The Therapy for Black Girls Podcast is a weekly conversation with Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, a licensed Psychologist in Atlanta, Georgia, about all things mental health, personal development, and all the small decisions we can make to become the best possible versions of ourselves.
We first meet Queen Charlotte in Season 1 of Shonda Rhimes’ hit show ‘Bridgerton’ as a commanding and dignified queen consort on a ruthless pursuit to name the social season’s diamond. But the prequel spin-off shows a different side to the Queen’s rise to prominence and power. We see a young Charlotte betrothed against her will, her budding relationships with King George and Lady Danbury, and navigating the ins and outs of her newfound queendom.
To discuss Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story in-depth, this week, I’m joined once again by my partner in pop culture, sex & relationship therapist, Dr. Donna Oriowo. We explore the complexities of mental health, sisterhood, and race relations present in the series, comment on storylines we were surprised and delighted by, and make predictions for the future of the Bridgerton franchise.
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Where to Find Dr. Oriowo
Check out Dr. Oriowo here on Session 201 of the podcast discussing how to vet relationship advice.
Check out Dr. Oriowo here on Session 60 of the podcast discussing colorism and texturism.
Check out episodes with Dr. Oriowo discussing Insecure here.
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Our Production Team
Executive Producers: Dennison Bradford & Maya Cole Howard
Producers: Fredia Lucas, Ellice Ellis & Cindy Okereke
Session 310: Catching Up on Queen Charlotte
Dr. Joy: Hey y'all. Thanks so much for joining me for Session 310 of the Therapy for Black Girls Podcast. We'll get right into our conversation after a word from our sponsors.
Dr. Joy: Before we get into the conversation, please note that this episode does include spoilers for Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story. If you haven't had the opportunity to watch, please put this episode on pause and return once you've had time to enjoy the series. We first meet Queen Charlotte in season one of Shonda Rhimes’ hit show Bridgerton, as a commanding and dignified queen consort on a ruthless pursuit to name the social season’s diamond. But the prequel spinoff shows a different side to the Queen's rise to prominence and power.
We see a young Charlotte betrothed against her will, her budding relationship with King George and Lady Danbury, and navigating the ins and outs of her newfound queendom. To discuss Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story in depth this week, I'm joined once again by my partner in pop culture, sex and relationship therapist Dr. Donna Oriowo. We explore the complexities of mental health, sisterhood, and race relations present in the series, comment on storylines we were surprised and delighted by, and make predictions for the future of the Bridgerton franchise. If something resonates with you while enjoying our conversation, please share it with us on social media using the hashtag #TBGinSession or join us over in the Sister Circle to talk more in depth about the episode. You can join us at Community.TherapyForBlackGirls.com. Here's our conversation.
Dr. Joy: Dr. Oriowo, I'm so excited you are able to join me yet again for another one of our pop culture explorations on another new favorite shared show, Queen Charlotte, which is the spinoff from Bridgerton. I feel like I remember at some point they announced that this spinoff was coming, but then it kind of snuck up on me and you were in my text messages like, girl, have you seen Queen Charlotte? And I didn't even know that it was out yet. But of course, then spent the rest of the weekend binging and I’m very, very satisfied and excited that I did. There were so many different things to talk about, I think as a part of Queen Charlotte. So first of all, what were your overall impressions of Queen Charlotte?
Dr. Oriowo: Oh, my goodness, I really loved it, and I think it's in the rewatch that I also felt a tremendous sense of sadness. Like her life, for me, at least as it was displayed on the show. I know it's fiction so ain’t nobody gotta tell me. It was just really sad, just really sad. The themes that sort of came up for me were around power and control. Of course, the mental health piece, the sexuality piece also was coming up. There's a tremendous feeling of sadness for not just her, but also for Lady Danbury.
Dr. Joy: Yeah, see, that's the part I think that really spoke to me because I feel like there are so few shows where we really intimately see the interior lives of women, especially older women. There's of course this whole flashback piece of when they were younger versus when they are now older, which is where we see them in the current day Bridgerton kind of series. But I just feel like they talked about so many issues that we just don't ever really hear talked about in pop culture related to older women. Related to like desire and still having very healthy sex drives, even in later life, and all these things.
Dr. Oriowo: The garden is in bloom.
Dr. Joy: Right, the garden was in bloom. So I really love that, I just think that they did a phenomenal job really exploring some of those areas that we just don't hear talked about a lot. You said that the theme that came up for you most was sadness related to how Charlotte's life unfolded. Tell me why sadness felt predominant for you.
Dr. Oriowo: Sadness was predominant because from the very beginning, her choice was stripped away. We see her anger, you know, she pushes the statue off the stand because she realizes that she's just been like, oh, so you just going to put me over there? You’re not even gonna talk to me about it? But then a tremendous amount of loneliness ensued. Right when she felt like, oh, okay, maybe I will be with this guy instead of going over the garden wall. Look, if you haven't watched it, I'm all spoiled so you might wanna listen to this later. But the piece around just like she thinks that she's found this connection and then this person withdraws from her. And how sad everything sort of just was after that, with moments of happiness with him. Like she's learning him, but also learning what it takes to actually be with him. And then that piece that she talked about, like having to set oneself apart. So she can't go to where she wants to go, she can't do the things that she wants to do. And doing those things would also require her to mostly do them by herself because she has to be regal and queenly and cannot be seen to just be hanging out with everybody else, lest the monarchy feel less Mono.
