickson’s second wife, Nicki, not only has a daughter Bill never knew about, but her former husband (the father of said daughter) has just been sealed to be married to Nicki’s mother. That means that Nicki’s ex-husband becomes her step-dad and thus, the grandfather of his own daughter. It’s the real-life version of the country music novelty song, “I’m My Own Grandpa.” That song has been done by plenty of musicians, from Homer & Jethro to Ray Stevens, but if you want the definitive version, I’ve always liked the late Steve Goodman’s version.

Meanwhile, Bill’s third wife, Margene, finally responds to the burning in her thighs that’s been warming up since about Season 1 and lays a fat one on Bill’s own son, Ben. A live TV camera catches the aftermath, and Bill’s first wife, Barbara, Ben’s mother, is watching. Before anyone can ask Heavenly Father for forgiveness, Ben becomes a Lost Boy, his dad kicking him out of the house for competing with the old man for the young chicks. Ben is probably living in St. George now.

More? Oh, the new polygamist leader (thanks to Bill’s brother killing the former leader, Roman Grant) of the compound, Alby Grant, who is Nicki’s brother and Roman’s son, is having a gay affair with a man he met in a city park. The man turns out to be a trustee for the polygamist compound property. Alby learns of that and thinks the fellow may be working to screw (yes, that would be the operative word) him and his followers out of their little slice of hell. It’s my bet that this gay drama is the Big Love writers’ way of saying, “Uhh, remember Prop 8, Utah?”

Just across the border, Barb is royally pissing off the American Indians of Southern Idaho (Bill’s partners in a new casino venture). Barb’s smarmy, pie-in-the-sky, blissfully blind, talk-down-to-you attitude results in one female casino employee lashing out at Mormons in a way never before seen on television. Ouch cubed. It only worsens when Bill and Barb’s daughter hurriedly marries, then abducts the baby son of an American Indian drug addict in order to “save” it. One thing about Big Love—it knows every weak joint of local culture.

Look Who's Running for Utah State Senate

But the worst sin of all in this season of Big Love is that Bill (whose mother is an illegal parrot smuggler, by the way, and his father is always trying to kill her) is running for the Utah State Senate. He has something to prove, and he’s blind to everyone he hurts or displaces along the way to proving it. Other than standing up for the “principle,” we don’t ever really know what it is he’s proving. But, by damn, he’s proving it. Outside of scientists, Utahns like people who prove things.

Bill isn’t running for a constituency. He isn’t running to lower taxes or fix schools. He’s running to promote his faith. He’s making a statement that he won’t adjust to a system of laws and moral codes he won’t abide by. He’s not trying to fit. He’s misunderstood. Everything directed by his own moral compass is spinning out of control and he can’t see it. He’s cold toward the consequence of his words or actions upon others. He thinks his lies are the truth. It’s all about him.

Bill Henrickson, meet Chris Buttars.

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