Rating :   ⭐️ ⭐️           

Categorisation: Historical romance

Availability: Netflix 

Plot:  Based on the historical romance novels of Julia Quinn, Bridgerton is pure escapism. It takes us through the excruciating courtship rituals of Britain’s well-heeled 19th century society – like farmers taking their best livestock to market, high-society families present their daughters at court for the season in hope of securing a good match. It is pre-nuptial time for the Bridgerton family and Daphne, the eldest daughter, is presented to the queen by her mother, the Dowager Viscountess Bridgerton. Declaring her ‘flawless’, Daphne passes the test and is honoured with the Queen’s blessing. The series then follows her through the highs and lows of courtship game-playing as she seeks to secure a husband. An omnipotent scandal-sheet gossip, Lady Whistledown (voiced by Julie Andrews), humorously narrates the proceedings, exposing widespread scheming as families attempt to marry off their sons and daughters. Lady Whistledown keeps everyone entertained, but it is a fascination edged with anxiety lest they themselves become the focus of Lady Whistledown’s  scandalmongering.

Cast: The two main characters Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor) and Simon, the Duke of Hastings (Regé-Jean Page) are the most eligible of all, and therefore become the centre of attention. They play their parts well, creating a chemistry that spills over into erotic scenes that are particularly well done. All the supporting actors are good, the standout being Lady Danbury, played by the splendid Adjoa Andoh.

Filming and setting: The filming is extravagant and settings are elaborate. We get to see inside the homes of the privileged, the gentlemen’s clubs, the houses of ill-repute and other sporting activities that tend to keep the upper classes amused. Intriguingly, we hear music that has yet to be composed, along with technological advances yet to be invented. 

Personal Comments:  Interestingly the drama reimagines English society during the Regency era, bringing together a multicultural cast, in the way of the 2020 film The Personal History of David Copperfield. But unlike Copperfield, Bridgerton provides a useful explanation for this reimagining – that when king George III married Queen Charlotte, a Black woman in the series, he bestowed titles upon people of colour, thus advancing an inclusionary society (it is interesting to note that some writers argue that Queen Charlotte was indeed Black Yet there are indications that it is not a fully equal society. As Lady Danbury makes clear, members of the Black aristocracy still need to be careful not to do anything that may threaten their status as it could just as easily be withdrawn. Unfortunately these, and other interesting  narrative opportunities, are skimmed over and we are treated to a very shallow drama – in the running for the silliest I’ve seen in quite some time. Just to be clear, I enjoy a clever farce. But while there is some wit and a few memorable cutting remarks in Bridgerton, there is no master, or mistress, wordsmith here. Or at least not enough to complement the silliness. Instead, the series clings to predictable old messages. For women – aspire to become a princess (or duchess), find a good husband (or any husband for that matter), and devote your life to being a good wife and mother. For men – sow your wild oats with women who don’t matter, then, once married, become decision-maker and protector of the household. In adopting these fundamental memes, you will be assured ‘happiness-ever-after.’ Clearly Bridgerton chooses to be progressive in some areas and not in others.

2 Replies to “Bridgerton”

  1. Good review. I had no intention of watching this until two friends whose recommendations are usually consistent with my interests nudged/pushed even prodded. Gratefully, it was one season. All you say is true including the plush settings and some snappy writing but it does not succeed as a farce. I found Eloise and Lady Danbury the most watchable of all the characters. I am so enjoying your weekly postings Marie.

  2. Thanks Gale – I think there is likely to be a range of opinion on this one, particularly given the positive reviews I’ve seen. Of course if there is to be another season of Bridgerton, then it will probably be Daphne’s older brother in the pre-nuptial seat. In my view life’s too short for that. But if it had been Eloise’s turn, it might have required something different from the scriptwriters…

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