Dr. Joy: You know, so it was interesting in the watching because you're kind of trying to balance both of these timelines. Like of course there are some contemporary pieces of it even set in whatever year this was, but I did think it was interesting because we know most arranged marriages like this, it seemed like there was not a lot of time for people to get to know one another before they actually became married. And so they had this cute little moment at the wall where she keeps asking, tell me about the king, tell me about the king. And people are just like, oh, he's a glorious king and da da da. And so she's like, oh…
Dr. Oriowo: He’s a monarch.
Dr. Joy: Yeah, this must be awful. I'm getting outta here, right? And so she tries to scale this wall in this huge dress and he is out there and finds her, and she finds out that that's the king. And so of course it seems like they have this pretty powerful connection and she decides at that moment that she's not going to run away. She's going to instead go forward with marrying him thinking that this little moment of connection they've had will be enough, I think, to grow into something deeper and stronger. And then of course we see that night, then he completely changes and withdraws. I thought it was interesting the way they set it up, because I feel like we saw at least two, maybe three episodes, really from her vantage point. So we're kind of experiencing the show and going through the wedding and their first couple of years of marriage, really from her vantage point. And only in like, I think episode three, do we see what's really been going on. But I feel like some of those seeds have been planted when she asked why are they coming all the way here to find me as a queen? So what is it about… Yeah, they know nothing about me, like why am I the one who's being asked to marry the king? What were your thoughts there, once we kind of finally found the plot twist, so to speak, around the secret that the king's mom had been hiding?
Dr. Oriowo: Honestly, it sort of brought up ideas around consent, just in general. And I realized that back then, obviously historically, women were not even considered people. They were considered property. But because Shondaland is adding in this additional storyline around race relations at that time, all of it is hitting a lot differently. Because she's looking very much like property. Her brother basically sold her off to be with this family, and it's like he used his power to make her marry, but they used their power to make him want to make her marry. It's not really consent because of the way power is at play. So you got the might of the British kingdom, this big monarchy, going to this smaller area in Germany and saying like, all right, we’re looking for a bride, what's up? And that they chose her purposely because they felt that she would be grateful and thus wouldn't look into things. Except that she showed us in episode one that she is also a critical thinker. Her critical thinking questions were like, well, are you even considering why they would come all the way here to find a bride?
It's not to say that her brother wasn't critically thinking cuz he was, cuz he was just like, look, I'm thinking about how we can solidify ourselves and keep some of these wolves at bay. The ones that are surrounding us already because we are what we are. And at the same time, while they're helping us to keep this at bay, we also get to establish the stronger alliance and we get to have some of the benefits of being part of this thing. And on top of that, I can't disagree. I can't say no because this is the might of the British Empire. We don't want none. We don't have what we need to fight that. So it's like that's his critical thinking. Her critical thinking is you’re not thinking about why they came all the way over here. What secrets are they keeping that they would come all the way over here when they got plenty of those people over there? And you know they don't like black people like that, like what's up with you?
So it's the battle of the critical thinking in that way. And just like how are we going to establish, what are we doing versus what do we have to do? But overall, just this lack of consent, like no one can consent. And the secrets that are being kept, they're shielded in power. Like, I'm not gonna tell you the full full because I don't have to and because I really need this thing to go through and I need you to produce babies. Then like you have good hips, you’ll make good babies. And just like this constant use of power to shield secrets and to make sure that nobody ever has any level of informed consent about what it is that they're doing, but you're getting consent.
Dr. Joy: Yeah. And you know, it's interesting cuz I feel like the power even for the king, it feels like in some ways he was trapped by this idea of obligation and expectation of what this title means. And feels like at moments wanting to share the full story about everything going on with his health, his mental health. But also not really wanting to be king but being born into this title and understanding that this… Yeah, he wants just to be a farmer. But being born into this title, and this is the expectation, like there is not an option to not fulfill this duty. So we know that the secret that they're keeping is around his mental health, that he clearly has some mental health concerns. It seems like there are some breaks in reality, but it also seemed like some anxiety stuff. We'll get into that in a second. Like, okay, what do we think was actually going on? But they also referred to this great experiment and I don't know that I ever got an understanding of what was happening. Was it that they were trying to find a bride for him and wanting somebody who would not ask a lot of questions, like you said, would be grateful to just be the new queen. And so they couched it as this, oh, we're trying to bring the races together and that's why he's marrying somebody who is not a white person. Like what did you make of the great experiment?
Dr. Oriowo: I think it was cuz she was too brown. Which is funny because she's also very light. Like colorism speaking, right? Relative to white people and relative to those white people, they were like, oh, she's very brown. And it was just like emphasized like, ooh, she's very brown and that's a problem. Especially a problem for parliament. So they wanted to make it look like it was on purpose that she was brown so it was like, no, we’re going actually be trying to bring together the races.
Dr. Joy: So that was a decision they made kind of on the spot once they saw her and realized? Got it. Okay, okay.
