Helena Hurworth, Media Correspondent
Bridgerton: Worth Recommending To Your Mother?
Regé-Jean Page and Phoebe Dynevor play the romantic leads in Bridgerton. Photo from Netflix
If you haven’t at least heard of Bridgerton yet, then where have you been hiding? It’s the regency period drama that has viewers around the world completely obsessed with suitors and gossip and the admittedly very attractive Regé-Jean Page.
When this first popped up in my Netflix recommendations I’ll admit I wasn’t sold. Historically, I have never especially enjoyed period dramas; I have often found the lead heroines to be whiney and unrelatable, and the dashing heroes lacking in personality. Sorry Jane Austen, you’re just not my cup of tea.
Eventually, though, I gave in. I figured if this many people love it, maybe I should see what the fuss is about. I was instantly hooked. Bridgerton has all of the bones of a classic period drama; many daughters looking for love (read: marriage), a brooding and handsome love interest, and many, many parties full to the brim with sexual tension. What sets Bridgerton apart is that it also has so much more than that; dare I say it has personality!
Our young heroine is not only interesting, but actually relatable in her quest to be married and have a family, and is nicely offset by her sister, Eloise, who wants absolutely nothing of the sort. The brooding gentleman has a backstory that gives him layers and allows him to develop as a character as the series progresses. And all of this takes place under the watchful eye of Regency London’s answer to Gossip Girl; Lady Whistledown.
Narrating the events of London’s social season, Lady Whistledown (voiced by Julie Andrews) provides an ongoing social commentary on the action of the series, as well as introducing levels of tension and mystery for our primary cast to contend with. One of the most entertaining sub-plots of the series is Eloise and Queen Charlotte’s ongoing quest to uncover Lady Whistledown’s identity, inviting the viewer to speculate alongside them until we are finally given a glimpse under the hood during the season finale.
One of Bridgerton’s biggest strengths comes from its diversity in both cast and character. Without ever feeling forced, Bridgerton is able to tackle narratives about race, sex, size, and sexuality in a way that has depth and manages to avoid the trappings of stereotypes. The subplot following Benedict Bridgerton sees him follow his passion for art to a group of individuals living a more ‘alternative’ lifestyle. ‘Second sons have more fun’ as they say. This group allows the show to explore themes of homosexuality and female sexuality in a way that is historically accurate and does the subject justice.
Bridgerton has, unquestionably, won me over as a period drama that I actually enjoy and find interesting to watch. Despite this, I should make it abundantly clear that I cannot and will not be recommending this show to my mother (even though she quite likes Jane Austen). Amongst the shows sparkling balls and early morning shoot-outs lies an indulgent amount of sex scenes and nudity. It is to Jane Austen what Fifty Shades of Grey was to Twilight… except a lot better.
Netflix has proven to us before that they are capable of tackling sex scenes in a way that is honest and equal in their hit teen show Sex Education (a show which has also been celebrated for its diversity). In Sex Education, sex is portrayed in all of its awkwardly beautiful glory, through well-constructed scenes of masturbation, foreplay, and sex. Whilst Bridgerton takes a different approach, it is clear that the same successful tactics are being used here. Bridgerton is much sexier and romanticised in its approach, choosing to forgo the awkwardness for tenderness and passion, but the same desire to showcase male and female sexuality equally is clearly present, as well as a respect and desire to safeguard all of the actors involved. Netflix are undoubtedly revolutionising the way film and TV deal with the subject of sex, and it is so refreshing to see as a viewer.
Bridgerton is ultimately a rousing success. It has brought period dramas into the 21st century, interweaving modern sensibilities and values with dazzling period costumes and settings. It is funny, romantic, thrilling and heart-wrenching all at once, and it’s certainly left this viewer desperate for more.