Netflix’s hit new series ‘Bridgerton’ redefines the genre of period drama, giving the illustrious society of Regency England a modern twist. Full of the clichés and glamour of a Jane Austen novel combined with outrageous scandals of a show like ‘Gossip Girl’, worlds collide in ‘Bridgerton’. Audiences are left obsessed with this world that seems both recognisable and distant.
The series makes our reality seem normal, to a certain extent. Firstly, the suitors go on walks with their beloveds for dates – precisely what the British public are doing now. Secondly, there is no sleeping together before marriage, which seems the likelihood of this generation considering our government’s discouragement of physical interaction. Thirdly, the men can do what they like in terms of physical interaction, while the women are publicly humiliated – the frequency of slut-shaming in society is horrific in modern times still, despite the #MeToo movement. Is this just a more glamorous representation of the horrors of the modern public’s reality?
Our reality certainly had a positive effect on how many people watched Bridgerton. The series came out on Christmas Day in the year that Christmas was cancelled. It is an easy, relatively pleasurable watch. The themes of scandal, betrayal and judgement are addictive; the eight hours indulged into this series go by relatively quickly, and the variety of storylines are easily followed. With a toxic relationship, an unwanted pregnancy, and desperate parents trying to ship their daughters off with ANY man, what else could viewers ask for?
It does feel like Bridgerton is desperately trying to tick all of the ‘politically correct’ boxes
Within the first five minutes, viewers are awakened to the sexual nature of the show, with a sex scene to bring them into 1813 London. The sex scenes are not even the most uncomfortable part of the show, it seems to be the conversations about the events that are so cringeworthy – daughters asking their mothers how to get pregnant, and suitors offering wives advice on sexual pleasure. Even writing that is awkward, let alone seeing it play out on screen. Certainly not a family-friendly series – some have labelled it soft porn, an accusation difficult for audiences to refute.
Despite being terribly raunchy, it does feel like Bridgerton is desperately trying to tick all of the ‘politically correct’ boxes. A storyline of two gay men unable to share their love for each other with the world due to the rules of society is merely glossed over, and while Hamilton led the way for race-blind casting in theatre, it seems that Bridgerton will redefine the parameters for casting in television. However, they certainly will not be leading the way for body positivity, with the skinny white girl getting the boy, while the Hollywood cliché of the ‘fat friend’ is dismissed by the suitors, despite being one of the most compelling characters in the series.
The themes of scandal, betrayal and judgement are addictive
That said, it is refreshing to see a period drama done so differently. The music juggles different eras, with Little Mix and Taylor Swift’s hits played orchestrally at extravagant balls, and the use of language is absurd. Lines such as “It has been said that of all bitches dead or alive a scribbling woman is the most canine!” ring in the audience’s ears, as the differences between classical and modern ways of speech are blurred.
The series is painfully lovable; the combination of a patriarchal society, the characters’ repressed sexuality, and the numerous graphic sex scenes seem to draw viewers. For that, I applaud Netflix but do certainly not applaud myself for actually enjoying something so monotonous.
Illustration by Navya Lobo