Dr. Oriowo: It's the decision that like particularly the Dowager Princess, that part was the first show of how much she sort of is ruling, in my eyes. Like she's ruling in the name of her son by saying what she wants but saying that her son wants it. And no one is going to question that because she's the mom. Being able to say like, well, the king wants her to make this look like it's on purpose so we are going to extend the invitation to all these brown people, to all these black folk, six hours before the wedding. She's just like, who don't wanna come to a royal wedding, baby? They're not about to say no. I mean, and for real, they didn't. They came. I think it would've certainly said something if none of them came. Like, dang, y'all look crazy out here. But of course, these people are gonna come. They came and then all of a sudden it's, ah, lady and lord, like what? We have not titles, what you talking about?
Dr. Joy: Right, and then I think at the wedding is when we see this first, which I think is like probably my favorite relationship on this show between Lady Danbury and Queen Charlotte. Because we see the sisterhood was all in affect. I loved it. But we see that Lady Danbury spots the queen upstairs and she's like, ah, this is why we're here. So now they all have brought in all these black folks to try to make this seem as if we're all one big happy family when we know that that is not the case. I love that Lady Danbury becomes a part of her court and really becomes like her only, in some ways, ally. In all of this, like oh my gosh, what have I gotten myself into? We see even the night of the wedding, she goes to her and says, you know, be careful. If you call for me, I will come. She's already letting her know like, girl, I got you. And of course, the queen doesn't know anything, but later on, when she finds herself alone and is like, okay, I need somebody, we see that she talks to Brimsley and says, if I wanted to be discreet, would I call Lady Danbury. And that is really the beginning of their budding friendship.
Dr. Oriowo: And friendship in the loosest term. Because where power is present, especially the type of power where you can't be really open and honest, is it really friendship? Like when one person is wielding a considerably more amount of power than somebody else. Queen Charlotte was able to sort of help establish Lady Danbury. Like to say your line of succession, that will continue. That you can keep the house, that you can do these things. She was able to help her with those things out of, yes, there's a friendship or camaraderie, and at the same time, I'm further solidifying you as my subject. And I still have to be held apart even from you.
Dr. Joy: Right. Because we saw most of their interactions were like at the castle, it's not like they're downtown drinking tea together. They're still in the castle, mostly behind closed doors. And I think you're right, like I do think it very much was a sisterhood kind of thing for Lady Danbury to say like if you call for me, I'll come, but we also see Lady Danbury playing both sides against one another. Because once the Dowager Princess finds out that Lady Danbury has been to the castle, then she is saying like, okay, you're kind of my ears on the ground kind of thing, telling me what I need to know about what's happening between the king and the queen.
Dr. Oriowo: Also, power. Because it's like she doesn't have a choice of whether or not she’s going to be meeting with the Dowager Princess, of all people. And at the same time, the way that she plays it. Like, well, I need things and if I am gonna be in a position to be used, like that was established with the invitations that went out to come to the royal wedding. They were already being used in that moment. Well, how can I get as much in trade for being used in this way as possible? How can I secure what I need for my family? How can I make sure that my husband can stop feeling excluded despite the fact that he is now Lord Danbury? Like he's the lord and you’re still treating him the way that you've been treating him before. And I got to do what I got to do for me because every time this man feel rejected, he won’t come hump on me, and I want hump with him.
Dr. Joy: Oh gosh.
Dr. Oriowo: So just like even just establishing that piece, like she's trying to play all these very different things she needs to do for herself, which I actually find to be quite refreshing. I feel like oftentimes when, number one, women in a lot of TV shows are very one note, very two-dimensional. They're not full thought-out people. So these are full thought-out people, which I can really appreciate. But there's also that piece around like a good woman, a real woman is a person who does for others, but doesn't think of themselves. And I like that she wasn't doing all this stuff out of a sense of selflessness only. It's not only about how she can help her friend or a person that she's establishing a friendship with. It's also about how she can help herself. I feel like it was a beautiful example of you got to fill up your cup before you're even able to really help and establish anything with others. But we also saw that the second that they said that, no, we’re friends, friends, how things sort of teetered in this other direction. Because it's like, well damn, I can't give the Dowager Princess anything because I told this woman now that I'm her friend. And that we've established this as a friendship and I wanna make sure I'm keeping my side of this, and that means holding her confidence.
Dr. Joy: More from our conversation after the break.
Dr. Joy: Let us go back to the whole conversation and the major plot I think of the show related to King George's mental health. We see again in episode three, I believe, is where we realized from his vantage point, like some anxiety or whatever was happening even on his wedding day, and he gets slapped to try to “kind of come back to his senses.” We really see like them establishing this theme of something's going on with his mental health that they don't want people to know. What do you feel like was actually going on, at least in the ways that it was portrayed in this show?
