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Series / Desperate Romantics

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A 2009 miniseries made by The BBC revolving around the lives of Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood painters Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman Hunt, and John Millais. The series is notable for its blatant use of Artistic License – History, explicitly presented as a meta-commentary on the artistic licence that was used by the artists themselves. The painters are seen as a gang of rowdy young men who drink, fight, fall in love and get wrapped up in drama. Also, there are tits and bums and Everybody Has Lots of Sex (For a reference point, one review called the show "Entourage with Easels.")

This show contains examples of:

  • Betty and Veronica: Lizzie has to choose between the sweet, sensitive Fred and the charming, roguish Gabriel. Naturally she chooses Gabriel. Still, Fred is so shy and hesitant it's generally unclear whether she even notices that he's in love with her.
  • Break the Cutie: Lizzie's character arc is essentially this, with a healthy dose of Corrupt the Cutie thrown in for good measure. Ultimately results in Kill the Cutie.
  • Big Beautiful Woman: Fanny, the redheaded prostitute that Gabriel has a semi-serious affair with once Ruskin shows more interest in Lizzie's artistic potential than his.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Gabriel often fails to attain the same kind of professional success as Hunt and Millais, not because he lacks talent but because he spends too much time hell-raising and hardly any time actually working.
  • The Casanova: Gabriel
  • Celibate Hero: How Ruskin seems to regard himself. His wife does not enjoy this arrangement.
  • Deadly Bath: Lizzie poses for Millais as Ophelia in a tub of water heated by candles. They go out. She loses consciousness and almost drowns...
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Fred
  • Driven to Suicide: Lizzie
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Effie, ye gods. She's trapped in a loveless, sexless marriage to John Ruskin and it's heavily implied that she's under a barrage of mental abuse from her mother-in-law as well. Then Ruskin makes her model for Millais - a vocation that's beneath a married upper class woman. She makes the best of it, slowly falls in love with Millais (and he with her)...only to find out that her husband arranged for them to have an affair so he could have a reason to divorce her. When that fails, she seeks an annulment, but it's only granted after she's forced to undergo a virginity test (which, by the standards of the time, is not only humiliating but painful). Even after she marries Millais, his career is still influenced by Ruskin's patronage and goodwill, and they suffer some financial difficulties as a result. However, he eventually finds a new 'student' and by series' end, Effie and Millais are both happy, financially secure and expecting a baby. They decide to name the child Lizzie if it's a girl.
  • Forbidden Fruit: It's stated several times that the reason Gabriel can't seem to keep his hands off his friends' lovers is because he always wants what he can't have. He loses much of his interest in Lizzie after they get married, and only realises how much he loves her after she dies (although you could argue that he was simply wallowing in self-pity and never really loved her at all)
  • Idealized Sex: Rampant, but the redeeming feature of it all is that Gabriel and Lizzie, when newly married, talk earnestly of dispensing with contraception and trying for a baby, acknowledging that yes, sheaths do exist (one is graphically brandished early on in the series) and have been used.
  • Karma Houdini: Gabriel. He's not an evil guy, but he's shamelessly self-serving and will use people horribly just to get what he wants, and he hardly ever has to face the consequences. Usually when someone does call him out on his behaviour he avoids punishment with a careful combination of flattery, lies and fake apologies.
  • Madonna-Whore Complex: An idea held by several of the male characters - Hunt's treatment of Annie stems largely from this way of thinking.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Gabriel basically gets by on charisma alone, and is very good at inspiring awe and admiration in others despite doing nothing to deserve it.
  • No Woman's Land: Although the show does a good job of portraying the female characters as interesting and intelligent individuals, they have to contend with a lot of social inequality, and most of them are treated pretty terribly by the men in their lives.
  • Really Gets Around: Annie, even when she's not working as a prostitute. Gabriel also.
  • Redheads Are Ravishing: All over the place in the series. Each member of the Brotherhood wants Lizzie to be their muse, and a part of it is due to her mountain of red hair. And this is before Fred and Gabriel fall in love with her. Hunt only starts paying attention to Annie when she dyes her hair a lighter shade of red, and Gabriel embarks on a semi-serious affair with a redheaded prostitute named Fanny once he begins to lose interest in Lizzie.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: For much of the series, Fred hangs on Gabriel's every word and puts up with his (and by extension, the rest of the Brotherhood) antics and bad behaviour, especially in regards to Lizzie. The last straw for him is when Gabriel has his two students/sycophants dig up Lizzie's grave so he can publish the book of poetry he'd written for her and had placed on her casket. As he walks away in triumph, the narrating Fred tells the viewer that this incident is what finally makes him reject Gabriel, stating that from then on, 'I never believed a word he said again.'
  • Sex Is Evil, and I Am Horny: Most of the male characters (with the notable exception of Gabriel) are struggling to come to terms with their repressed sexuality to one degree or another, and regard their sexual urges as something depraved and destructive. Ruskin is an extreme example.
  • Smug Snake: What Gabriel is when he's not a Magnificent Bastard.
  • Starving Artist: Gabriel
  • The Team Wannabe: Fred starts out as this at the beginning of the show. Eventually he becomes an honorary member of the Brotherhood after using his journalism connections to help launch the artists' careers.
  • Wacky Fratboy Hijinx