Bridgerton: A Period Romance that Sets A Balance Between Race

– –Spoiler Alert– –

The eight-episode Netflix drama which was created by Chris Van Dausen is an adaptation of Julia Quinn’s Regency romance novels. Bridgerton follows the story of Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor), the eldest daughter of the Bridgerton family as she makes her debut in the competitive marriage market, and her entanglement with one of the most eligible bachelors in town, Simon Basset (Regé-Jean Page), the new titled Duke of Hastings. Among Daphne’s siblings is Eloise (Claudia Jessie) and her eldest brother, Anthony (Jonathan Bailey), who both hate the idea of marriage. 

Image via Netflix Simon and Daphne.

Daphne, however, who was referred to as the “Diamond of the first water” by the queen on her first debut into society draws the attention of many suitors. Her brother, Anthony, now the Viscount of the house since their father’s death, scares off many suitors because he feels they are not good enough for his sister thus fending off a lot of suitors from her. During the courting season, Daphne has an encounter with Simon and learns of his disinterest in marriage, then the charade begins. The two hatch a plan: they both pretend to be courting. This means Daphne will once again be in the spotlight, many suitors will also be drawn to her and Simon’s supposed interest in her will deter female interest in him. 

It is worth noting that they have no interest in each other (Daphne calls him “Rake” and Simon calls her “Desperate”), however, they both get what they want as long as Lady Whistledown (voiced by Julie Andrews), who seems to sniff out secrets among the aristocrats, does not spill the beans in her daily gossip paper. 

Bridgerton’s  Familiar Playground

The plot is a ubiquitous one, the “oh, let’s pretend to be in love, then real love actually happens and they lived happily ever after.”🥱 The chemistry between Daphne and the Duke from the moment they first meet is an exciting one. They both maintain the facade of perfection, a ruse to fool societal norms and expectations. They would fool society with this pretense, but as expected, during this semblance,  they both fall in love and develop a real romance. Daphne’s desire to marry for love comes true but the Duke’s insistence to remain a bachelor is breached. This culminates  in a lot of problem and hardship in their marriage, and of course there was lot and lot of sex scenes after their marriage. 

Image via Netflix

The continuous sex scenes almost killed the impact of the show. A show does not need numerous sex scenes to show it is romantic, talk less of one devoid of foreplay to depict intimacy and maybe emotional connection. The twist to this, however, is how the series employs sex as an instrument to explain how it can complicate and refine love. Daphne’s lack of sexual knowledge and the fact that she does not know how women become pregnant indicates how the Regency era kept young ladies under control by keeping them in the dark about certain things (like sex).

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Bridgerton’s Twists and Flaws

The modern twist added to the show by using anachronistic selection like Maroon 5’s “Girls like you”, Ariana Grande’s “Thank U Next” and Billie Ellish’s “Bad Guy” at ballrooms was unconventional yet unique. It shows that the creators went for a fantasy Regency romance not necessarily a historically correct one. The Shonda Rhimes produced show, Bridgerton, also proves to be polymorphic. It shows heterogeneity of casts, leaving no stone unturned. The Black people holding high ranks in 19th Century England which seems out of place. Apparently, the king fell in love with a woman of color thus the diversity and integration of coloured people in the Elite society. But how did one interracial relationship solve the diversity?

Image via Netflix Queen Charlotte and her courtiers

The show did have some flaws like the introduction of the beautiful Marina Thompson (Ruby Barker), a cousin to the Featheringtons, one of the aristocrats in the show. Her sudden appearance thrust the Featheringtons into the spotlight. One would think Marina would become an integral part of the show but her character did not advance the plot or affect the lead characters in any way. It was just a means of stretching the story and to depict what can happen to a woman in that era if her marriage prospect is ruined. Remove her from the story and the show still stands. 

Her storyline goes thus; she  causes a scandal which Lady Whistledown releases in her daily gossip paper. Her sudden pregnancy makes her desperate to find a match as soon as possible, not only to mend her reputation, but her cousin’s marriage prospect as well, then Lady Whistledown blows the matter in the open. 

Image via Netflix Marina Thompson

Marina had her sympathetic moment, losing the man she loves and father of her child. She worries about ending up a single mother and struggling to deal with the stigma throughout her life, hence the plan to trap an eligible man in a marriage. If only she didn’t get pregnant while still single, her case would have turned out differently. This shows the unnecessary pressure society places on women and how it has the power to shape their lives forever. 

As a whole, the show consistently and ultimately reveals itself as a predictable show apart from the mystery behind the identity of Lady Whistledown. 

Further Themes Explored on ‘Bridgerton’

Bridgerton also offers a positive view about trauma. Simon’s childhood severely twisted his way of thinking as an adult. It twisted his notions about marriage and having children due to lack of father’s love nor a mother, who died at childbirth. Simon informed Daphne that he can’t have kids which Daphne misinterpreted as a physical problem but chose to stick with him nonetheless. In every sexual affair between the two lovebirds, Simon never did the needful by doing the usual thing that should be done by the man to bring forth a child. He never released into her and Daphne thought it was just a usual thing that happens during sex. However, she later found out the truth about sex and preganancy, and felt she was tricked by Simon since he knows she loves kids. As a result, she deployed a means to trick Simon to do the needful during a subsequent sexual affair.

This move created a lot of tension between them afterwards and the Duke became bitter at the idea that a child might be imminent. The fear of having kids of his own is inherent due to his childhood trauma. Bridgerton enforced a picture that nobody deserves to be trapped in the past. A sort of “you can’t create new memories if the ghost of the past still haunts you” notion is presented using Simon’s character. He overcomes his trauma through Daphne’s irrepressible love and determination to help him see a more rational view of how beautiful life is.  

Image via Netflix

I think one of the greatest triumphs of Bridgerton is how the series creator managed to put an astounding range of diversity together on screen in a story set in the Regency era. Also, the fact that Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel), a black woman, who meddled in the lives of aristocrats to enforce the control she lacks in her marriage with the deranged king, shows black power. A rarity in a story with this sort of setting is that race does not impel the plot. For once, race wasn’t the problem to be solved—it merely  gave balance to the first season of the show. The only thing that kept me watching was uncovering the identity of Lady Whistledown. I am sure we viewers all wanted to know who she is. If the predictable romance is not enough to keep you glued to the TV, the mystery behind Lady Whistledown’s identity should.

How excited are you for season 2?

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