Dr. Oriowo: It looked to me that he had extreme anxiety. Which would make sense and it would also— like no tea, no shade, no lemonade because I know that parents never wanna hear this. But it seemed like his mama gave it to him. It seemed like she helped to establish this thing. That little monologue that he gave, well, if my maths aren't correct, then that's the downfall of the monarchy. If I don't eat my peas, downfall of the monarchy. Like everything that he does, every way that he behaves would lead to the ruin and the downfall of the monarchy. And that's an incredible amount of pressure to put on anybody, let alone to establish with a child. That if he is not perfect, that he is not worthy of the station that he holds, and that he will cause the ruin of everything for everyone because of his lack of perfection. That's a lot of pressure to put on one person, just period, and certainly a lot of pressure to put on a child. For me, what I feel like I saw was every single time he had an episode, it was preceded by a highly stressful event. Like every single time. I mean like the first one that we saw that we didn't know that we were seeing was when he went out to the garden to go retrieve Charlotte. And it's like, well, my wife is running away and so am I. Stressful. He got the back half for that.
Dr. Joy: Right, after the conversation with his mom when she came to the council to make sure that they had participated in the marital act. Yeah, and that was when we first saw him call for the doctor. And so, again, that was the first one I think where we knew something was going on. Like you mentioned, the situation in the garden, we didn't know cuz we hadn't seen his vantage point at that point.
Dr. Oriowo: Word. And mom showing up at the house, how he was holding it together until she left and then he just sort of, yeah, call the doctor. Like the way he was trying to hold himself so rigidly and was able to release. And in that release, the built up and held back (I would say) chemical reactions that are going on in the body that he's trying to hold onto with two fists, he was able to sort of let it ride itself out. I think the next one that we saw after he fired the doctor. He was like, nah, I'm good. I'm with Charlotte now, I feel fine. But then it was, oh, she's pregnant and that was the one that woke him up in the middle of the night where she actually got to see like, oh, y'all been keeping things from me. This is what's wrong with this man, and y'all stole my choice. I mean, she didn't really technically have a choice, but stole. It's still a stolen choice.
Dr. Joy: Right, she didn't have all the story.
Dr. Oriowo: Yeah. And then it was when he was gonna address Parliament, and then again when they invited Parliament to the house. That these were some of the major things. And then I think it's established maybe in Bridgerton, the main series, but he never recovered after one of his children died. He was just off and down in that spiral from that. So it's like we can see the things that sort of put him in this position. And while his mom said, “I want his happiness,” no she didn't. The only person who showed that they wanted his happiness was Charlotte.
Dr. Joy: Right. Which is interesting because she has now been brought into this, like you said, didn't have much of a choice regardless. But even further, taking away any kind of perceived choice that she had because she was led into this marriage without getting the full story.
Dr. Oriowo: Which is just sad. Everybody had their hand in making her choices and she had very little advantage in being able to make any for herself. She wasn't fully informed to be able to make a choice. Like no one would even tell her about this man that she was gonna marry or that she was supposed to marry. So she chose, well, I'm about to go over the wall, but then she meets him and it's like, ooh, it's a cute meet. But he doesn't say, hey, I have mental health problems or I might be slipping into madness, or whatever language he would've used to just sort of describe it. He didn't say it so she is going off what she's seeing in that moment and using that to make her choice. And then it's like, y'all lied to me. Y'all been keeping secrets from me, and I'm supposed to just live with it? I'm just supposed to be okay with it? I'm just supposed to figure out how to manage with it? And sort of being put in a precarious situation and the whole theme is just be grateful. Her brother said it to her, like you think your life is gonna be so hard as being a queen? Like get over yourself, there are worse fates. And then she's hearing be grateful again from his mom. Be grateful.
And then he further takes her choice away: he doesn't tell her why he's doing what he's doing. And it's just like, while it sounds noble, I wanna keep her safe from me so I'm gonna put her over there and I'm gonna stay in queue. And we'll come together when we need to come together, but other than that, I'm gonna keep myself separate. I'm just like, why are you taking her choices? And people don’t like to hear this but to me it sounds very much like this idea of protection and provision. Like, oh, a person's job is to protect and to provide. And I'm just like that protection and that providing often renders the other person without enough information to make a choice for themselves about how they would like to be protected, about how they would like to be provided for. Everybody is taking away the choice but everybody feels like they are more qualified than she to be able to name the way that she will be provided for and protected, and not seeing what their provision and their protection is actually doing to her.
Because the person that saw it most closely was Brimsley, and he was beside himself trying to figure out what to do. Which I would say feels above his pay grade, but he was doing it nonetheless. You're the king’s man, help! Help me, help me. Like what are you doing? You got me lying for you, the least you can do is help me, man. And like, yo, she don't wanna be here, what do I do? And just not getting any help. Just trying to manage this and trying to maintain a certain level of secrecy because all of it was just so sad. Because they're watching her drown in her own depression, in her own loneliness, and no one will save her. She's strong enough. It sounds very much like what we already tell black people. You're strong enough. You got this. You can do this. It's not as bad as it could be. Like isn't that what we are constantly taught to tell ourselves as well as what other people tell us? Like what are you complaining for, it could be worse. And I'm just like, wow. The establishment of whether or not your life is good for you is based on how bad other people's lives are for them.
Dr. Joy: I did think it brought up an interesting point around like, when might you have some of these discussions in a relationship? And I feel like we talk about this sometimes with, you know, STIs and like when do you disclose this to a partner? But if you are somebody struggling with mental health concerns, when would you tell a partner or a potential partner about what's been happening?
