Love in the time of Regency Era: Bridgerton

Originally posted: Jan 9, 2021

I decided to take a break from writing about food boxes and decided to write about something new today. I’m working on my reviews of a few more food box services and I’ll post part 2 of the food box review soon. I’ve been in a state of ennui lately. I couldn’t meet my friends over the holidays because of the lockdown in Toronto and I’ve just been binge watching various movies and shows.

Having spent the last few days of December re-watching movies based on Jane Austen’s books, I was delighted to see that a show based on a regency era book had premiered on Netflix. It’s called Bridgerton and it’s hard not to miss learning about the show thanks to the PR blitz.

Now, I don’t read most romance books. I find them funny. I’m not kidding; I find them laugh out loud funny. Call me a cynic, but I can’t handle how lame the situations are. Of course, I’m nothing if not a woman of contradictions. I love Judith McNaught’s romance books. I can read and re-read “Whitney, my love” and “A Kingdom of Dreams” any number of times. Also, Danielle Steele’s books that are not about romance like “The Long Road Home” which deals with domestic violence. What can I say, I’m a glutton for cold reality.

I decided to watch Bridgerton and I must say, I like it. Do I love it and cherish it, like say, Star Trek or Derry Girls? No. Will I watch it a second time? I don’t think so. Was it worth watching once? Yes.

Image source: Indiewire

Here’s what I liked about the series:

  • The cast was diverse. I liked the idea of using a diverse cast to create an almost utopia, but there’s a flip side to it that I’ll talk about later in this post. Not to nit pick but I didn’t see too many asian or Latinx cast members, but I’m fine with that. Phoebe Dynevor looks every part a regency woman. If I had to close my eyes and imagine a typical Regency woman in a Regency romance, it would be her. Rége, let’s admit, is the catnip. The boy is either in his birthday suit romping on the grounds of Hastings or in a fight, duel or boxing match. And, oh yeah, that mirror has a third face – if he isn’t romping or boxing, he’s angry with everyone. He’s very handsome, and I saw glimpses of good acting skills in the scene where he goes to meet Phoebe (who plays Daphe Bridgerton) before leaving London and I hope he gets to work on something substantial next. Penelope Featherington and Eloise Bridgerton are my favorites. My favorite actress was cast to play the role of Penelope – Nicole Coughlan. I’ve liked her ever since I saw her in Derry Girls. Eloise Bridgerton is, as the kids say, my spirit animal and the actress, Claudia Jessie, does a great job of playing Eloise. I have to stop here because the entire cast is spectacular.
  • The costumes and the sets are just breathtaking. The colors, the fabrics, every thing is beautiful. It’s like being in a Wes Anderson romance but with way more warmth.
  • The music is amazing. Using classical music and instrumental versions of popular songs was such a great idea. The dances were great too – I liked the Gallop in the end. Hope they include an entire Viennese waltz in the next season. I loved that they used the recomposed version of Vivaldi’s Spring instead of the original Spring. Vivaldi’s original composition is too familiar and wouldn’t have lent a freshness that Max Richter’s composition brings.
Recomposed version of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, by Max Richter
The original Four Seasons by Vivaldi
  • Shonda Rhimes as the executive producer. Shonda, I think, has the golden touch. She can take any concept or support any idea and bring it to life. The only problem is that her shows tend to be drawn out and too long. I watched the first few seasons of Grey’s Anatomy, How to Get Away with Murder and Scandal, but lost interest after too many twists. Luckily, it looks like Bridgerton has a fixed number of books and we may actually get some good seasons.

What I didn’t like was:

  • My worry with using a diverse cast in a predominantly white story is the loss of historical perspective. It’s not like it hasn’t been done before – Hamilton, Les Miserables and Much Ado About Nothing (1993) – have all had diverse casts. But I hope that our education system gives the young teens and generations that follow a strong understanding of the black experience. There is a lot of pain and suffering in black history, which I hope, these audiences are aware of while watching this show. Even today, there isn’t equality as portrayed in the show. I understand the conflict that Shonda and her team must be facing: this is a feel-good show and not necessarily the right place to discuss in length the black struggle but this show is also a way to help black actors move away from playing stereotypical roles. Here I must mention that Lady Danbury talks about color and being equal because the King married a black woman. But that’s just a passing reference.
  • For a while now, I’ve been reading about consent and men being raped by women. I must admit I never thought it a possibility. But I’ve been reading a few reddit forums about it and I agree with the criticism of the show being lenient when dealing with consent. Consent is a two way street. And while the books may have been written a while ago, the topic could’ve been addressed in the show. I think the show struggles with what can remain old and what can be modernized. Consent isn’t part of the original story and changing it would change the story.

In conclusion, if you like romances or period pieces, this is a great watch. After the cr*ppy 2020 we’ve had, it’s a good show to well Netflix and Chill (I mean that in every sense of that term; those steamy scenes are pretty intense). It is what it says it is – a regency romance – nothing more or less. Fair warning though, some parts of it can be jarring. Because of the way the show is created, there are a few situations where the characters refer to something that we have updated knowledge of and you have to remind yourself that it is a show based on the Regency Era.

Featured Image: from Netflix

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