Red Table Talk on Polyamory
On April 28, the popular Facebook Watch show “Red Table Talk,” (a vehicle for Jada Pinkett Smith, Willow Smith, and Jada’s mother Adrienne Banfield Norris, referred to as “Gammy” throughout the series, to discuss various emotional and social topics in an approachable manner, especially romantic and family topics), took on polyamory for the second time. This time, instead of 20-year-old Willow bringing up polyamory as a hypothetical topic or a “let’s learn more about this because someone might do this,” she brought it to the Red Table to share with viewers because she had recently come out to her family as polyamorous. The episode was very positive, for the most part, and used Gammy as a stand-in for audience members with lots of questions and concerns about what polyamory is or why someone might want to engage in it. The pretty much entirely positive response from her mother of “so long as you’re happy, I’m here for you,” is a perfectly modeled response. The episode features a popular solopoly blogger, Gabrielle A. Smith, whose writing is great - check her out if you’ve never seen her work! - and her anchor partner, Alex, discussing how their polyamory works to clarify some common concerns that were brought up in the opening conversation. They also invited in another blogger, Gabrielle Alexa Noel, to contribute at the table, and a coach, Effy Blue, to talk about jealousy by video. The show did a good job in editing allowing the contributors to tell their stories, but their text copy to accompany the video is kind of a mess - it identifies Gabrielle A. Smith as “a Poly Solo,” leading a bunch of mainstream publications to do the same, for example - and there’s a lot of sensationalized “but HOW ON EARTH CAN YOU DO THIS?” in tone thrown in from Gammy that the contributors handle well and Willow handles with eye rolling. Whether this is because of producer’s cutting choices, family relationships, or both, is obviously unclear to us as an audience, but it colors the comments enormously.
The representation of a solopoly person who currently has a limited number of partners because of real life - career focus and the pandemic in particular - from a show that previously did an episode portraying triads as how polyamory works was a really cool and gratifying evolution from this program. In addressing different people’s stories, they talk about family reactions to polyamorous relationships ranging from acceptance to uneasiness and had a contributor who wasn’t fully open to all their family members prior to the program, managing dates in shared apartments, and individual experiences of jealousy as well as the formal interview about jealousy with an expert. Jada concludes that “this takes a lot of work on you” while hearing about how contributors’ relationships work. It’s generally a very positive portrayal, even though Gammy says she “doesn’t understand, but doesn’t have to understand.”
My advice, as with pretty much all large-platform polyamory stories, is that you shouldn’t read the comments unless you want to engage with a lot of folks who don’t understand and don’t particularly want to - a lot of anti-polyam religious rhetoric, a lot of overly critical analysis of people’s body language and appearance, and general rudeness. But in between, there are people finding it really encouraging, enjoying the representation, being glad to see someone as young as Willow exploring relationship styles to determine what they want, and generally being positive. It was a way more positive episode overall than I expected in the first couple of minutes as Willow tried to explain her thoughts and her grandmother told her to let her say her piece about how important she found marriage, first. Consider giving it a watch and see what you think.
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