Elizabeth Olsen and Oscar Isaac In Secret

There’s a Valuable Lesson Sexy Period Dramas Teach Us

Girl, you deserve it all.

Many of us enjoy a good period drama with a steamy romance at its center. Whether it is something we watch as a guilty pleasure or a thing we proudly talk about, we love watching these stories. The tremendous success of Netflix’s Bridgerton series is proof of that. I have recommended to other women that they should incorporate Bridgerton into their self-care routines.

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From the beautiful costumes to the dramatic declarations of love, these stories feed our need for romance. Plus, their steamy, bodice-ripping scenes are usually very … entertaining. I’ve watched a lot of these types of films and series, and have found a very relevant message for modern viewers. As much as these movies are fun outlets and serve as a lovely escape, they can teach us a deeper lesson.

These movies remind us that we need no-fault divorce.

Sorry, GOP, no-fault divorce is very necessary

In the year 2023, the Republican party is trying to do away with every kind of civil right that women, people of color, and the LGBTQIA+ communities have fought for. They don’t want us to have sexy books, talk about being gay, or let women have control over their own bodies. One of the most recent complaints they have is that women are able to get no-fault divorces.

No-fault divorces only became a standard in the United States in 1970. Before that, a person seeking divorce had to prove only one party was to blame for the failure of the marriage. That failure had to be pretty extreme, such as adultery, committing a felony, or abandonment. However, a judge could rule against the divorce if both parties did something wrong. Even when unhappy women were allowed to file for divorce, it could very easily be denied with disastrous results.

Sexy period dramas have the proof we need

After doing a lot of extensive research during my adult life, I can easily say there is a common theme: The women in bad marriages in these stories need to divorce their awful husbands. To be fair, most of these movies feature arranged marriages that are also terrible, but if they could just get divorced, it would solve their problems. The storylines usually go something like “A beautiful and feisty young woman is stuck with a man of varying degrees of dreadful, and then falls in love with some sexy man she should stay away from. The passionate affair carries on until some, probably unfortunate, ending.”

Keira Knightley (the queen of period dramas) has starred in at least three movies where divorce would have been useful. In Anna Karenina (2012), Knightley played the titular character who couldn’t be with her lover, so she tossed herself in front of a train. I think divorce is a much better solution. The Duchess (2008) had Knightley in a terrible marriage to a guy who had countless affairs and kept his mistress in their home but condemned Knightley for her one affair. After bearing her lover’s child, she lived a solitary life and died quietly so her husband could finally get together with his mistress. How lovely of her. In Colette (2018), Knightly not only fell for someone other than her husband, but her repulsive spouse also took credit and control over her novels.

On the better end of the no-divorce romances, there is Lady Chatterley’s Lover (2022). When Lady Chatterley’s bitter husband (who told her to have the affair!) won’t give her a divorce, she just leaves to have her baby with her sexy groundskeeper lover in Scotland. (Dream come true, am I right?) But that is the best-case scenario in the period romance universe.

In Secret (2013) offers a much bleaker outcome. Elizabeth Olsen and Oscar Isaac (with mutton chops!) starred as forbidden lovers who longed to be together. Olsen’s annoying husband stood in their way. They decided their only option was to murder the husband in a staged boating accident. Ultimately, the two got married but had no happiness together because guilt had eaten them up inside. I would have loved to see them become unhinged passionate murder spouses, but they ended their lives by drinking wine laced with rat poison. If Olsen could have just divorced her husband, she and Isaac would have had a happy, murder-free life together! It really would have been better for everyone.

Maybe the forbidden romances wouldn’t have been as steamy with divorce readily available, but the characters would have been a lot happier. With the GOP wanting to end no-fault divorce, it makes these tragic storylines a lot scarier. When you go about your daily life, remember what sexy period dramas teach us. You deserve dramatic declarations of love, bodice-ripping, and the right to divorce a spouse who you no longer want to be with.

(featured image: Roadside Attractions)

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D.R. Medlen
D.R. Medlen (she/her) is a pop culture staff writer at The Mary Sue. After finishing her BA in History, she finally pursued her lifelong dream of being a full-time writer in 2019. She expertly fangirls over Marvel, Star Wars, and historical fantasy novels (the spicier the better). When she's not writing or reading, she lives that hobbit-core life in California with her spouse, offspring, and animal familiars.