Throughout quarantine, many have been searching for their next binge watch on Netflix or Hulu, ready to transport themselves to other worlds or time periods. “Bridgerton”, one of Netflix’s latest releases, is just that; a binge worthy depiction of high society London in the early 1800´s.
The historical drama follows Daphne Bridgerton, as she makes her debut into high society, with the hopes of marrying to uphold her family name. Initially Daphne impresses the Queen, causing her to declare that Daphne is the season´s ¨diamond.¨ At first, this declaration draws in many suitors to the Bridgerton household. But this initial attraction is temporary, leaving just one suitor, Lord Berbrooke: a man who frankly reminds me of Peter Pettigrew from the Harry Potter series. You know, the guy that transforms into a rat, and resembles the animal even in human form. Daphne refuses to be courted by Lord Berbrooke for obvious reasons, leaving her with no desirable suitors.
Now initially, the show brings up some very problematic themes. For starters, young girls are being paraded across town, like livestock, in order to attract male attention. The girls are told that their only path to success is by winning the attraction of a rich male suitor. Secondly, older men, like Lord Berbrooke, are encouraged to chase after these young girls, solely because they are able to provide for them. Marriage would bind the two for life, which is simply not appropriate for a man two times the age of Daphne. Young girls were often encouraged to enter these relationships by their own families, to ensure the family name is upheld and other children are provided for. These themes are quite literally the opposite of the feminist ideals I uphold, which truthfully caused me to doubt the show from the beginning. Against all odds, I continued watching, hooked in by the drama.
As if on cue, Simon Basset arrives in town. Basset is a rich, high status and handsome duke who is forced to join the season by his motherlike figure, Lady Danbury. In a “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” type scenario, Simon and Daphne pretend to show interest in one another, appearing in love to the town. Daphne wishes to appear more desirable to other suitors, and Simon wishes to appease Lady Danbury. However, after spending so much time together, the two inevitably become best friends, and ultimately fall in love. I should probably mention I am a huge sucker for the friends-to-lovers trope. Eventually, a forbidden kiss (yes, I know, how scandalous) forces Simon and Daphne to marry in an attempt to prevent a town scandal. The pair is now known as the Duke and Duchess of Hastings.
While this was the main attraction of the show, many smaller plotlines were depicted as well. Daphne´s younger sister, Eloise, questions her role in society, frequently stating that she wanted more out of life than a husband and children. Eloise is determined to make her own way of life by defying societal expectations. At the same time, a gossip paper is being published on the weekly by an unknown townsperson called ¨Lady Whistledown.¨ Eloise makes it her mission to discover the true identity of Lady Whistledown and then shares her goal with her best friend, Penelope Featherington. Penelope, on the other hand, wishes for nothing more than her friend, Colin´s, returned love and affection. But Colin has his eyes set on town newbie, Marina, who is pregnant by the way. If you thought kissing before marriage was bad, imagine the town discovering Marina was both unmarried and pregnant. Marina makes it her goal to marry Colin as soon as possible in the hopes of covering up her pregnancy.
Now, Eloise raised my opinion of the entire show. Her feminist agenda proves that not every woman wanted a future with a husband and children at the time. Instead, many women wanted a proper education, the freedom to create their own living and overall independence from the men of the society. I greatly appreciated the contrast between Eloise´s and Daphne´s mindsets, despite having been raised in the same household. This contrast ensured that the plot was not solely centered on courtship and love, which would eventually become quite boring. Furthermore, Penelope represents every young person´s insecurities when it comes to love. What if I am not good enough? What if they like someone else? What is wrong with me? These are thoughts we have all had at one point or another and Penelope’s struggles help the audience realize they are not alone. Young love is an experience like no other, and more often than not, it does not work out in the end. Therefore, Penelope´s storyline proves to be much more realistic than Simon and Daphne´s fairytale ending.
Let me take a minute to appreciate its soundtrack as well. The show takes current hits, like Ariana Grande´s Thank U, Next and Taylor Swift’s Wildest Dreams and covers them with string quartets. This clever strategy draws in a younger audience to the show and sets “Bridgerton” apart from other historical dramas.
Shows like “Downton Abbey” are slower paced, use more complex language and are geared towards an older audience. But “Bridgerton” took this genre and made it appeal to both younger and older audiences by utilizing song covers, relatable problems and more current language. It may not have been as accurate to the time period, however, I prefer not to have to decipher TV shows, like I would Shakespeare in English class.
Overall, I would recommend “Bridgerton” to any drama, romance, or historical fiction lover. I had my doubts initially, but the show gained more depth throughout the season, as it tackled taboo topics, like teen pregnancy, societal pressure and insecurity. With a fast-paced plot, and unforgettable characters, “Bridgerton” is the perfect quarantine watch.
By: Marissa Detwiler, Feature Writer