Category: Toxic Tropes

Poly Villainy in the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018)

I just finished watching the first eleven episodes of the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and it’s time for my (minimally) spoiler-y review below the cut. In short, polyamory is not a major plot point of the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina but it is repeatedly dropped in as a way of characterizing individuals and communities as villainous. Even the possibly “good guy” who is poly-friendly seems to moving towards a monogamy-redemption arc, or at the very least is self-hating about it. I have to be honest, the level of vitriol aimed at polyamory and other forms of non-monogamy in this show was seriously difficult to watch.

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iZombie – “Brother, Can You Spare a Brain”

Here we go again, another crime/legal drama where the victims and suspects are in an open and honest non-monogamous relationship, and the main characters grapple with and/or argue about whether or not women are ever really OK with non-monogamy.

Crime/legal dramas and other episodic format shows in some sense lend themselves to exploring whatever the hot topics of the day happen to be – and polyamory certainly is one – because they rely on short, one-episode stories and each need to be different. It’s not like polyamory is the only topic these shows explore, they explore every hot topic under the sun and moon, but I’m beginning to be bothered that so much of the poly fiction that is out there is legal dramas makes me think there is a toxic trope of associating polyamory with criminality. Not all of the legal dramas are murder mysteries – in one, the crime being investigated is literally bigamy, and that makes perfect sense – but there seem to be an awful lot of murdered non-monogamous people and murdering partners of them.

iZombie is a crime drama, but also, you know, a zombie comedy… about a zombie who works in a morgue, eats the brains of the recently deceased, and gets flashes of their memories, dreams, habits, and personalities. So there’s that.In Season 1 Episode 2 of iZombie, “Brother, Can You Spare a Brain” (2015) features a murder victim of the week who our zombie hero quickly realizes had a lover. The detective she works with insists that the wife must have killed the husband after discovering her lover. However, the wife did not “discover” any such thing. In fact, she introduces the detective to the lover!

This is my dear friend Tasha. She is my favorite of all of Javier’s lovers.

The detective questions the wife, pushing to hear her secret discomfort with non-monogamy. She describes their relationship lovingly, notes that she herself has “dalliances,” and that asking her husband – an artist – to have only one lover would be like asking him to paint only tourist postcards. As she describes it, her husband’s art, sex, and passion are all intimately intertwined. Artsy and poly go hand in hand. The detective isn’t buying it, and asks her if it bothers her that her husband’s art – his “babies” – are nudes of other women. She snaps back, “It bothers me that you are being dismissive about my husband’s art and our marriage.” Burn!

So what happened? Who dunnit? Was it the wife? Find out below the cut.

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Orange is the New Black introduces Poly Character

Orange is the New Black Season 4 has hit Netflix, and a character who was briefly introduced at the end of last season has revealed herself to be a “polyamory expert.” Details as I watch, as I am sure more will be revealed, but thus far:

Edit: details/having watched the the rest of the season here (spoiler alert, I am disappointed, although not surprised at being disappointed). Hi Redditors. I agree with you, don’t worry. Feel encouraged to comment.

Season 4, Episode 1 (2016) – Work that Body for Me

Judy’s boyfriend Bill escorts her to the prison. As he leaves, Judy tells her to go visit her husband, noting that he is probably more upset than Judy or Bill are about the whole thing. Luschek asks for clarification – Bill is not Judy’s husband? Judy identifies him as her boyfriend. Luschek and Judy continue to talk about it, but most of that conversation is off screen. They bond! Since Judy sent Bill to comfort Judy’s husband, I infer that the relationship is on the up-and-up.

Season 4, Episode 4 (2016) – Dr. Psycho

Luschek and Judy are still bonding. They are playing a game and Luschek quotes Wonder Woman – “Suffering Sappho!” Judy offers up the fun fact that Wonder Woman’s creator had “two wives” and expounded on the connection between their kinky sex life and Wonder Woman’s propensity for finding herself tied up. Dropping the truth bombs! Luschek asks her how she knows these things, and she identifies herself as a “polyamory expert.” “Right,” Luschek notes, “the whole husband-and-boyfriend-thing.” It’s friggin’ delightful, I can’t wait for more.

Life on Mars (US) – Coffee, Tea, or Annie

I’m continuing the Swinging theme today, with a review of the Life on Mars (US) Season 1, Episode 14 (2009) entitled “Coffee, Tea, or Annie.” Life on Mars follows detective Sam Tyler as he is injured in 2008 and wakes up in 1973. It is full of 70s goodness from the soundtrack to the obligatory “pilots and stewardesses are swingers” Monster of the Week. Spoilers below the cut.
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Friends – “The One with the Butt”

This one is probably one of my favorites, maybe because Chandler is… not.

Friends Season 1, Episode 6 (1994), “The One with the Butt.” The butt is Joey’s story, it has nothing to do with poly.

Chandler’s story does though! Chandler starts dating this amazing new Italian woman. He is then thrown when he finds out she is married. And has a boyfriend. At first, he invokes one of our Evil Poly Tropes, the Trope-Naming one that “Poly People are Evil,” specifically, deceitful for not telling him she was married when she agreed to go out with him.

Personally, I can see where he is coming from. I don’t think it’s evil, but I think it is important to let someone know you’re poly if you’ve decided you liked them. I generally open with it, but some people wait a date or so to let people get to know them before being scared off. But I digress.

Anyway, Chandler briefly comes around. He describes the situation as follows: “I get all the good stuff: all the fun, all the talking, all the sex; and none of the responsibility. I mean, this is every guy’s fantasy!”

This statement touches on another evil poly trope: poly is easier than mono, because it’s only about sex anyway.

However, as the relationship develops his enthusiasm fades. When he discovers she is still taking on more lovers he decides to leave. He wonders why he, her husband, and her boyfriends are not enough, implying that he is threatened by the woman’s exuberant sexuality. He could accept being the new guy, but was thrown off by a newer guy. He also briefly falls prey to the delusion that she could leave all of these other men to be with him, a complete rejection of non-monogamy. Sad times. Well, for Chandler I guess. I imagine that sexy Italian lady is still out there being a sexy Italian lady with way cooler men than Chandler.

Pushing Daisies – “Bitches”

I’m not a huge fan of sexist slurs, but I did really enjoy the show Pushing Daisies.
Pushing Daisies, a dark humor series, follows the adventures of Ned, who can resurrect dead things temporarily or permanently, with rules; Private Investigator Emerson Cod, who uses Ned’s ability to solve murders; and Chuck, Ned’s once-dead girlfriend whom he cannot touch. Season 1, episode 6, “Bitches” (2007). investigates the murder of Harold by one of his four wives.


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Ally McBeal – “Silver Bells”

Ally McBeal Season 1, Episode 11 (1997)

In “Silver Bells,” James had been married to Mindy but fell in love with Patti, whom he met at work. He didn’t want to leave Mindy, and especially did not want to disrupt the marriage for their children, so instead he brought Patti home to live with them. James fertilized Patti’s egg and Mindy carried the child, so their youngest child is by all three of them. Mindy stays at home and mothers their children, while Patti and James both work at the same law firm. The three are seeking legal recognition for their union.


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