Hulu’s new show Harlots has been hard to stomach from the start. Both for its sexual depravity and raw, gritty depiction of the underbelly of the world of prostitution in 1700s London. This is not a “pretty” version of the life of harlots, if there ever could be one.
There is blood, gore, vomiting, violence, rape, maggot-filled rotting bodies and more mixed among the disturbing scenes of prostitution, bizarre fetishes, incestuous relationships, and married couples using harlots as toys.
Now, they’ve added a new storyline involving the daughter of a Christian evangelist who preaches outside of the brothels and does her best to turn the harlots away from their trade of choice.
Florence Scanwell (Dorothy Atkinson) may have good intentions for the prostitutes she preaches to, but she’s portrayed as an uptight, angry woman who would probably fit right in with the modern-day, not-really-Christian, Westboro Baptist Church. Of course.
She immediately compromises her Christian values in the earlier episodes by accepting a deal with one of the main brothel owners, Lydia Quigley (Lesley Manville) for room and board in exchange for leaving Lydia’s brothel out of her crosshairs. Lydia wants her competitor, Margaret Wells (Samantha Morton), to be brought down by Florence, so she gladly accommodates her and her daughter Amelia (Jordon Stevens).
It isn’t long (episode 5, released on April 26) before Amelia finds herself lured into the world of prostitution, but in a way we wouldn’t first suspect. She’s not longing to become a harlot. She’s longing to be intimate with one. Because, you know, the typical “Christians are hypocrites and are all secretly gay” storyline. (There’s actually a hashtag on social media for the show…#WeAreAllHarlots, btw. Right.)
There have been hints that Amelia and harlot Violet Cross (Rosalind Eleazar) have been attracted to each other, but Wednesday’s episode left no doubt. Yes, as her mother is ill and desperately crying out for her to be mindful of God’s Word, this innocent, Christian ingénue is just going to answer the door and start making out with a harlot while her mother is right in the next room. Totally believable.
Sadly, viewers are applauding Amelia’s fall from grace, rather than showing concern for her. A few reactions from Twitter include:
every time amelia and violet interact on #harlots my heart races. i just want them to be happy!— sansa 4 president! (@marigoldlanee) April 19, 2017
Could I adore Violet and Amelia any harder? No, I coud not. #harlots— stone biscuit (@igneousscone) April 20, 2017
#Harlots continues to be the best. I'm rooting so hard for Amelia/Violet, but I just don't see it ending well.— Sean Connell (@Samael76) April 26, 2017
A pretend harlot reeled in a pretend victim, which was disturbing to watch. But the show Harlots is capturing the hearts and minds of a lot more real victims/viewers.
And that just might be the most disturbing part of all.