Dr. Oriowo: Definitely before the wedding.
Dr. Joy: That I feel like we can agree on.
Dr. Oriowo: At least a little bit before the wedding. Before the proposal even. I feel like that's a really good question because I know that personally for me, I've been dealing with my own mental health stuff. A lot of anxiety – I had this beautiful cycle from anxiety to depression and back again. Mostly I live in the space of anxiety, I don't really live in the depression part, but the anxiety, woo. Ever since a panic attack on a plane, it's been outta control and I'm just like, you know what? I don't think I knew that I had anxiety before my husband and I got together. I thought that this is just how people lived. Like, oh, this is regular. And I think that a lot of people think that their mental health stuff, oh, that's just regular. It's normal to feel anxious. Oh, I'm just an anxious person. That's the sort of thing that people say – I'm just an anxious person. I'm looking like, nah, you’re not. You're not. The world around you helps to cultivate the anxiety that you're consistently living with because of the way that it treats black people and black women particularly. So I'm like, no, you're not an anxious person. You would probably be quite relaxed if you weren't here. If you weren't dealing with these things in the way that we're dealing with these things, you would probably find that you are not actually an anxious person, but that you have been put into a fraught situation that the only natural reaction is to be anxious.
I would say for me, thinking about it in terms of like, well, when do you tell a partner? I think that when you're going into a space where you're establishing that y'all not just talking. You're not even just dating, but that you're moving into what you think is going to be a relationship.
When you're establishing the bounds of what that is going to be, when you're having those discussions, that is also a time to say like, hey, before we make this decision about whether or not we're gonna be together, and ultimately what our goal in being together is, you should also know that I deal with a great amount of anxiety. That I also deal with a great amount of depression. This for me is the informed consent that was missing throughout the series. Because when a person is uninformed, you've stolen their choices. You have no idea if they're going to say yes or no, but certainly if a person is informed beforehand, they can also make sure that they have additional provisions to meet the need that you are going to have.
So for me, having this conversation with my husband after the fact, at this point, he's already made the vow of through sickness and in health and this is, I guess, the less than healthy part. The conversations even have been about now that we're in this relationship and this has come up, here is how I like to deal with my anxiety. When my anxiety comes up, this is what I like to do. What feels good or sane for you to also do while maintaining your mental health. Because my mental health is my responsibility, I don't make it my partner's responsibility. And I think that sometimes we selfishly try to believe that because we are partnered, that it's their job and it's not. Your mental health is your job. Just like your orgasms are your responsibility, so is your mental health. So for me, it has been establishing that I have to be doing something for my mental health and that my husband, while I would prefer for him to help care for me, he doesn't have to. But he is a part of the group of people that do. So the entire burden, as it were, of my mental health is not placed just on him, it is dispersed among many people that I consider to be both friend and family alike. I could call my mom, but every now and then it'd be like, hey, goodie, it's 11 in the nighttime, my anxiety done spiked up, you up? I usually send eye emojis like you up? But just knowing that I have to have a plan that includes him, but doesn't require that he be the only thing that is helping to keep my mental health together, because I don't think that's fair either. And I think in this, really, it's Charlotte.
Dr. Joy: Yeah, because I think when most people worry about disclosing something like this or sharing with a partner, the concern is like, oh, they're gonna leave me. Like they are not going to know how to support me or whatever. When really it's an invitation, like you said, to kind of think about, okay, what feels good for you? What feels okay to support me and what does my care look like? In addition to not making it one person's responsibility. Like a whole care team, a whole group of people who can support you in your mental health, which I think was definitely missing from this conversation. But we did see like Brimsley was the Queen's man. What was King George’s person?
Dr. Oriowo: Reynolds? I'm making up names now…
Dr. Joy: But you know, so his man, it did very much feel like he was a part of the care team for the king. Even in some misguided ways. Of course, he was also very, very heavily involved in like keeping this from the queen and all of those things but it did seem like he ultimately did care for King George. So it did feel like he had a little bit of an informal care squad that just didn't include the queen until it was really in some ways too late. Because she found out while he was in the garden and she's thinking like, oh my gosh, like what is happening here.
Dr. Oriowo: Yeah. Because he had like his doctor, he had his mom, and he had his man. So it is like these three people, but they're also bound to be trying to keep the secret of his mental health, which means that he's not necessarily getting everything that he needs because they're worried about trying to keep the secret. I think that sometimes we have to choose what it is that we're doing because where our attention goes, our energy flows. And if the attention is really on keeping the secret, then you're not doing the best job you could be doing and making sure that the person is getting the care that they're needing. Because you're so busy trying to keep the secret. So I'm just like, they're trying to keep the secret and not realizing what other resources they may have already had at their disposal as a result.
Like Charlotte finding out about it was probably the best thing for this man's mental health. Because she's just like, all right, cool, what can we do? And Brimsley is like, all right, we going to increase the wall here. We’re going to clear a path that he can go out to the garden and speak to his Venus. He can go out and he can do that. And even the way that she gets under the bed with him, establishing that like, hey, when it all becomes too much, let's ground here. You can ground here with me. And ultimately… And this is part of the sadness that, because everyone is so involved with the king, the people that end up being involved with the king including her – she's not involved with her children. She's a great queen, she's not a great mother, and that is hard for her to reconcile.
