Updated: Apr 20, 2022
When was the last time you watched a period drama series or flick that could be so bold...alas so brazen, with diverse leads and casts to captivate a modern viewership in the hundreds of millions showcasing 19th Century English aristocrats and elites?
Bridgerton so boldly crosses that fine line with Executive Producer, Shona Rimes and Creator, Chris Van Dusen at the helm. With two strong diverse individuals in their own manner at the top, it goes without saying Bridgerton or any series under their watch was always going to be contentious and full of diverse casting to capture the modern audience.
As a target audience identified by Netflix's algorithm, I was completely not interested in Bridgerton. After watching five seconds of Season 1's trailer, my exact thoughts were, "Not another boring Victorian show about privileged British folk trying to find love with their prescribed cold personas while treating everyone else like slaves. Surely, the world has moved on from wispy English daughters and re-iterations of Mr Darcy?"
And, so I dismissed Bridgerton from my list.
Rolling forward to April 2022 and under covid19 isolation, I finally gave Bridgerton a go. With no social engagements or external distractions, Episode 1 pulled me right in.
Gasp. The Queen of England is a shade darker than all the Queens of England I have ever seen on screen!
The Duke, Simon Basset, is dark and handsome, and brooding. He broods not in the sense of Robert Pattinson, but because The Duke is overwhelmed by beauties of all shades at his feet! I wonder if Mr Darcy would envy Simon Basset?
Not only is the series so bold with Black American representation in the English aristocracy, Season 2 delights the screen with two leading Asians, nay Indian talent of dark and light screen representation. This is why Bridgerton is in a league of its own. It appeals to the wider viewership in the modern world where bias and discrimination is being challenged. The brains behind the series have carefully crafted a long awaited show smashing screen bias, embedding diverse roles and adapting to cultural sense and sensibilities.
It goes without saying the show raises a few eyebrows or for some, low brows on its interpretation of the British Empire's conquest across continents. It has without a doubt rustled a few feathers in its own subtle way on what the British monarchy stands for today, and its attitude toward race and acceptance.
The timing of Bridgerton and what the Monarchy represents today is impeccable. If we paired the journey of Hollywood sweet heart, Meghan Markle's marriage to Prince Harry and production of Bridgerton, one might spot the subtle junctures between the British Empire's past and the British Royal family in modern times.
While Meghan was busy preparing for her wedding, cogs were already in the works on an adaptation of Julia Quinn's Bridgerton. The original characters in the romance novels were certainly a consistent shade to the paper the story was printed on.
Could Meghan Markle's status as a real life Duchess have inspired the adaptation for a Duke with similar heritage?
Why stop there?
The Duchess is second in line to the Royal throne one day. If this is modern history in the making, then it is quite possible for the Queen in Bridgerton to depict the larger African diaspora and Black communities across continents.
That sparkle in Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's awe inspiring wedding in May 2018 started to fad as quickly as London's fog set in for another day. What was meant to be an historical moment of acceptance and inclusion from centuries of British Empire oppression, instead the true colours of Britons surfaced at the root of its causes and through public sentiments. Strings of royal racial allegations of the Duchess splashed across the British tabloids and news of public mistreatment spread like wildfire.
Race is an unresolved issue in the UK. Systemic at its core and trickling to the edges of a fading Empire. Which finally led the happily ever after royal couple to flee England for friendlier Hollywood circles.
The British Empire was once an unrivalled super-power from the 16th to 19th Century through colonisation and a labour force that drew millions of slaves from Africa and India.
According to the UK National Archives, over 3.1 million African slaves and 2.5 million Indian slaves were transported to British colonies as far as North America, the Caribbean, South America, South East Asia and further afield.
Was it by chance that Season 1 of Bridgerton was a subtle dedication to the people of African descent by strategically casting The Queen and The Duke as a statement of power to the people who suffered the most under the British Empire? A sore point in history at the expense of thousands of lives and displaced millions of African from their motherland. But what if, history had been different. What if the Empire had been more civilised and saw eye to eye with the African people as equals? Would Bridgerton be the truth rather than a fantasy period drama?
Season 2 cemented this particular Rimes-Van Dusen magic formula and pathed the way for South Asian representation. Unlike the original Bridgerton novels, the story of the Sheffield sisters was cleverly adapted to the Sharma Sisters of Indian origin to win the heart of the eldest Bridgerton son, Anthony. Subtle South Asian designs and colours were tastefully blended in the sister's garments as well as culturally sensitive pre-wedding rituals and references. However, some may shun at the series graphic adult scenes before marriage.
With the conclusion of Season 2 and talks of Netflix renewal for Seasons 3 and 4, one can only wonder what the wonderful and brazen Executive Producers, Rimes-Van Dusen duo will concoct next.
Perhaps their next dedication is to the people of South East Asia. Would the lead be a charming Sultan Prince from the Malaccas or a coming of age beauty from Penang studying art with the charming Benedict Bridgerton?
Either way, if you're yearning for period drama of a reality tv nature, check out The Courtship. Despite the fact The Courtship could never replace the real Bridgerton, nevertheless, it is still on the theme of love and war. And, chivalry has never looked so handsome while we all anticipate with abated breath for Bridgerton's Season 3 release date.