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The benefits of watching period dramas … especially for teens


© Netflix

Cerith Gardiner - published on 10/17/22

There's far more to historical dramas than the costumes!

One of the latest big hits on Netflix is The Empress, a German historical drama that tells the story of the defiant Elisabeth of Austria and the dashing Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria.

Like other recent period dramas, such as The Crown, the show has proved popular among both young and old. And while there are often some racy scenes in these kinds of dramas (and you should check them out before allowing your teen to watch them), there are many things we can enjoy and benefit from in these sorts of series. Here are just a few.

Learn some history

These dramas give us a glimpse into the past; and some are quite factual, remaining faithful to true historical events. It’s through these sorts of programs that people can learn a little more about history, and even develop a passion for the period in question, with a desire to delve into a book and discover more. In fact, if you or your teens watch any period dramas, it’s fun to look up the characters and events to find out how accurately the show has portrayed them.

The importance of etiquette

Something that stands out when you watch historical dramas are the good old fashioned manners and values of yesteryear. It’s delightful to see the respect between family members, and even the genteel courting rituals that are so far removed from our practices today.

Of course we wouldn’t want to return to the notion that “children should be seen and not heard,” which is standard behavior in Downton Abbey, where the children are brought out in their Sunday best by their nannies for a brief daily visit with their parents.But it is great to see manners and respect played out and to think about how some of it can be carried into today.

The costumes!

There is no denying that the costumes in so many of these series are often exquisite. They allow us to dream of a time when people dressed to impress, and that such detail and care was put into their wardrobes. It’s a reminder that beauty in dress does matter, and how we adorn out bodies speaks to our dignity — both body and soul. It can be a reminder to young people that we don’t need to show lots of skin to be attractive.

The beauty in speaking well

Whether you watch The Empress in its original German or the dubbed version, or listen to the regal tones of Elizabeth II in The Crown, you’ll hear refined languages properly spoken with consideration for others in conversation. You won’t want to adopt the aristocratic tones of the heroines or Prince Charmings on the screen, but it will remind you of how elegant it is to speak well.

Gratitude for today

Historical dramas offer an invitation to escape into the past. For the romantics among us, these series give us a chance to dream that maybe there’s a handsome Franz Josef (or dazzling Elisabeth) around the corner waiting for us.

Yet, they also remind us of how difficult life could be back in the days where there were few creature comforts.Looking at the lavish meals produced by teams of kitchen staff might whet our appetites, but they’ll also make us feel grateful for the variety of food we have today, and the times we’re exhausted and just want to curl up with a bowl of cereal on the couch!

Social progress

Of course, we shouldn’t forget the progress we enjoy today. We might watch these dramas with frustration as we observe the subservient classes and women being ill-treated. Although discrimination and inequality still exists today, there have been huge advances, and it inspires us to continue working to advance the dignity of all people.


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