Pride and Prejudice meets Gossip Girl meets….50 Shades?
(To be read in the voice of Lady Whistledown)
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a young lady in the middle of a pandemic, must be in want of an utterly bingeworthy series to watch! Low and behold, our prayers were answered with the latest Netflix Original drama ‘Bridgerton’.
One can hardly be displeased with such an array of wonderfully tailored gowns, perfect pin tucks and pristine hems. What better time to allow ourselves to be transported back to 18th Century England, where manners and propriety were favoured amongst all else.
Bridgerton has made an immense splash with viewers, making it Netflix’s biggest original series of all time. The popular period drama garnered a staggering 82 million views globally in its first month, phenomenally exceeding Netflix’s original projections.
Based on the bestselling novels by Julia Quinn, the series follows the ins and outs of marriage and courtship of high society London. Beautiful young debutants are introduced into society in hopes of ensnaring the attentions of a wealthy bachelor.
Pipped to be the grand prize of the season, Daphne Bridgerton is a picture of perfection. Eloquent, well-mannered and barely a thread out of place, there is a not an eye that she has not caught. However, due to the critical overprotective gaze of her elder brother, Daphne soon finds herself left wanting in the realm of callers.
Meanwhile, the eligible Duke of Hastings, finds himself called to London, just in time for the social season. The untoward antithesis of what a gentleman ought to be, the Duke finds himself barraged with the unwanted attention of pushy mothers, hoping to secure him as a perfect match.
In a bid to secure a most advantageous proposal, and to fall out of favour of the unbearably forward mothers, both Daphne and the Duke make an arrangement that enthralls on lookers and captures the interest of notorious gossip writer, Lady Whistledown…. What could possibly go awry?
Talk of the Time
Jane Austen’s Regency literature sent so many young hearts a flutter, with the darkly handsome, but less then conversational Mr Darcy. Her portrayal of the time, although deeply satirical, has kept the novelties of the Regency era alive.
Having read Pride & Prejudice more times than I wish to share, and even completing my dissertation on feminism across Austen’s works, I’m no novice when it comes to the Regency era. So, I’m glad to see that Bridgerton touched upon so many of the social conventions of the time, no matter how outdated they might seem today.
Amongst such social norms, was the fact that females at that time, had a considerable lack of prospects outside of marriage. Woman were not allowed to work, pursue an education, nor inherit the titles of their families. These luxuries were kindly only afforded to their male counterparts. That is why an advantageous marriage was high on every young woman’s agenda. Spinsterhood is far too difficult a future to endure!
Eloise Bridgerton best portrays the plight of a female who struggles to fit into the cookie-cutter mould of what it means to be a perfect lady. In her ongoing struggle against patriarchal notions and her ever-tightening corset, she all but declares herself against the idea of marriage and child rearing as her path. All this, at a time where a woman wanting to attend university would be met with scoffs.
Despite the truthful portrayal of the era, Bridgerton does such a wonderful job of weaving modern concepts and ideologies within the historical portrayal. From the musical renditions of Ariana Grande and Marroon 5, to the err…not so PG stuff! – this is definitely made with a modern audience in mind.
First and for most, one cannot ignore the integration of a multi-ethnic society, where people of colour brazenly occupy positions of power. I thought perhaps, that there would be an aspect of ‘Colour-blindness’ within the series. That the race of the actor playing the male protagonist role, would be inconsequential to the character itself.
“Bridgerton so easily brings a modern-day twist to a genre as old as time.”
However, this was not true. It was Lady Danbury who reaffirmed this, by explaining that the King had fallen in love with a beautiful black woman; now the Queen of England, thus paving the way for people of multi-ethnicities to climb the high-society ladder without a glass ceiling in sight. Dukes, Earls Viscounts alike!
We can only imagine if the Royal family had been diversified hundreds of years ago, what different times we would reside in now.
Bridgerton so easily brings a modern-day twist to a genre as old as time. The courting process was such a staple of the era. The delicate dance between disinterest and overzealousness, a lady cannot show her cards nor her affections to soon. However, straight away, the lead characters defy the social customs and in fact use them to their own benefit. By pretending to be courting, both parties attain their goals, without the pressure of the traditional constraints.
In keeping up this charade, they (surprisingly) happen to fall for one another as the pair are able to nurture a friendship, instead of trying to be the most marriageable option. I like that this point was reiterated, the notion of friendships as the base for marriage is so seldom discussed, bringing this series all the way into the 21st Century.
With all the ways that Bridgerton subverts this romantic genre, I think the most perfect example is the fact that the series does not end with the inevitable flamboyant spectacle of their wedding. All too often, the story ends when the two perfect parties commit to one another forever, and go on to live happily ever after. Well, the tale between Daphne and Simon could not be more different. Everything from their hastened engagement to their despondence towards one another before their wedding, to their marital disputes after their strained nuptials defies the traditional romantic trajectory. This is so refreshing! An honest peak into a marriage with all the lows and …err the highs!
“All too often, the story ends when the two perfect parties commit to one another forever, and go on to live happily ever after. The tale between Daphne and Simon could not be more different.“
I particularly appreciated the fact that they dwelt on how young girls of the time (and even now) enter into marriage uninformed of all that it entails. Happily, ever after…isn’t just a given, it is a choice that one must make every day.
Personally, I have always been fond of period dramas and literature. The norms and conventions of the era, although far-fetched from today’s dating scene have always seemed oddly reminiscent of Islamic ideologies, where propriety and modesty still play an awfully large part in the entire marriage process, and so it has always felt oddly relatable and comforting to me.
I think Bridgerton does a wonderful job of bringing the Regency era into the modern-day, the details that keep it true to the time, marry so well with the modern nuances, and I thoroughly enjoyed the watch!
Just like Pride and Prejudice has done for many viewers and readers before, Bridgerton brings dance, festivities and sheer elegance to its audience. If you’re looking for something to get lost in this winter, Bridgerton is definitely a must!
Yours truly, Lady Whistledown…
Whoops I mean….