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The Polygamy Blog

Polygamist family that helped inspire ‘Big Love’ remembers actor Bill Paxton

First Published      Last Updated Feb 28 2017 12:24 pm

Maybe the other 49 states first associate Bill Paxton with the movies "Twister," "Apollo 13" or "Aliens."

But in Utah, Paxton's biggest role was as polygamist Bill Hendrickson on the HBO series "Big Love." The show aired from 2006 through 2011.

One of the inspirations for the television show, in which Hendrickson was the husband and patriarch for a household with three wives in suburban Salt Lake City, was the Dargers — husband Joe and wives Alina, Vicki and Valerie.

On Tuesday, the Dargers posted a eulogy for Paxton, who died Saturday, on their Facebook page. The family also reflected on his "Big Love" character and the family dynamics displayed on the show.

The Dargers also make references to HB99, the bill which has already passed the Utah House of Representatives and is waiting for action in the state Senate. The Dargers have been big opponents of the bill. They want the criminal penalties for polygamy removed.

HB99 adds criteria for being prosecuted for bigamy: The offender must live with the extra spouse and "purport" to be married. Current state law requires only one or the other.

But the bill would keep the offense a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison. Those penalties could increase to one-to-15-year prison terms if bigamy is prosecuted in conjunction with crimes such as abuse, fraud or human smuggling. Anyone leaving a polygamous marriage and reporting abuse or protecting a child would receive amnesty.

For those of you on a desktop browser, the Darger's post is embedded below. Otherwise you can click here.

For both groups, here's a few excerpts.

• "When the series first came out we were both apprehensive and cautiously optimistic. It was almost unheard of to have a show about our culture and then to find it so personal made it even more unnerving. Paxton made the most difficult role believable and in the process altered the social narrative if ever so slightly. Big Love remains a popular and well regarded movie, and opinions about plural families have become more enlightened.

"What we appreciate about Paxton is that he did not overplay the role. As a polygamist character, he had a lot to negatively overcome. While the first part of the series captured the audience with predictable sex scenes, he chose to play the role subduing such lascivious tendencies and instead Paxton managed to find dramatic possibilities in a character who easily could have been a stereotypical male bully or boring yes man. Instead the he chose to focus on the illegal family life and the consequence of a life spent under cover and over extended.

"Paxton was often an affable idiot, so unable to speak out that like Kody Brown, the real life polygamist that followed Bill on TV, he endeared, or at least did not threaten, his wives and the feminine audience with his patriarchy. However, his inability to lead by principle often allowed his wives' rivalries to perpetually recycle in family life, but Paxton was able to use a charm and authenticity in the role while keeping a performance that ultimately showed commitment to family. The reality is all families are dysfunctional because all families contain human beings.

"Big Love came as a precursor to gay marriage and asked what is it to be a family? We as real plural families still fight the bigotry that comes with the challenges that the show took on. Paxton made the role believable and set an example of patriarchy that both challenged society and inspired it with new possibilities. He is a talented actor and we are sure a dedicated husband and father in real life that will be missed.

ncarlisle@sltrib.com

Twitter: @natecarlisle




 

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