What I Loved About Bridgerton
Folks, I’ve been remiss. I’ve not written about Bridgerton yet! Really there is no excuse for this lapse other than that it was so good, I just couldn’t decide what to write about.
Folks, I’ve been remiss. I’ve not written about Netflix’s latest phenomenon Bridgerton yet! Really there is no excuse for this lapse other than that it was so good, I just couldn’t decide what to write about. Do I write episode recaps? Or a general overview? Do I pick a specific plot line or character? The phenomenon that is Bridgerton?
Then I began to read the books and well that opened up a whole new can of worms. Not to mention recent award nominations and high-profile snubs. I’m looking at your Golden Globes. There is so much material to cover. Let’s start with the basics: What I love about Bridgerton.
Bridgerton is based on a series of Romance novels by Julia Quinn about the Bridgerton family, a fictional regency era noble family led by a mother, Violet, intent on marrying off all EIGHT, yes eight, of her children. That is the story, that’s all. It’s about the Bridgertons finding love. And because a requirement of romance is that the main couple always ends up together all the children are going to find love.
The first season and the first book tell the story of Daphne, the oldest Bridgerton daughter and fourth child overall, and Simon Basset the Duke of Hastings, best friend to the oldest Bridgerton, Anthony. It combines two classic tropes, fake courting, and forbidden romance. Daphne played by Phoebe Dynevor and the Duke played by Regé-Jean Page concoct a scheme to help her attract marriageable men. They pretend the Duke is courting her. Very juicy!
The show doesn’t try to be prestige TV. The audience doesn’t care. 82 million households watched the show in the first 28 days. Of course, anything that is that popular will have its fans and critics. The internet is filled with those I shall call, haters. People who have a list of things they don’t like about the show from the happy ending to historical inaccuracies. I could analyze why they don’t like the show. Or I could leave them to their misery. I’d much prefer to talk about how entertaining the show is.
The show embraces a fully multi-racial cast. Bridgerton has been nominated for several NAACP Image Awards including ones for outstanding drama, best actor, and best-supporting actress for Adjoa Andoh’s Lady Danbury along with Screen Actor’s Guild Award nominations for outstanding drama and best actor in a drama. Regé-Jean Page snagged the lead actor noms for his very handsome Duke, plays a black nobleman with both black and white friends. Queen Charlotte and Lady Danbury are both black women. These are departures from the books and a departure from most previous period dramas. The show world however is filled with the main cast and background actors of about every race and ethnicity.
The only caveat is that the Bridgeton family is an entirely white family. Granted they are getting a little color now that [SPOILER ALERT] the Duke has joined the clan. I’m excited to see what future seasons do when it comes to representation.
Another note on representation in period dramas, Bridgerton is a direct response to the idea that you must be ‘historically’ accurate in period dramas and that means predominately white actors playing upper-class characters. Shows like Game of Thrones had very little diversity amongst its predominant noble families. As one critic said if you can have dragons you can have a black noble family in a medieval fantasy world. Bridgeton doesn’t have dragons but it does have black families.
Speaking of fantasy the costume and set design are so very delicious. The colors are light and pastel. It feels like an eternal spring. Actually, it’s supposed to be summer in regency-era England.
The gowns are long, the necklines impossibly low, and the men are wearing nicely fitting white beeches thank you very much. Anthony Bridgerton even sports muttonchops. There are flowers everywhere! The trees bloom in pretty pastels, the homes are decorated inside and out with blossoms. The ballrooms sparkle and shine. The show is just a visual treat.
Representation matters. It goes beyond having a multi-ethnic cast to representing a range of themes and ideas not normally shown on TV. That includes showing women’s pleasure coming first and men being vulnerable.
On the dumpster fire that is the internet, I came across one criticism (of many) of Bridgerton. The writer of the post felt the scheme concocted by Daphne and Simon to help her attract more suitors would never work because men would never as he called it ‘mate poach’. Apparently, this poster has never been to a club with a date in Toronto.
Mate poaching aside, Bridgerton also shows other sides of its male characters. Simon struggles with past trauma and a hidden speech impediment. Anthony agonizes over duty to family verse love while his brother Benedict bucks society’s expectations to explore more artistic passions.
While writers may get some things wrong about gender generalizations. There is nothing wrong with being aspirational especially when it comes to healthier versions of men. Men in Bridgerton have feelings, insecurities, worries and these are talked about with other people. How refreshing is that! Men in romance novels have deep inner lives and those come to life on the page and now on the screen.
Normalizing a woman’s pleasure is another hill Bridgerton climbs. From the second half of the series on, we see Daphne despite her inexperience enjoying sex with Simon. He puts her pleasure firsts and foremost. This is the case in the books too. Daphne is an active participant in her own pleasure. She wants Simon just as much as he wants her.* The book makes an even greater point of this through Daphne’s eternal dialogue.
This is a show about love and pleasure with some drama tossed in for good measure. It’s fantasy and fun and I for one am here for it. There is really so much more I could say and write about this show and the series. For now, I leave it at there is a second season in the works and here at We’re Still Cool, we are hoping to have something in the works about Bridgerton, too. As I always say on my sexy podcast stay sexy and stay tuned!
*There is a controversial incident in both the book and the show that warrants a longer discussion in another article and so was not mentioned in this piece.