What would another lockdown be without a new TV series to binge? Netflix has once again provided us with some much-needed entertainment in the form of the new period drama series, Bridgerton.
Based on the series of novels by Julia Quinn, creators Christ Van Dusen and Shonda Rhimes have produced the eight-part series that showcases the scandalous network of Regency era London’s Ton, where debutantes would be presented at court. In the first episode we are introduced to the Bridgerton family, consisting of eight distinctive children, who all, in turn, must find a partner and enter society. This first series follows the presentation of the “diamond of the season”, Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dyenvor) and the twists and turns of her love life as she plays out a ruse with the Duke of Hastings, Simon (Regé-Jean Page). Viewers are introduced to the other Bridgerton children and their escapades in London, providing much hope for what the confirmed second season will bring.
Granted that the premise is not exactly revolutionary, the show has succeeded at combining the classic Netflix teen-coming-of-age show with an added period drama twist. Turning to its historical accuracy, which audiences nowadays love to critique, Bridgerton does well to stand its ground as simple entertainment, and not an entirely accurate historical retelling. Van Dusen brushed off critics and confirmed this in an interview by stating: “It’s not a history lesson, it’s not a documentary […] we honoured the history, of course, but we’re not beholden to it.” So, that covers that! Many critics, in fact, doubted the success of the show, claiming that today’s viewers would not be interested in a period drama. However, arguably, it is exactly what we needed; a distraction that allowed audiences to transport back to Regency England, away from the chaos of real life. As an amalgamation of Gossip Girl and Jane Austen, the mysterious Lady Whistledown (Julie Andrews) narrates the series and provides updates on all the latest gossip and scandal from around the Ton.
Undoubtably, one of Bridgerton’s most striking qualities is its inclusion of BIPOC actors in its portrayal of British aristocracy. The show attempts to prove that BIPOC characters can exist as more than simply victims of racism and members of the servant class and do not have to be erased for a British period drama to succeed. The overarching opinion is that the modern twists of the show play to its favour, however, some have critiqued the almost half-hearted attempt at addressing the issue of race within the storyline. In episode four we see a conversation between the show’s main Black characters on the subject, yet this is the only explicit addressing of diversity within society, with Lady Danbury (Adjoa Andoh) explaining that “we were two separate societies divided by colour until a king fell in love with one of us”. Additional modern twists include the string-quartet style covers of songs by Ariana Grande and Taylor Swift to accompany the young debutantes as they dance their evenings away (which I hasten to add: any students struggling to find additional motivation to work, the soundtrack makes a great studying playlist).
Van Dusen can be praised further for the portrayal of the character Eloise, the second eldest Bridgerton daughter, whose view on the word and innovative feminist stance is a breath of fresh air for the patriarchal purity culture of society at the time. Whilst viewers grow increasingly frustrated at the fact that a woman would be “ruined” if even caught walking without a chaperone, Eloise’s (Claudia Jessie) defiance of societal expectations, her mission to uncover the true identity of Lady Whistledown and desire to work can be recognized as existent of modern feminism within the show.
It would be impossible to write a review on the show without addressing its explicit sexual nature, and perhaps stand as a warning for potentially awkward moments if watching the series with your parents. The Duke’s spoon has been argued to be the 2021 version of Connell’s chain from the series Normal People, even owning its very own Instagram account, @thedukesspoon, and is just one of the many saucy moments in the show. For a show that plays on the importance of a woman’s reputation in society, Bridgerton is not lacking in its portrayal of steamy moments. particularly between the Duke and Daphne, as I don’t think any viewer will be forgetting the library scene any time soon…
Is Bridgerton the answer to the Downton Abbey shaped hole that many have been suffering from? Will the Bridgerton series steal the title as the period drama series? The answers to these are still unknown, but we can all agree on one thing, the show should be praised of its achievement of brilliant, binge-worthy lockdown entertainment. Whilst it may not be the best show Netflix have ever released, at this point, does it even matter? Season two is confirmed, a TikTok musical of the show is in the midst of being created, what more could viewers want? Except maybe a confirmed return of the Duke’s spoon for season two.
– Sophia Hill
Feature Image Source: Bridgerton trailer, Netflix // YouTube.