Shondaland’s Bridgerton: Does True Love Await the Lady?
A rousing reimagining of Julia Quinn’s bestselling novels
We were all swept off our feet come Christmas day with the release of Netflix’s Bridgerton, created by Chris Van Dusen and produced by Shonda Rhimes—Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal collaborators. The scandalous romance is one of the streaming platform’s biggest original-series launches yet, reported to have a projected 63 million households viewing the show a month since its release.
Based on Julia Quinn’s deliciously raunchy novels, the series follows the affluent Bridgerton family. Eldest daughter Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor) is debuted onto Regency London’s competitive marriage market—fueled by incessant gossip and a lavish display of wealth. Her efforts prove futile and so she seeks help from the cavalier Duke of Hastings, Simon Bassett (Regé-Jean Page). Sparks fly and their faux romance stirs up emotions; does true love await the lady (in waiting)?
Enter Lady Whistedown, voiced by the venerable Julie Andrews, who spills the tea about high society’s drama. The Society Paper’s beloved conspirator is pretty much like Gossip Girl, if she actually had a British accent and spoke in old-fashioned English. (Preview POPSUGAR’s Who Said It: Gossip Girl or Lady Whistledown and thank me later.)
The Lords and Ladies of Whistledown
The Regency era period drama features a diverse and multiracial set of characters like Penelope Featherington, Nicola Coughlan from Derry Girls (stop reducing her to the size of her body!), and Queen Charlotte, Golda Rosheuvel from Lady Macbeth.
Say no more, Your Grace. Meet the swoon-worthy ladies and lords of Bridgerton who are at the mercy of the elusive Lady Whistledown’s pen. And here’s a fascinating peek at behind-the-scenes from the set to satiate your appetite!
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For purists, it’s worth noting that this historical drama (set in 1813 London) isn’t historically accurate, which, if you ask me, actually contributes to the show’s spellbinding appeal. The inclusion of black characters raises eyebrows, especially at a time when most people of color in Britain were relegated to domestic work, but this is obviously intentional. Showrunner Chris Van Dusen shares that they wanted the series to “reflect the world that we live in today.”
All erotic behavior must be preserved for the bedroom, too, even if historians “view the Georgian period, which includes the Regency era, as the real sexual revolution in the Western world.” Women then must remain chaste to be considered “virtuous.” The Duke, who refuses to have children, is also implausible, with noble men often agreeing to marriage to secure the dynasty. A more comprehensive look at the historical accuracy here.
As eligible young men and women from aristocratic families navigate courtship, marriage and sex—lots of it (*fans self*)—in Bridgerton, we see how far we’ve progressed as a society. Case in point: consenting to a duel with your sister’s potential partner AKA your best friend over her “dissolution,” since it puts her reputation at risk. Women trudge through a life limited by the narrow standards of society. It’s reminiscent of Florence Pugh’s Little Women monologue: “So don’t sit there and tell me that marriage isn’t an economic proposition, because it is. It may not be for you but it most certainly is for me.”
Historical accuracy aside, Bridgerton is, in essence, a fairy tale and coming-of-age romance for all the Daphnes in the world. Make haste and get to it!
PSA: Listen to the fascinating score on Spotify by Kris Bowers and the Vitamin String Quartet featuring pop songs like Ariana Grande’s thank u, next and Billy Eilish’s bad guy.
Stream Bridgerton only on Netflix.
Header and Photos Netflix
Art Alexandra Lara