Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Open Marriage on the Fox Medical Drama, House

The concept of open marriage is gaining mainstream traction largely via Mo'Nique's recent admission about her open marriage to Barbara Walters. It seems that the default assumption is that an open marriage is designed to allow sexual flings without romance or commitment, so I'm just as glad the word polyamory wasn't used in last night's episode of the Fox medical drama, House. Here's the preview FYI.

You can also watch the episode here.  In the opening scene a woman is having sex with her lover when a knock comes at the hotel room door and it is her husband.  She had forgotten to sign a paper needed for one of their children that day.  But instead of all hell breaking loose, the husband is invited in, obviously feels awkward and says he's not sure how to behave under those circumstances. Nevertheless, he introduced himself to the lover and they shook hands very politely.  As soon as the husband leaves, the wife develops severe abdominal pain and sends her lover after her husband.  So far so good as to the open marriage story line.

Lots of conversation happened throughout the episode, so much that it seemed that the woman's mysterious illness was a subplot line.  It was strange that the medical staff kept asking their patient questions that were pretty rude and not necessary to make a diagnosis, but they did facilitate discussion about the problems with monogamy, even going so far as to one character saying it's unreasonable to expect our partner to meet all our needs forever.

Certainly the medical staff was curious, and one doctor named Taub who had apparently had repeated affairs (I don't watch this show normally) was inspired to bring the subject up with his wife, though in the ill-advised setting of a restaurant in public.  This resulted in his wife reluctantly granting him Thursday nights with the woman he works with whom he fancies, only later to withdraw her permission out of fear.  Instead of asking her to work on the reason for the fear, the husband immediate caves in and says he only wants her, only the next day to head off to his new love interest's apartment.

When the subject of open marriage first came up between Taub and his colleagues, he was the first one to condemn it, saying "A functional open marriage is like a unicorn. It's a mythical creature that doesn't exist."  Fail!  I'll have to hand it to the writers on that part of the story, apparently they know there are many hypocrits out there who are a lot more comfortable with cheating than with toughing out the transition to conducting their multiple relationships openly, honestly and ethically.

I felt very sorry for the patient's lover when he showed up at the hospital, flowers in hand, out of concern for his lover only to be greeted with hostility and orders by the husband to leave because he was intruding on their family.  Even his lover/the patient told him he should leave.  It said loudly and clearly that his relationship with her was to remain superficial and a low priority for her.  Add in that the lover was referred to at one point by one of the medical staff as the patient's "boy toy," and it became clear that it was OK to treat the extracurricular sexual liasson as cheap, tawdry, and not worthy of respect. 

I liked that the subject matter sparked a lot of conversation between a lot of different characters and that we heard a lot of the same discussions that poly people have, especially when starting to explore.  On the other hand, it seems that the writers decided to take the safe course and ultimately demonize open relationships, especially anyone who would have a sexual relationship with someone who is married, even if the married partner has permission. 

I think we can ultimately consider this a win due to it's power to reach millions and the likelihood that it will spark discussion amongst the viewers. Still, I look forward to the day when everyone gets to live happily ever after in the relationship structure that is best for them.

1 comment:

Cooper said...

My wife and I are swingers, and avid "House" viewers, and I'm always thrilled to see open relationships get any sort of air time. I disagree that the show demonized open marriage, the open marriage wasn't the couple's problem. It was other lies that hurt them.

What I found disheartening, though (and I wrote a long review about this on my site) was the fact that the writers (and presumably the network) seem to be telling us that cheating is BETTER than open marriage in the grand scheme of things.

It feels schizophrenic to me because the show was giving everything a positive light up until that point, leading me to believe that the writers WANTED Taub to get into an open marriage, but perhaps Fox nixed it.

Great episode though! (Now did you see the open relationship/group sex oriented physicist on "The Big Bang Theory" this week?!)