Dr. Joy: And we don't find that out until all of this is falling apart. And the the children are like we don't even feel like we really know you.
Dr. Oriowo: You don't know us, we don't know you. You are asking us to make babies, but you don't even know that we have been trying. You don't know what we have gone through because you have been so preoccupied in this area that you don't know us. You've not established anything with us. And it's the dichotomy of like sorrows prayers, right? Because that is like the breakout line of this dang gone thing. Sorrows prayers. I wonder how many people missed that the first time it was said was when she was young. Well, not the first time but, you know, in her life. The first time it was said was when she was young, to Lady Danbury. And that it felt so warm and so sincere. Sorrows and prayers and that it was a connection moment for the two of them. And it was the thing that preceded them saying that, hey, we're friends now. And in a friendship, this is how we will be establishing what a friendship will look like for them. That what preceded it was sorrows and prayers. Meanwhile, we heard the way that she said it to her son.
Dr. Joy: Right, very disconnected.
Dr. Oriowo: Sorrows, sorrows, prayers. Very perfunctorily. And then frustrated like, “Sorrows, prayers! We need babies!”
Dr. Joy: More from our conversation after the break.
Dr. Joy: And I think it's interesting the dichotomy of who we see Queen Charlotte as in the Bridgerton series because we don't know a lot about her private life at all. Like we know that the king exists and he's kind of kept away in this room and something's going on. I don't remember hearing anything about kids in the Bridgerton series and then we move over to Queen Charlotte and there are 15 of them, or at some point they were 15. So I'm like, oh my god… We didn't hear anything about all these kids in Bridgerton. We do see, of course in the spinoff, we see a fuller sense of her life. But the thing that I think, and we talked about this in text before the podcast, we also saw in connection to his mental health, the very old school, barbaric ways that mental health was treated during that time. And so we are talking now with a 2023 sensibility around like a care squad and all of this stuff, but they were kind of doing some of this at that time and didn't call it that. But what we did see was them attempting to treat his mental health with stuff like ice baths and leeches and all of these things. So I do wanna hear a little bit…
Dr. Oriowo: I’m sorry, I don’t know what that part does.
Dr. Joy: Some of that stuff, I had never heard of, but I do wanna hear your thoughts around just the ways that, in some ways, I think psychiatric care is in some ways still reminiscent of some of this. But I definitely feel like we have moved quite a ways from like using leeches and ice baths to try to treat mental health. So what were your thoughts around that?
Dr. Oriowo: That part for me was kind of scary to see because they definitely thought that they were at the forefront of mental health. And I'm just like, are we going to look back and see ourselves and be like, wow. And someone's gonna be like, that's barbaric. And I'm just like, ooh, is it? I dunno. I mean, cuz right now we're at the forefront of all the things. People are talking about EMDR, we're still using CBT, we have the little EFT, that's emotional freedom tapping as well as emotionally focused therapy. So it's like we've got all these other ways that we're sort of helping people move through whatever they've experienced and being able to establish a different level of mental health for themselves and sort of coming up with this care piece. And some of it for me still feels rather individualistic. So when I think about the barbarianism of it, when I try to step back, I'm just like, well, we're still in a way trying to tell people you're an individual doing this thing and be an individual doing this thing. On the one end, I think that through what you have done with Therapy for Black Girls and your upcoming book (which I'm really excited about), I think that that piece around the sisterhood reestablishes that community is important in a way that the American individualistic ideals will not fit with the real mental health. And not even just mental health, but whole person wellbeing that we're looking for is established actually in community and not in silos.
But their stuff, it’s like they have a community, but when you are the monarch, you don't have a community. Especially not a community of equals. Quite frankly, you have yes men, and I feel like we see that same issue now. Celebrities are often held apart. And in being held apart, their mental health becomes fodder for others. You have us in the general population who don't know these people, and so many of us are so loud in the way that we comment on other people's lives as though we are owed something from them. I'm thinking specifically of how left the conversation went with Gabrielle Union and what was like 0.02, whatever percent of a conversation where she mentioned 50-50, but it wasn't about being 50-50. How it went to you're a pick me and your husband is trash because he don't even wanna care for you.
It gets me thinking about the mental health of Robin Williams. I think about the mental health of like the things that we've seen with Drake. I'm late. You don't have to tell me how late I am, I know. But someone recently had me listen to his song Marvin's Room. And I did a deep dive analysis when I got on the phone with this person about what I heard, what I didn't hear, and what it all means. And I'm just like, I'm thinking about celebrities are in a sense held apart, they're held apart and above. And particularly black celebrities because now they become a representation for all black people. And what they're allowed and not allowed to do, the ways they're allowed and not allowed to behave. The things they're allowed and not allowed to say before we say that they're a sellout, before we say that there's something wrong with them, before we decide that we wanna discard them. Especially black women. While other people are given a certain level of grace, black women are not often yielded that same amount of grace.
