Hetty Feather

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
Hetty Feather TV Poster Image
Charming British series about youth and self-determination.

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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

It underscores the fact that class should not be a predetermine someone’s fate, and that we have the power to change our life, even in small ways. Family, friendship, abandonment, and death are also themes.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Hetty Feather is strong, brave, and ambitious, and refuses to accept that her difficult circumstances cannot be changed. As she gets older, she is willing to work hard for what she wants. Gideon’s ambitions are different, but still valued. Matron Bottomly is strict to the point of being cruel.

Violence

Death is a theme in some episodes. Yelling on occasion. Child exploitation is visible; in the hospital they are locked up in a cellar for disobedience. Both children and adults occasionally threaten others to expose them or cause other harm. A character ends up in prison. 

Sex

Children are sent to the hospital because they were born out of wedlock and abandoned. Women are referred to as being "ruined." As they children get older, they have beaus. References are made to giving kisses in exchange for favors. 

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Hetty Feather is a TV adaption of a popular British children’s book series about foster kids in Victorian London and their journey. It contains strong anti-classism messages, as well as themes ranging from family and friendship to child labor and exploitation. Violence includes some mild pushing, and occasional threats of exposing people and causing harm are made by both children and adults. The consequences for women and children for giving birth out of wedlock is a main theme, but is discussed in very subtle ways. Some episodes also include themes relating to crime and death. Hetty and her brother want more than what they've been told their lives can be as foundlings, and their courage and integrity make them great examples for kids to see.

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What's the story?

Based on the fictional book series by Jacqueline Wilson, HETTY FEATHER is a British series about a pair of orphan children in Victorian London. It’s 1882, and Hetty (Jocelyn Macnab, Isabel Clifton) and her foster brother Gideon (Jordan A. Nash, Dasharn Anderson) are returned to a British foundling hospital after being raised by foster mother Peg Cotton (Nicola Stuart-Hill). Now separated and put to work as servants under the strict supervision of Matron Bottomly (Eva Pope), Hetty is trained for domestic service along with girls like Polly (Eleanor Worthington-Cox) and Harriet (Ava Merson-O’Brien). Meanwhile, Gideon, along with boys like Mathias (Gus Barry) prepare to become infantry men. But Hetty, who wants to be a writer, refuses to accept her fate, and does what she can to remain connected to her foster brother, and to discover who her parents are. As they grow older and enter into service at the Calendar residence, the siblings learn more about themselves, and about self-determination. 

Is it any good?

This compelling adaptation of the tween book series challenges classism through the antics of a young woman who rejects the idea that her fate cannot be changed. Hetty does not reject domestic servitude, but she views the work as a means to an end, rather than a preordained vocation. Meanwhile, Gideon’s desire to find a job he loves rather than trying to rise above his station also challenges the idea that class distinctions should be a controlling factor in their lives. 

The show’s six seasons are full of poignant moments, humor, and lots of plot twists. It’s a fun series to watch, and its messages still apply to contemporary audiences. In addition to the importance of family and friendship, it consistently underscores the fact that every person, no matter where they come from, has a say in how their life will be lived. And thanks to its well-told stories and vibrant characters, Hetty Feather offers an entertaining platform from which young viewers can learn this important lesson. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the messages Hetty Feather sends about taking responsibility for one’s own life. What are the different ways that Hetty exerts her courage to do so as she grows up? What other character strengths does she have?  What can viewers learn from her actions?

  • How does the series represent classism in Victorian England? Is it historically accurate? Does this way of thinking continue in Great Britain today?

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