After ‘Scandal’ and Grey’s Anatomy’, Shonda Rhimes has made waves with Netflix’s latest series, ‘Bridgerton’.
The series has been making waves for its powerful depiction of female characters and for its depiction of race. The American period drama, created by Chris Van Dusen, is based on Julia Quinn‘s romance novels. The books and the show are set in Regency London during the season where debutantes are presented at the Royal court for the purpose of marriage and courtship. Phoebe Dynevor stars as Daphne Bridgerton who hopes to follow her parents’ footsteps by finding a match which is one of true love. Her hopes are dashed by her older brother ruling out potential suitors. It isn’t until the handsome Duke of Hastings (Regé-Jean Page) enters the scene that she meets a man who catches her eye.
- ‘Bridgerton’ takes liberty with its depiction of people of colour
- The period drama stands out amidst all other shows in this category
- Shondaland’s new show is quite popular with the masses
History and fiction blend perfectly in the series
Depiction of race in ‘Bridgerton’ has raised a few eyebrows. Based in 1813, which is when Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” was published, ‘Bridgerton’ does not accurately portray the historical Regency period. Depiction of race in ‘Bridgerton’ is not the only compelling part of the show.
The show also depicts London’s social scene, raging with the gossip provided by the column of Lady Whistledown who keeps readers abreast of the latest scandals. The columnist’s writings have similarity with actual gossip newspapers that circulated in London, giving readers a complete rundown of the exploits of the elite during the “season” – a period when unmarried men and women were presented at the Royal Court for courtship.
While comparisons with “Pride and Prejudice” is inevitable, both the show and Jane Austen’s acclaimed novel have a number of differences in tone and nature. While both the show and the book fall under the period drama category, it is clear that the ‘Bridgerton’ does not hesitate in depicting sex on the screen. That is not the only important change one can see in the show.
The narrative of race is central to the ‘Bridgerton’ audience
The depiction of race in ‘Bridgerton’ is quite unique and in some ways controversial. While a number of scholars have handled the treatment of people of colour as clumsy, others have lauded the bold move. The show is actually one of the most recent of several period dramas to make the presence of people of colour known. The show builds on several suggestions that state that the real Queen Charlotte was of mixed race. The suggestion is quite bold, given that the current Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, is widely believed to be the first person of colour to be a part of the British Royal family in a long time.
‘Bridgerton’ takes the liberty to portray a powerful Black woman, acting as the head of state in Queen Charlotte. It is not just the Queen who makes waves. The Duke of Hastings, another person of colour, is the male lead. While the decision to introduce racial diversity to the story has been applauded and is seen as a significant move, especially since the novels’ author has encouraged this, not everyone seems to like it. At the centre of the storm in some circles is the depiction of race in ‘Bridgerton’.
Powerful female characters lead the show
A number of historians believe that the decision to depict people of colour, especially Blacks, as people of power is confusing, simply because of the elephant in the room that the show ignores – slavery. The show’s decision to not deal with the history of slavery is not one that has been applauded. A number of settings in the show present historical material that was built on the exploitation of slaves. Yet the show does not acknowledge this aspect even in passing.
The decision is controversial since a lot of the Black characters are shown as enjoying these riches. It is not just race that invites the attention of the critics of the show. One of the significant liberties that have been taken involves the inherent feminist aspects of the show. It is contradictory because the main purpose of the debutante season was to have the young eligible ladies married off and to have them start families.
Future seasons of the show are now highly anticipated
Criticisms of the show’s depiction of sexual relations, race, and feminism perhaps arise only due to the fact that this is an unprecedented move, which while raising eyebrows can only hope to bring about new waves in future.
One hopes that the future seasons of ‘Bridgerton’ will raise the bars that the first season has set. Let us know if you liked the show. Drop your thoughts in the comments box below.