Meg Thee Stallion was a victim of violence, and people were talking trash about her because they felt like they were losing out on this other person who perpetrates violence against black women. Or even how we talked about Cosby and almost like we were trying to establish that it should be okay for him to do the same things that other people were doing. Or even R Kelly, that it should be okay for him to do things and we're gonna blame these people instead of those people. And this piece around being held apart and not having necessarily the same access. I think they have financial access to mental health, but I don't think they have the access of anonymity around mental health, the same way that everyday people are allowed to sort of have it. And I think that same thing with King George.
But there's a power dynamic. There's the money but there's also the fact that he is the monarch. So even when he gave up power to this mental health practitioner—loosely. Strongly for them, very secure, but loosely now. Like I remember that scene where he was shaving his face and King George just says, he just holds his hand and he is just like, I'm gonna finish this and you're fired. Because he still has the power to be able to do that. But if he was in the asylum, the one that they call Bedlam, would he have had the power to be able to say, I'm done and I'm gonna leave now?
Dr. Joy: Yeah. You know, I had heard about leeches being used, but some of whatever he was doing, I think he even used words like submission, and you have to kind of like turn over this kind of thing to me.
Dr. Oriowo: And that he has to break him first.
Dr. Joy: Yeah, so it very much felt like an ego trip kind of thing for the doctor. And I feel like for what they knew at the time, they were probably practicing the things that they thought were helpful for people's mental health. But I feel like even with that, he was crossing some lines because it felt like it very much became around like, okay, you have to submit your power to me and let me break you, kind of thing. Like that scene with the shaving. So then it made me think like, well what's really going on here? Like what's the treatment plan we're working on here?
Dr. Oriowo: Eat this porridge that they wouldn't even serve to *[inaudible 43:27] You’re gonna eat this poor food, you’re gonna wear these poor clothes, I make all your choices for you. And it is basically like the mental health practitioner in that case becomes then, is he not the monarch then? And I'm like, if you have power over the king, then that means for me you ultimately in some ways almost have ultimate power. And it seemed like it got worse when anybody tried to subvert that power. Like when the King's man comes in and is like, what are you doing? He was like get him out, damn. Now you remember that you don't have power here. Even though your job is to secure this man, you don't have power here.
I mean, the king is screaming and all that other stuff, but he's also not saying stop. And how much of that is he can't say stop versus he doesn't want to say stop because he's believing that he's going to make himself safe as it were to be with Charlotte. Because I don't know if you caught the part where they talked about locking up the shears and dulling the knives and all the stuff that they did to sort of establish a safer space for this man to be in because of what his mental health and the way that it presented itself. And while we didn't see him become violent, it doesn't mean that he was incapable of such. But that's because I also have a different view of certain people. I feel like people in power have a different proclivity level to violence, but that's my thoughts. You don't have to come here with me.
Dr. Joy: Well, I also feel like it is probably what was characteristic of mental health at the time. Not that it is something that everybody experiences to different levels and like what does it present? But that there would ultimately be violence because that is what it means to be not well psychologically. So I think that it was a part of it too.
Dr. Oriowo: But even then, they still didn't wanna even say that. I forgot what they said, but they were just like, are you trying to say that he's mad because that's treason? So they were trying to say that it’s his nerves. They were trying to establish it as a bodily thing not a mental thing, because a mental thing means that he is unfit to rule. And it sort of makes me think specifically of like even now, how much has actually changed in mental health? And not even just mental health, but mental as well as physical health. Anybody who is deemed a person with a disability is still hidden in our culture. You can't even establish residency in another country if you wanted to leave. Because if you're considered to be disabled here, you are not going to be an accepted expat elsewhere. And I don't know how many people are aware of that. I didn't become aware of it until a friend told me about it and I was just like, oh, that's ridiculous, it's messed up. But these other countries, they want the best and people with any level of mental illness are not considered the best. They're not considered people who should, quite frankly, should be allowed to live. Because this country has a eugenics history that includes getting rid of people that they thought to be dumb or inherently criminal, etc., etc. And yes, it included black people and a lot of other people of color, but it definitely included disabled people who we still to this day believe should not be allowed to procreate. Who we still to this day make decisions for about what they are and are not allowed to learn because we want to protect and provide.
So we withhold information the same way that we do for children. We withhold information under the guise of protecting and providing, while not also establishing or while not also naming that we also have power over these people that we say that we're protecting and providing for. We don't wanna put people in a position to be able to make choices for themselves. And I think that in some ways, George didn't make the choice to go through this particular treatment. Because he was like, and I know that there's always something extra that is held back from the general populace, that it reaches them years after you have done the establishing work. I know that you have this stuff, I want it for me because I wanna be okay. Because I feel like meeting Charlotte for him was like, yo, she fine fine and she's smart and she unconventional. And she got to be safe if she's gonna be with me and I can't provide and protect, specifically physically and mentally, emotionally, if I'm not well. Which sounds to me again like, fill up your cup, please put on your mask before helping others. Still not doing that.
Dr. Joy: So there's so much more to talk about and I know we probably didn't even get to none of even half of all of your notes, but we do need to wrap up so that we can let the folks have a nice tight episode. So we are not sure if we're getting a season two of Queen Charlotte, but if we were, what would you like to see in a season two?
