Why so many are seduced by Bridgerton, the Netflix drama, period. 

by WSNXT Team

 Written By Jade Scott

Bridgerton, a force for light feminism, concealed behind a feather fan. The London-based, Shonda Rhimes produced period piece is fluffy, audacious, quite ridiculous in moments, but shows us something else too. It is a dressed-up, lavish affair of the choices we make and the consequences that can have on our mental health, with a smattering of period plotlines and sexual liberation.  

The Bridgertons, an alphabetically organised family, privileged in many ways but hampered by their societal duties. The darling children, some desperate to uphold the traditional family values, others determined to uncover the mystery surrounding gossip sleuth, Lady Whistledown, or discover one's own talents in ‘artsy encounters’, are at odds with themselves and society throughout season one. The women of the piece, in particular, struggling to shift the paradigm, marrying for love (what an outrageous idea) or simply not engaging in the cattle market ritual of the Deb balls of high society Britain.  

 

What this show delivers is quick wit in its awareness. It is funny because it knowingly engages in the tropes of society living and has a modern freshness in this attitude. Shonda Rhimes has applied her talent for reflecting powerful women on camera, as a producer of the series, and it shows; Women are front and centre, controlling the narrative (quite literally in Whistledown’s case) and this control makes for captivating viewing. It is tongue in cheek, over-the-top and declares out loud the issues of its time. 

Nothing is concealed, well not for long anyway. So, why have so many succumbed to Bridgerton?  

Here’s a take:

 

The Georgian Gossip Columnist 

Lady Whistledown is the internal voice we never knew we needed. Dame Julie Andrews lending her pipes to the script doesn’t hurt matters either, but what light relief it is to watch and listen in glee as the airs and graces of Georgian England are distilled down to nothing more than behind-closed-door drama, tantrums and sordidness. And how do the primary characters react to this gossip? They lean into it and manipulate their own narrative. That is of course, after becoming completely consumed by it. A Regency retelling of modern media. If it is not Eloise or Queen Charlotte attempting to uncover the face of Whistledown, it is Lady Violet Bridgerton, manipulating the media to save face and above all, protect her family.  

 

A modern ear in period drama 

With Whistledown firmly settled in as our sometime reliable narrator, Bridgerton unravels as a light-hearted fun-poking of old-fashioned values with a modern world perspective. Eloise, younger sister of the ‘Diamond’ Daphne, is literally screaming I’M A FEMINIST while Penelope Featherington is coming-of-age and trying desperately to ride that rite of passage to marriage, via the Debutante speed-dating/dancing debacles. Penelope’s character is one of the most relatable in the series but there are many others, whose own personal journeys hit home too. Daphne, her naivety cast aside when she strides forward and rises to the occasion. Bargaining to secure her own future, asserting her power when reputations are at stake, and her refusal to let her own naivety hold her back, the eldest Bridgerton daughter is an idealistic, yet ballsy protagonist. Reminiscent of Jane Eyre and Elizabeth Bennet – the OG literary feminists. Wondered why Bridgerton feels all the more modern? The soundtrack combined a delicate layering of modern pop music using classic instrumentals - Billie Eilish – Bad Guy – on strings, is delectable.  

 

The Queen 

They reference with a simple conversation all but once and for the rest of the series, race is of no consequence. Lady Danbury explains the marriage of King George and Queen Charlotte to a young Simon Bassett and it is done, simply and with an authenticity that needs no further explanation. Queen Charlotte, considered by many historians to be England’s first biracial royal, of African descent, is played by black actress, Golda Rosheuvel. A conscious decision by the creators of the show, race is woven naturally into the fabric of society.  This is the power of Shonda Rhimes as she and her team create stories that offer intrigue, soap opera carnage and highlights the strength of the character not the color of their skin, even in a period piece.

 

The spoon 

That’s it, just the spoon. No wait, the Duke’s backstory is much more detailed and complex than dessert spoonography; his struggles with his stutter as a child, the rejection of his father and the weight of the title he carries (plus that hefty vow he made to himself, which is causing him serious grief) all contribute to the Duke’s tormented soul portrayal. This character arc subtly addresses mental health, the fears that come with living up to expectation, rejection, failure and ultimately, loneliness, something which is resonated in all the characters in some way. SPOILER, the unopened letters to his father were a gut punch. 

 

The staircase 

The staircase is irrelevant here but what the creative minds behind Bridgerton did, is made Daphne a sex-mad diamond of the first water. Although it’s not her official title, we love it. She may be naive at the beginning - her mother’s explanation of ‘how things work’ was not nearly detailed enough - but with the help of the Duke and a frank conversation, she learns to love herself, quite literally, and from then on, lust, and love, but mainly lust, wins at every opportunity. Exploring and depicting Daphne’s sexual awakening is what we all need to hear and see in mainstream film and TV. They are, after all, only human. Innovators in the beauty of sexuality field are intimacy engineers, DAME and Maude, purveyor of modern sexual wellness products, are proving that self-love is the ultimate form of wellness and care. 

 

The ‘period’ drama

Never has one wanted their period less  
than in the middle of the opera, alas, yes. 
Wearing pale blue,  
sat next to my husband who  
does not want children.  
But I do.  

A poem, by Daphne Bridgerton. (Disclaimer: this poem was not written by Daphne and is terrible) 

Dealing with the dramas of the monthly cycle, Daphne has done the unthinkable, and not packed her period products in her lady purse. This scarlet scene quite simply shows the perils of one’s menstrual calendar and emotional turmoil our blood can cause – whether desired or not.  

 

The burning sensation 

No, not when you pee (please consult a doctor). “I burn for you” the four words that encapsulate Daphne and Simon’s entire combined being. If your heart did not skip a beat, are you even human?! Their relationship is founded on a lie, a deal, a falsehood, but cemented in their desire to take care of the other and ultimately their in-sync sense of self-care and wellbeing. These are two, modern young people trying to forge their own path, on their own terms. Burning, pining, longing for one another. Horny devils.

 

The King (mad King George) 

You immediately pin Queen Charlotte as a cold, calculated monarch until that is, you meet her husband at the dinner table. Mad King George III, as he became known. Understanding of mental health and diseases of the mind, were at that point, non-existent and so, what we see here is a real situation, in which the deterioration of her king is concealed from the public and reflects in her persona towards the outside world. Keen to keep him safe behind closed doors, we only get glimpses of the King while our Queen Charlotte turns her head to scandal and gossip to perhaps avoid her own real, emotional turmoil. In terms of wellness and self-care, she is perhaps not surrounded by the most genuine and comforting subjects. That is, with the exception of her beloved dogs. Pomeranians were said to be the real QC’s favorite.

Have I been seduced by Bridgerton? It seems I have. It is realness and it is silliness; a two-part dose of just what is needed in these times. Netflix has confirmed production for Season Two, so we wait with bated breath. Now, this lady scribe is off to binge-watch Bling Empire. Who’s with me?