"OK, how about we both play both sets of keys?"
“OK, how about we both play both sets of keys?”

It’s tricky for writers of period British dramas (think Downton Abbey) who want to include non-white characters. They have to choose between having other characters treat them as equals, thus glossing over the racism of the era, or treat them like dirt, which may defeat the object of trying to write a more inclusive show.

Belle makes things slightly easier for writer Misan Sagay by being based on a real person, Dido Elizabeth Belle. She was born (in 1761) as the mixed-race child of an admiral and a slave, and, remarkably, brought up as an aristocrat by her great-uncle, Lord Chief Justice Mansfield.

The fictional Belle is an heiress, and thus attractive to suitors nobly prepared to look past her colour and at her money. Meanwhile, her great-uncle has to rule on a legal case involving a slave ship, with major ramifications to the slave trade.

Recommended for those who like their Jane Austen with a twist. 8/10

Released May 8, 2014.


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