17 thoughts on “Race in Harlots

  1. I can’t even tell you how much I LOVE THIS SHOW. Frock Flicks’s thoughtful studies of costume, race, gender, and class add so much to my enjoyment.

  2. I love Harriet more than pretty much any other character in this show, so far. She’s one of the most well-rounded of all the characters, and like you said, her story arc feels realistic for the time period for a woman of color. What’s great about her is that she is virtually the only character in the series who actually achieves anything through personal empowerment but without making drastic anachronistic changes to history in order to do so. I relate the most to her out of all the women in the show, mostly because I could see myself making similar choices if I were in her 18th-century shoes.

    Not going to lie, I cheered when she said “I am Dido, queen of Carthage.” She’s smart, educated, and elegant. I hope the next season does her as much justice as this season did.

    1. Yep, you cheer for her, but Harriet’s character & story aren’t written in totally a modern, wish-fulfillment way. Getting her kids back was the only thing that felt a smidge easy in the end, & that was just a minor quibble I had (the build-up made it seem like that should have been a lot harder, plus what I’ve read about black families being ripped apart being more common).

  3. I really liked the way that Harlots was willing to address the subject of race in this time period BUT… since this is Georgian London, where are the asians/Indians? In this time period there would have also been more than a few , mostly sailors and labourers but also some women and children from relations between EIC workers and local women, from Mughal India due to the East India Company and they are nowhere to be seen. It feels like a really strange oversight is all I’m sayin…


    I don’t think it’s a cynical ploy to appeal to Americans as some others have said on the internet but it does feel like an oversight for a pedantic nerd like me…

    1. Sure, the show could have included more POCs, but I’m willing to put that down to time / budget constraints — esp. considering how rushed some of the final episodes plot twists felt. They didn’t know until the series ended if it would be renewed. It will be very interesting to see if the second season expands the world a bit!

  4. Woot, the characters all have natural hair!

    I’ve never investigated, but any idea how many frock flicks pay attention to details like that as opposed to anachronistic treated hair?

  5. I adore this show! I adore that they are not all thin, conventionally pretty, and well scrubbed. I think that the romance/relationship between Violet and Florence is a direct reference to Anne Lister and her first fiancée Eliza Raine. Eliza was the wealthy daughter of an EIC surgeon and part Indian on her mother’s side. In fact, Anne Lester or Gentleman Jack as she was known would be an awesome frock flick.

    1. There was one Anne Lister frock flick (search the archives — we have a short review & have referred to it a couple times), plus the story is being made into another TV movie called ‘Gentleman Jack’ by the same woman who did the recent Bronte Sisters TV adaption.

  6. I am also a fan of Harlots (Harloteers a la Mouseketeers).

    The show is a joy to watch and Snark (Lucy’s metamorphosis from idjit to Dominatrix is an example). My favourite POC in the show is William. He’s the moral compass of the show.

    I also like Harriet. She has guts. Her whole world went topsy-turvy and not in a G&S way. She hung in, did what she had to to earn money and got her kids with help from William. Wonder if they’re going to pair them in 2?

    The Violet/Amelia pairing doesn’t come off due to why would anyone Evangelical Christian woman express what she’s been taught as damning behaviour?

    1. sodomy in England (sorry for not being PC but I’m using the c18 term here) was seen as a male thing and what we’d now call “lesbian” sexual behaviour was more of a grey area because as far as Violet and Amelia’s contemporaries would have been concerned if it did not involve sticking a penis somewhere it wasn’t sex, hence whether it was damning or not was open to interpretation. I just felt like it was more box tickey than anything because the writers were like “queer and interracial – sweet!” than actually thinking it out.

      1. Thanks for the correction. I agree with you on their relationship. It felt like the producers were ticking off boxes for characters to me too.

  7. I seem to be in the minority, but I am actually a fan of Violet. I don’t entirely disagree with some of the complaints, but I think that while Violet might not be ‘typical’ for the era, I don’t think that anything about the character is implausible. The fact that she was atypical for the era would have bothered me if she had been the only black person in the show, but since she was one of several, was less of a problem, especially since the other characters are fairly typical of the era.

  8. I enjoy them all, but I feel like I’d enjoy Violet a bit more if she put her hair up! I know it’s a little thing but it was bothering me the whole time she was on screen.

  9. I was happily surprised by the intersectional perspective on the show. Considering it takes place in 18th Century England, I was expecting it to be heavily white-washed. Not only that but I love the fact that- at least in Margaret and Nancy’s places- white and black men and women treat each other as equals. Like other racially diverse regions of the period, they identify more closely on their shared socio-economic status than racial identities (though the show still very realistically portrays racism against Black men and women). Another thing I noticed in episode 3-when they were struggling to get into the new house: in the conversation between Will and Margaret after Will and the girls were attacked on Greek Street, when Margaret brags about how she would have handled the situation, Will tells her that he can’t do that. Although it’s not plainly stated, I saw it as alluding to the fact that as a white woman, Margaret-even though she is a sex worker- still has more social capital, white privilege, than Will as a white man; Margaret could have gone toe-to-toe with those creeps on Greek Street, would have gotten out of the situation alive, and would have gotten into the house; had Will actually fought back, he would have ended up killed and the girls, and especially Jacob, would have gotten hurt.

  10. How realistic is all that for 18th century London? By painting a rosy modern day picture, the true injustices and trials people went through at that time in history gets overlooked, forgotten, and brushed under the rug. Keep history real! The truth will set u free!

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