Monday, July 13, 2009

Screaming Flea and Poly in the Media

Okay kids, progress report time. I recently attended a casting call for a possibly upcoming poly documentary series by Screaming Flea, a Seattle film production company. I read about the event at Polyamory in the Media, another awesome poly resource on Blogspot. A very important one, I might add, so if you're not already following it, please do.

So. The basic idea is this; a number of major networks have requested that Screaming Flea put together a pitch for a polyamorous documentary series. I get the impression that the networks put in this request to multiple film production companies, though I do have to admit that I'm totally inferring that idea, the representatives of Screaming Flea did not overtly say that. So Screaming Flea had this potluck as a way to initially meet the poly community in Seattle. It turns out that none of the Screaming Flea people are poly, or at least not as far as I could tell, so they were trying to get kind of an idea of what subjects to cover and basically what kind of people would be interested in participating in a documentary of this type.

Myself and my primary partner talked to all of the members of the production company. They were very nice, and didn't seem to hold any particular presuppositions about a lifestyle that isn't exactly well represented so far. It seems that the main goal of Screaming Flea at the time of the potluck was to just meet the people, get some basic ideas of what poly means, (no small task, I know) and to make contacts with people who may be interested in being filmed for the documentary if it were to be picked up by the networks. The final thing was to get people to agree to be filmed introducing themselves and talking about their particular flavor of poly on camera so that the production company would have some footage to use to pitch to the networks to try to get the poly documentary contract.

All in all, I would say nothing negative about the event. The Screaming Flea people seemed interested in learning about poly culture. When I spoke to one of the members about how there might be a percentage of poly people who would be somewhat hesitant about participating in a documentary for legal reasons (job related, child related, etc.), they were sympathetic and made it clear that anyone with reservations should not be participating in such a project. They seemed to do a satisfactory job of expressing what the project was and why they were having the potluck. Really, the project is in very initial stages and the potluck functioned mostly as a meet and greet.

Okay. So that said, I would have to say that at this stage I'm very much supporting this project. One of the conversations that I've had multiple times at or since the potluck is how horribly poly has been represented via documentary in recent years. I even spoke to a person who participated in one such documentary and was highly misrepresented because of editing, according to him. While I realize this is a real risk as far as documentaries go, I really, really believe that quantity of poly representation in popular media is an issue right now. I would probably feel differently if the production company gave me any idea that they might demonize poly, but at this point it seems that their focus is on learning as much as they can. I very much hope that this documentary series gets off the ground. I plan on participating as much as it is possible for me to do so.


  1. The trouble with the documentary format is, as I see it, that it self selects fro a certain kind of person to participate. That's not necessarily going to reflect the community at large very well. The general public then ends up with a skewed view of what Poly is.
    On the other hand, any movement toward greater awareness will always happen at the extremes and then move toward the center so I'm not sure there's any other way to start a debate. Although I wish there was....

  2. I am sure you will find at least half of the poly/open community divided on whether they are for or against this documentary. Recognition has it's pros and cons - I believe that the exposure will bring to light the fact of infinite love(s) within the universe, but the more people who recognize these relationships the more opponents will rally against. I forsee a long tug-o'-war in the days ahead for those who wish to establish legal rights to their poly lifestyle within the state/country. Would the exposure that this doc reveals propel poly units into a battle that some don't wish to fight? It's hard to stay on the fence when one's "team" is engaged, however some poly units may not want the world to know - keeping it underground isn't elitist, sometimes it's for safety. In a legal sense, many people could lose jobs, homes, benefits, loves, etc. before their "right" to be openly poly/open is acceptable within the public domain. Is the greater good in striving for equality within our means of comprehension? Or are we blinded by our righteousness to what we "deserve" vs. what is legally feasible? The ambiguity of our relationships can be confusing to us alone, what would a polu unit's marriage license look like??? :)

  3. To Thom:

    I completely agree with you about the possibility that a documentary format might, and most likely will, end up representing a very small specific section of the poly community. This is unfortunate and I would much prefer a fictional format written by a poly writer, but right now that isn't happening. At this point I think that a *slightly* skewed representation of poly in popular media is better than no representation at all. It's the inevitable realistic first step. I too wish there were a more ideal possibility out there, but right now, there isn't.

    And yes, I realize that a greatly skewed representation could easily do more harm than good. That is why I'm working hard to stay involved in this project with Screaming Flea, if they'll have me. On the up side, it turns out that the networks that are requesting this documentary are the Learning Channel and related networks, so that seems less ominous that other networks that are more interested in sensationalized content.

  4. To Thomas:

    Yes, I have realized that the poly community is divided about this documentary. And unfortunately, about a lot of things.

    The risks that we will take as a community when it comes to public exposure are very very real to me. A lot of my poly friends have children or high profile jobs, or both. I myself have a child to protect. And it is for those very reasons that I want to bring poly into the legal and social spotlight. I want to live in a world where we don't have to leave all but one of our lovers at home when we go to the company Christmas party. I want to live in a world where ALL of our children's parents are welcome at his parent teacher meetings. I want to live in a world where, in the event of a death, poly pods don't have to worry that the children or the family bussines will go to some random blood relative instead of the non-legally sanctioned family that has loved and cared for them since inception.

    These are the reasons that we hide, and these are also the reasons that we need to stop hiding. As long as we sit passively in the shadows and keep quiet, these issues will continue to keep us quiet. We will quietly lose our children, our jobs, our economic stability. Our lovers will be put in hospitals and we will be denied rights to see them in their last moments.

    The issues that we face as the poly community aren't dissimilar from the issues that have been faced by same sex couples for years and years. And history shows us that, little by little, progress is made. By Jan 1st, 2010, same sex marriages will be officially legal in six states in the US, as well as in Belgium, Canada, The Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, Spain, and Sweden. We have come a long way since the time when homosexuality was considered a mental disorder. Yes, we've got a long way to go, but the fact is that we're on our way.

    The same can eventually be true for the poly community, but only if we are willing to take the steps to get us there. And yes, it's going to be hard and scary and dangerous at times. That's what it takes. But I think there is a very real possibility that we can make major legal strides even in my lifetime.

    I hope very much that "the greater good in striving for equality (is) within our means of comprehension." What is legally feasible is up to us. And as far as the poly marriage certificate, well, wouldn't that be a beautiful thing? :)


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