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Series / Brides of Christ

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That's the way it was with these women. When you called into question everything they stood for, when you spat, complained and argued, they returned love. I was surrounded by strong, luminous women intent on doing good.

Brides of Christ is a 1991 ABC Australian miniseries set in a convent and a Catholic girls boarding school in Sydney in The '60s. It begins with two young women, Diane and Veronica, entering the convent of Santo Spirito and later becoming Sisters Catherine and Paul. Many of the issues of the time are brought up like Vatican II, contraception, The Vietnam War and teenage pregnancy.

The series is based on an Ensemble Cast, with the six of the main characters each having an episode from their point of view.

  • Diane/Sister Catherine: A feminist and Fiery Redhead. The first and last episodes are from her point of view where we see her begins the postulancy to become a nun and eventually leave due to her difference of opinion with the Catholic Church on contraception.
  • Veronica/Sister Paul: An idealist who begins her postulancy alongside Diane. Leaves the convent temporarily when she falls in love with a rebel priest.
  • Mother Ambrose: Mother Superior of the order, headmistress of the school and the Team Mom of the series. Often is in the middle of the nuns who want reform and change (such as Catherine) and the more conservative nuns (such as Agnes). Her point of view episode is centered around the Vatican II reforms and features their first lay teacher, a young male who forms a connection with her.
  • Sister Agnes: A mild fundamentalist and strong traditionalist. She is most resistant to change and the main representative of the Moral Guardians. Often comes into conflict with with Catherine but she and Ambrose are true companions and Agnes fills in for her when Ambrose is away from the convent.
  • Frances Heffernan: Played by Naomi Watts in one of her first roles. Her parents are amicably divorced and her point of view episode focuses on the effects of this and her mother's remarriage, despite the disapproval from the church and other parents.
  • Rosemary Fitzgerald: A Hormone-Addled Teenager from a strict Catholic family. Her episode is about her awakening sexuality and her idolisation of Brigid's brother Dominic (played by Russell Crowe) and her between the morals she is taught at home and school and the growing freedom of The '60s. She is expelled at the end of the episode and in the next one is pregnant.
  • Brigid Maloney: Brainy Brunette from a large Irish Catholic family. Friends with Rosemary and Frances, eventually decides to become a nun when she leaves school.

This work contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Boarding School: Include many of the tropes such as One-Gender School, midnight feasts, sneaking out and good and bad teachers.
  • Brick Joke: Ambrose asks Diane in the first episode if she has a problem with saints beginning with "A". At the end of her speech in the final episode she dedicates her book to "St Anselm, all the philosophers and a few others beginning with 'A'".
  • Caught with Your Pants Down: Played for drama at the High-School Dance when Bernadette is caught with a guy on top of her.
  • Conscription: Russell Crowe's character Dominic Maloney comes up for the national service, Draft Dodging is mentioned and it's implied that he's killed.
  • Confessional: Played straight with the booth, the priest and the penances. The nuns also have their own public confessional which they do as a group and the senior nuns (Mother Ambrose and Sister Agnes) impose penances.
  • Cool Old Lady: Sister Patrick, who gambles and dies on Melbourne Cup Day as her horse come in first. Paul says later she could see Patrick stealing St Peter's field glasses in heaven to watch the races.
  • Corporal Punishment: This happens unfairly to Frances and Brigid until Catherine saves them.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Jack Delahunty, and unfortunately in a rather nasty way. This leads to his break up with Paul.
  • Double Standard: Jack explains to Paul that the men in the seminary were allowed to go out and see women, just to keep it quiet. When Paul says that the women weren't allowed to do that, Jack says women aren't supposed to like it.
  • Driven to Suicide: The changes in the convent from Vatican II leads Philomena to this. Fortunately, she is found in time and retires from teaching to the convent's farm.
  • Enter Stage Window: Rosemary does this quite a bit to sneak out and see boys. She finally gets caught when she's helping her little sister.
  • The Fundamentalist: Sister Agnes is a milder version of this, she holds fast to the traditions of old when they start to slip away after Vatican II, and she did set one of the postulates to recite the entire Litany of the Virgin which lead to her breakdown and leaving.
  • Gender-Blender Name: When the nuns take religious names, they choose a saint of either gender. So while there is Suster Catherine and Sister Agnes, we also get Sister Paul, Sister Patrick and Mother Ambrose.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Rosemary decides to keep her baby, abortion never came up as an option as her other choice was to adopt it out.
    • Averted with Brigid's mother Mary who brings on her own abortion, and it's not the first time she's done it.
  • Hormone-Addled Teenager: Rosemary and Bernadette.
  • How We Got Here: The last episode follows this premise, with Catherine narrating how she left the convent.
  • Important Haircut: Following the bridal ceremony, the new nuns have their hair cropped short.
  • Marriage to a God: Well, duh!
  • Moral Guardians: Sister Agnes makes the girls rule lines through several pages of Othello when Catherine points out a scene that refers to sex. And later when they are rehearsing Twelfth Night , Frances' recently-divorced mother offers to help, but they shut her out.
  • Never Bareheaded: Sister Agnes's hair is always hidden under her habit, until their outfits are changes to ones which are more revealing. Her grey hair then shows, and she is mocked by the pupils.
  • One-Gender School: comes with the territory being a Catholic School run by nuns. Incidentally, one of the schools the series is filmed at is still a girls' school run by nuns.
  • Passing Notes in Class: Rosemary gets caught by Paul and eats her note.
  • Really Gets Around: Rosemary, she ends up expelled and pregnant.
  • School Play: The girls perform Twelfth Night in the second episode.
  • Sexy Priest: Jack Delahunty, Paul falls in love with him and temporarily leaves the convent.
  • Shown Their Work: This is perhaps one of the best examples of Pre and Post-Vatican II Catholicism. Diane and Veronica's postulancy and later their novitiate as Catherine and Paul are depicted in great detail. The same goes with the masses that are shown throughout the series, starting in Latin, then a mixture of Latin and English and then finally only in English.
  • Sleeping Single: Paul and Jack during their brief courtship.
  • Smart People Know Latin: Brigid is told this, but she says her Latin isn't that good.
  • Sour Prude: Agnes, particularly when she gives the sex talk in episode 4.
  • Taking the Veil: Shown in detail the the first episode with Diane, later Catherine. She's getting ready to be married but feels a true calling to become a nun.
    • And later at the end of the series, Brigid.
  • The Talk: Rosemary is caught giving one to her little sister, then when her mother complains Rosemary reminds her that her mother never gave her the talk at all.
  • Team Dad: Sister Agnes.
  • Team Mom: Who else but Mother Ambrose.
  • Teen Pregnancy: This happens to Rosemary after she is expelled.
  • Their First Time: Paul and Jack almost have theirs but stop.
  • Turbulent Priest: Jack Delahunty again. This eventually leads him to resign.