Dr. Oriowo: I would probably fast forward many years and I would like to see the dichotomy of relationship between she and George and she and her children. I think I would be interested in that as well as more Lady Danbury because I really like that. Particularly the establishment of her learning about herself and what she likes instead of inhaling the breath that her late husband exhaled. So she was promised to him since she was three, which means that she probably never learned about herself. She always learned about this other person. So I would love to see a little bit more of that. And if they were to do more flashing back, I would like to see if Lady Danbury and Violet, if they ever have a flat-out conversation about the garden. If they're ever gonna ask like, hey, did my daddy tend to your garden? Cause I really…
Dr. Joy: Yeah. I definitely feel like it was implied when we saw her have the birthday crown. But you are right. They did not have a frank conversation like, okay, was your daddy in the garden?
Dr. Oriowo: Was my daddy playing in your ward? I wanna know, like I need to know. But I think that's a little bit about what I would like to see if they did decide to do a season two, particularly because of that piece around you were a good queen, you weren't a good mother. Like you weren't a present mother. And it got me thinking about a conversation that Lady Danbury and Violet (is she Lady Violet?) had when they were at like the opera or whatever. Where its’ like she's got to be lonely and how they were both establishing that our husbands have died and we have been able to mourn, heal, and move on. Her husband is here and then he is not here. So being in a constant cycle of mourning.
It made me think of Dr. Ajita's book, The Gift of Grief, and just like Violet loved her husband, and so she has the gift of grief in that her grieving him also reminds her of how much she also loved him. Whereas with Lady Danbury, it's about spite. And then for Queen Charlotte, it's more like he's not even dead, but I constantly am anxious about him dying. “Is the king dead” is constantly the question and then there's a sense of relief it seems, but not quite, because I imagine that it begins to build right back up the second that the pressure valve is off. What would you wanna see in season two?
Dr. Joy: I would love to see a Lady Danbury spinoff. Like a separate thing off for her. Cuz you're right, I think there's so much about when this late husband passes, what did her life become like? I don't think she ever remarries, but we see that she has this relationship with Violet's dad. So I would love to see that. But I agree, I would also like to see the relationship with Charlotte and her children. Cuz again, in Bridgerton we don't even really hear anything about children. So like what was that like for her to kind of be raising that many children, but also ruling? I also don't know that we know when she officially kind of became the ruler. Because she clearly is officiating, so at what point was a conversation had about Georgia's health where the power then transferred to her? So I'd like to see that.
Dr. Oriowo: Not even to her. To her eldest son, who will still let his mom rule basically by proxy.
Dr. Joy: Right, yeah, so what was that process like? At what point did people recognize her as the monarch as opposed to like any of the men in her life? I would be interested to see…
Dr. Oriowo: I mean, of course now I'm also doing a separate like comparison with like Hamilton. I'm looking like King George, I'm like I'm finally making history collections that I feel like were not properly established when I was in elementary school when they were talking about some of this stuff. I'm looking …
Dr. Joy: Right, it’s all much more interesting now.
Dr. Oriowo: Come on, teachers, pull from the fake and give more color to the history as it were. I think that Lady Danbury would be very interesting, especially her very early years. Since she was promised since she was three and she was already a part of a royal line in what they said Sierra Leone, right?
Dr. Joy: Yeah, Sierra Leone.
Dr. Oriowo: So I'm just like, ooh.
Dr. Joy: Yeah, there's a lot there. I feel like Shonda was planting seeds to, if any of these storylines get picked up, she would have something to build on.
Dr. Oriowo: Shonda, if you’re listening, please call upon us. Especially Dr. Joy because she got this.
Dr. Joy: Remind the people where they can find you across the socials as well as your website.
Dr. Oriowo: You can find me at @Dr.DonnaOriowo on TikTok, on Instagram, and on Facebook. At AnnodRight is my practice so you can find that also on Instagram, @AnnodRight. And of course, just come to DonnaOriowo.com, it will lead you anywhere that you're trying to go. And I hope that you will also take the time to not only come learn about me, but also just hang out with me. I offer In My Black Feelings every Tuesday because, again, I believe that mental health is in community. And I have an upcoming retreat, so come to Mexico and hang out with me in October.
Dr. Joy: Love it. Well, thank you again, Dr. Oriowo. We'll be sure to include all of that in the show notes.
Dr. Oriowo: Thank you.
Dr. Joy: I'm so glad Dr. Oriowo was able to join me again this week. To learn more about her work or to check out her past appearances here on the podcast, visit the show notes at TherapyForBlackGirls.com/session310. And be sure to text two of your girls and tell them to check out the episode right now. If you're looking for a therapist in your area, check out our therapist directory at TherapyForBlackGirls.com/directory. And if you want to continue digging into this topic or just be in community with other sisters, come on over and join us in the Sister Circle. It's our cozy corner of the internet designed just for black women. You can join us at Community.TherapyForBlackGirls.com. This episode was produced by Fredia Lucas and Ellice Ellis and editing was done by Dennison Bradford. Thank y'all so much for joining me again this week. I look forward to continuing this conversation with you all real soon. Take good care.