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  • Writer's pictureCourtney Heard

Every Atheist Needs: Bill Paxton In Big Love

Over the weekend, the world became a little bit less awesome with the death of Bill Paxton. Forced to think back on his career, many of us have, in the last twenty-four hours, likely exclaimed that it felt like he was in damned near every movie ever made. Two of the last 3 movies I watched had him in it, and it would have been 3 of the last 4 if I’d stayed up to watch Aliens with Godless Dad last weekend. The more I thought about it, the more Bill Paxton movies I could think of, often forgetting he’d even been in them in the first place. Apollo 13, Titanic, True Lies…  He was a prolific actor who owned the silver screen, but I had also forgotten his role in one of my favourite television shows.

Bill Paxton in Big Love

In 2006, Big Love premiered on HBO starring Bill Paxton as a Mormon polygamist in Utah. When I first read about it, I thought it was right up an anti-theist’s alley, as I couldn’t help but assume it would expose the BS of Mormonism and polygamy. Firmly against polygamy and anything that even remotely looked like it, I began watching the show.

I was immediately drawn in. Bill Paxton plays the patriarch in a family torn between the modern, liberal world and a cult. He runs his own successful business, takes care of his elders in a polygamist compound out in the middle of nowhere, and lives in three houses, one next to the other, each with another of his wives running the show.

The series is indeed critical of Mormonism, but what I did not expect was how quickly I would stop seeing his polygamy as a bad thing. By the time the show ended in an explosive finale, I no longer had a problem with polygamy between consenting adults. I walked away with less respect for Mormonism, but the show had successfully changed my mind about polygamy and made me realize that worrying about how many spouses a person has consensually, is the same as worrying about what gender someone is attracted to. It’s none of my damned business how someone else chooses to have a relationship, as long as no one is being abused or hurt.

Any show that can change your mind about something you were dead set against, is a powerful show, and this was. With co-stars like Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chloe Sevigny and Amanda Seyfried, the acting was beautiful. You can’t help but root for this family, no matter how against polygamy you are.

I changed my mind because I kept watching, and I kept watching because the show was entertaining. It is absolutely binge-worthy, and Bill Paxton was definitely one of the best parts of it. I’d forgotten that was Paxton until Godless Dad mentioned it. The thing about Paxton is, for me, I forget he was in the movies and shows he was in, because I remember his character, instead. When I thought back to Big Love, I remembered Bill Henrickson, not Bill Paxton. I remembered his character, not the man who played him.

I think that’s the mark of a masterful actor: when he makes you forget it’s an actor at all.

In honour of Bill Paxton, my lovely little heathens, check out Big Love. You won’t regret it.

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