Bridgerton: Beyond Jane Austen
Updated: Feb 12
Netflix’s new series “Bridgerton” echoes the charisma of Jane Austen novels, except with more excitement, gossip, and scandal. “Bridgerton” is a period piece that follows the English marriage market of the 1800s and follows the Bridgerton family, starring the family’s eldest daughter, Daphne. While Daphne is undoubtedly the hero of our story, the series follows the lives of the Bridgerton family and other families in their community. The series takes place in 19th-century English high society. The series is fun and escapist, featuring several lavish dances, strolls through gardens, and stodgy meetings for tea. The tone of the series is fun and whimsical, even heavy topics are handled delicately. The plot is driven by an anonymous gossip newsletter that floats around the town by the pen name of Lady Whistledown, voiced by Julie Andrews. And of course, the series wouldn’t be complete without instrumental interpretations of pop music including Ariana Grande’s “Thank You, Next” and Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy”.
The series opens with the Bridgerton daughters going to meet the Queen for their assessment in their marriage market. The Queen decides that the protagonist, Daphne, is “flawless”. This sets the stage for the other Bridgerton daughters in the marriage market. After making decisions that would jeopardize her place, she decides to create a false courtship with the series’s lead, Simon Basset, played by Rege-Jean Page. The older adults in this story serve as eager matchmakers who are determined to hold their status in a rigid society. They serve as firm but fair types who are only looking out for their children.
The story follows Daphne and Simon’s pretend courtship, which becomes a true love story. One of the show’s characters, Marina, has been exchanging letters with a suitor when she is sabotaged, then must move past her heartbreak. Eloise Bridgerton serves as the sensible sister, who is shamed for being intelligent. She is given an optimistic outlook when Daphne tells her, “You will make your own way in the world.”
“Bridgerton” is produced by Shonda Rhimes, who also produced “Scandal” and “Grey’s Anatomy”. This is her first scripted project with Netflix and her production company, Shondaland. The Netflix series is based on the Regency romance novels by Julia Quinn. This show is unique in that it depicts a racially diverse cast in which black and white people share societal equality. While the race is not a frequent dialogue during the series, Lady Danbury, played by Adjoa Andoh, tells Simon, “Look at our Queen. Look at our King. Look at their marriage. Look at everything it is doing for us, allowing us to become. We were two different societies divided by color until a king fell in love with one of us. Love, your grace, conquers all.” While Simon continues by disagreeing with her, citing the King’s mental instability, and states, “So, I’m sorry Lady Danbury, we are in disagreement here. Love changes nothing.” This is arguably the only dialogue about race in the series. Like many topics in Bridgerton, issues are approached through subtleties. The stories focus on how each character interacts with their world. Some characters rebel against their strict society, shown through a few hedonistic nightlife scenes. And some work through their social framework, crafting a life for themselves.