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 White Queen is a gripping British series set in pre-Tudor England that's marked by intense war drama, steamy romance, and devious manipulation among royal family members. Based on a book series by Philippa Gregory, the story pays homage to the gritty, drawn-out battles for the British throne during the Lancastrian/Yorkist conflicts, but it does so without a lot of gore, since most war scenes cut away just before the slicing and dicing begins. This isn't a series for teens, if for no other reason than multiple bedroom scenes with full nudity (only genitalia are obscured) and realistic simulated sex. Also concerning is how the characters use and misuse the affections of others, usually to their own gain and with little concern for the fallout for the victims. For adults, though, the story is an enticing blend of action, human drama, and love stories of varying degrees.
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What's the story?
It's 1464, King Henry VI (David Shelley) has been deposed by young Edward IV (Max Irons), and the whole of England is divided in loyalty. Caught in the middle is Elizabeth Grey (Rebecca Ferguson), widowed when her husband died fighting for Lancastrian Henry, and whose claim to his land is in jeopardy now that Yorkist Edward holds the reins. She arranges a meeting with the young king to ask for his help resolving the matter, but what ensues is a passionate love affair that culminates in a secret wedding, making the commoner the new queen. The news thrills her family, but others are less enthused about Edward's choice, including his closest adviser, the manipulative Earl of Warwick (James Frain), whose influence over Edward is trumped by Elizabeth's presence. As the years pass, powerful foes gather momentum in an effort to unseat the king and queen, including loyal Lancastrian Margaret Beaufort (Amanda Hale), who will do anything to see her son, Henry Tudor (Oscar Kennedy), take the throne; and Lord Warwick, who uses his daughters as pawns in his own quest for power.
Is it any good?
Inspired by a series of novels from Philippa Gregory, THE WHITE QUEEN is a dramatic retelling of the Wars of the Roses from the point of view of three women: Elizabeth Grey, Margaret Beaufort, and Lord Warwick's daughter Anne Neville (Faye Marsay). Part soap opera, part war film, and part melodrama, this series is an intoxicating jaunt through a snippet of British history fraught with contentious loyalties and lethal power struggles. It was a time that turned brothers against each other and made enemies of parents and their children, but at the same time it reaffirms some tenets of human relationships that transcend time.
Historical dramas have a tendency to flounder when they aim only to please their target demographic, so it's easy to assume that this 10-part series about a mere few decades in England's dusty history books might not have what it takes to draw in the masses. Happily, that's not the case with The White Queen, which takes viewers on a sweeping tour of the past whether they come to it knowing Edward IV from Edward Cullen or not. Another bonus is the story's clear message about the integral role women play in this traditional patriarchal society. Sharp writing, a fantastic cast, and a claim to being "reality TV" give this dramatic tale the edge it needs to vie for the attention of a discerning mature audience.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how history is retold. It is said that history is written by the victors. Who emerges victorious in this story? How is victory measured in modern-day politics? Have our tactics changed much since the times of regicide and forced loyalties? How different are politics in other parts of the world?
This story shows women to be far more than pretty faces. How do they wield power even as they rank below men? Are their tactics admirable? How close are we to true gender equality in our country? How does changing gender roles affect the structure of families?
Were the sex scenes a necessity in this series? Is that kind of content always offensive, or is there a tasteful way to include it? Without the bedroom romps, would the series have been tolerable for a slightly younger audience? Would there be any benefit to their watching it?
Our editors recommend
For kids who love history
Themes & Topics
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