In April I wrote about a casting call MTV put out for their True Life series. The topic: Polyamory. Like many poly folk, I was concerned (and curious) about how MTV would portray polyamory. I predicted that MTV would focus more on the fighting, jealousy, and negative aspects of polyamory with perhaps a minuet mention of the good. As time went on, I comforted myself with an article in Newsweek that could be presented as a better alternative to the True Life episode when the inevitable naysayers began making their appearances.
I stand corrected.
Instead of an hour of drama worthy of Jerry Springer, the audience was treated to what I felt was a fair representation of two poly relationships. Each group has their bumps, but those were equally balanced by the good. Other poly people may disagree. It happens. Polyamory has just as many flavors as any other group.
True Life introduces viewers to Kerry and Jim. Kerry is in her first lesbian relationship with Diana, a well-known poly activist. Diana is also involved in a long-term relationship with Ed. Kerry and Ed hang out, but do not date each other. Together, they form a perfect example of a V, with Diana at the center. Kerry wants to find a boyfriend of her own. Diana is concerned that Kerry wants a boyfriend more than a girlfriend. Meanwhile, Jim is in an all male triad (the three guys date each other). At the start of the show, Jim is feeling left out and wants to open up the relationship in order to balance things out. His lover, Tom, feels that they should work on the problems themselves without adding an extra person. The third member of their family, Chris, is mainly concerned with finding a workable solution to the problem in general.
Both of these set-ups are familiar. What I haven't experienced, I've heard about in polyamory support groups from other poly folk, both new and somewhat established. These were the poly people I have felt were not being fairly represented in some of the media coverage on polyamory. Do poly relationships have their problems? Yes. The point is in how each group handles them. MTV managed to capture some wonderful examples of how poly people deal with concerns like jealousy, communication, or bonding. The first of these was Dianas talk with Kerry about the latter's wish to bring a new guy into the relationship. My second favorite example of how to handle communication was in a scene where Jim and his loves seek outside, professional help with their issues. Each group chose different, but valid ways to handle their situations. By showing both methods, MTV avoids falling into any one true way traps.
Like it or hate it, True Life: Im Polyamorous is a step towards breaking stereotypes about polyamory. It shows that it is possible to acknowledge issues in polyamory on mainstream media, while still putting our best foot forward. This is important in the wake of growing numbers of positive polyamory-related media coverage. At the end of every article, there tends to be at least one person who questions whether or not the relationships presented are truly capable of withstanding the onslaught of problems that usually plague a romantic relationship. I wont spoil the answers that Kerry and Diana or Jim, Chris, and Tom come up with. MTV will be airing the episode again during the week and over the course of the month.
If you missed the first airing of True Life: Im Polyamorous, you can catch it again at the following times:
Wednesday Sept. 16, 2 am and 8 pm EST
Monday Sept. 21, 12 noon and 9 pm EST
Wednesday Sept. 23, 5 pm EST
Friday Sept. 25, 8 am EST
Local Polyamory Groups
Poly Central Florida (meeting in Orlando, but serving Central Florida area, including Tampa, Melbourne, etc.)
Other Polyamory Groups and Resources
Tristan Taorminos Open Relationships Website
Family (a web series about a poly family)