A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Vicar of Dibley is a popular British sitcom about a boisterous female priest's arrival in a tiny rural village where she's met with varied enthusiasm by the quirky residents. Off-color jokes, talk of "shagging," and "wink wink" allusions to sexuality factor heavily into the humor, and you'll hear body references like "bosom," "knockers," and "anus" as well. Expect some comical stereotyping at the expense of conservative British values and small-town characters (an implied "village idiot" or two among them). Ultimately, though, the show's real treasures are found in the characters' relationships and in its commentary on a historic shift in the Church of England's acceptance of women in religious life.
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What's the story?
THE VICAR OF DIBLEY is an award-winning British comedy series set in an exceedingly conservative fictional countryside burg of Dibley whose residents are surprised to learn that their new vicar is a woman. The arrival of jovial, unflappable Geraldine Granger (Dawn French) is met with mixed reviews from the locals; community leader David Horton (Gary Waldhorn) rallies against the assignment that he feels relegates their parish to a lowly laboratory for the Church's new stance on gender equality, but others appreciate the new energy that Geraldine brings to the pulpit and to the town. For her part, Geraldine eagerly acclimates to the village and befriends all of its quirky residents, from simple-minded Alice (Emma Chambers) to the socially graceless Owen (Roger Lloyd-Pack). Later episodes see a softening of the relationship between David and Geraldine and many life changes for all of the main characters, including marriages, births, brushes with fame, and the vicar's own quest for love.
Is it any good?
This hilarious sitcom -- punctuated by a glorious performance by French -- juxtaposes old and new, conservative and progressive in a decidedly British manner, resulting in an impossible conundrum of oddball characters and ridiculous scenarios. There's the old guard -- embodied in David -- who like things the way they've always been and who view unwelcome change as a threat to their social standing. And what could be more threatening than a vicar with, as Geraldine puts it, "an ample bosom," an irreverent sense of humor, and an unflappable personality? But even David can't deny that her arrival invigorates this poky village and its residents, and the unlikely relationships that emerge are as heartwarming as they are entertaining.
Comedy aside, The Vicar of Dibley was inspired by historic changes to the Church of England's stance on female clergy in the early '90s, and the characters' myriad of opinions about Geraldine's presence reflects a real-life response to such systemic changes. In that way, the show raises some intriguing discussion points about gender equality, religious establishments, and the nature of progress, all of which remain timely issues today.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about gender equality. In what forums have we achieved equal status for men and women? Which careers have seen the greatest shift on this issue? Are there forums in which it isn't feasible?
Discuss how this issue relates to your family's religion and explore how it compares to other faiths. What role do women hold in your place of worship? What is the potential fallout of this stance? Does it seem likely to change in the future?
Watch other comedy series that feature a female lead and discuss how body image is used in the content. If the character is obese, is that always a point of humor? Does the comedy style change for shows with slender body types?
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