The Girls of Hedsor Hall
By Melissa Camacho,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
"Lady"-making reality series sends mixed messages.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
While the show promotes some positive behavior, these messages are offset by very sexist ideas about how women should act. Many of the women are motivated by the cash prize. The cast isn't particularly diverse.
Violence & Scariness
Lots of catty arguments, as well as pushing, shoving, kicking, slapping, and throwing alcohol and bottles of water in each other's faces. Glasses, furniture, and other items occasionally get broken as a result. Home video footage of one contestant shows her wielding a large knife. Ms. Harbord and Ms. Shrager sometimes lose their tempers and yell.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some strong sexual innuendo, including references to having sex and conversations about stripping and making money by owning a Webcam site. Video footage shows one contestant kissing another woman.
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Audible language includes "bitch" and "ass"; stronger words ("s--t," "f--k") are used constantly but fully bleeped out. Some participants use the racial epithet "white trash."
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Products & Purchases
The British Airways logo is visible. The show's theme is played by Coldplay.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The women are shown drinking excessively. Some fall down drunk, while others take their clothes off and engage in other questionable behavior. Some women are shown smoking. References to being "on crack," and one girl is accused of possessing drugs.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that although this reality series -- which follows U.S. women attending a British finishing school to change their negative behavior and become "ladies" -- offers some positive messages about self respect, it also promotes stereotypical ideas about how women should act. Expect lots of cursing (though the strongest words are bleeped), drinking (as well as drug references), and cat fighting among the participants. The show also has plenty of sexual innuendo, including references to stripping and Webcam sites and scenes of women kissing each other. And some of the women talk about earlier iffy behavior like getting arrested.
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What's the Story?
THE GIRLS OF HEDSOR HALL follows 12 "badly behaved" young American women as they participate in a British version of etiquette boot camp. Over eight weeks, the unruly women must strive to transform themselves from uncultured and uncouth to well groomed and well bred. They live, work, and train at Britain's renowned Hedsor Finishing School under the watchful eyes of headmistress Gill Harbord, former Miss U.S.A. Tara Conner, and outspoken disciplinarian Rosemary Shrager. Each week one of the "pupils" is expelled; ultimately, only two women will graduate from the program -- and only one will win the coveted $100,000 trust.
Is It Any Good?
This Donald Trump-produced series offers conflicting messages about what society expects of women today. On one hand, it promotes the idea that young women can rise above "trashy" behavior and develop better self esteem while earning the respect of those around them. But this positive message is offset by the idea that in order to do so, women must conform to fairly sexist notions of how women should behave -- including wearing dresses and pearls and learning how to socialize "appropriately" with men.
In addition to these contradictions, the series features the kind of over-the-top behavior that viewers have come to expect from MTV reality competitions. The women are consistently shown yelling, cursing, and fighting with each other -- often after consuming large amounts of alcohol. And then there's the footage (shown mostly in early episodes) of the women getting arrested and engaging in inappropriate sexual behavior. In the end, while all the crazy behavior may provide voyeuristic pleasure for some, there's very little here to make The Girls of Hedsor Hall a constructive viewing experience.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about what motivates people to appear on reality shows to "transform" their lives. Do you think these people are really interested in changing their ways, or are they just driven by the thought of winning money? Do you think any of their crazy on-camera behavior is motivated by the cameras -- do you they really act like that in their own homes? Families can also discuss what it's like to attend finishing school. What kinds of lessons are taught there? Are there finishing schools for boys as well as girls?
- Premiere date: February 9, 2009
- Cast: Gill Harbord, Rosemary Shrager, Tara Conner
- Network: MTV
- Genre: Reality TV
- TV rating: TV-14
- Last updated: February 24, 2022
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