Netflix’s most recent period drama is like the love child of ‘Gossip Girl’ and ‘Anna Karenina’. I know, that’s a bold comparison to make, but do we expect any less from its creator, the great Shonda Rhimes?
Is it historically accurate? That’s unlikely. However, it did shine a fine light on the politics and schemes of London’s elite society amid a promiscuous courting season. It’s almost like watching a wildlife documentary, except there are obnoxiously loud dresses and classical covers of modern music.
Namely pop sensation Ariana Grande’s ‘Thank U, Next’ and a splash of Billie Eilish’s ‘Bad Guy’ for good measure.
Sure, the focus is placed on the juicy rivalry between two powerful families: The Bridgerton’s, primarily the lovely Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor) herself. Our capable main character who is searching for a husband to secure her future, as such is the life of a woman in the 1800’s. The other is the messy Featherington family who arguably hosting some of the most interesting storylines.
Keep an eye out on those ladies. If you think the scheming mother Portia Featherington (Polly Walker) knows her stuff, you’re in for a surprise. Keep one eye on her and the other on the shows sweetheart Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan) she’s the one wearing the begrudged yellow dresses who deserves better.
But, in true Shonda fashion, none matters without the other.
Earlier, I mentioned Gossip Girl and that theme holds throughout the series. After all, we are soon introduced to the mysterious and all-knowing ‘Lady Whistledown’ who I am dubbing as Gossip Girls great-great-grandmother.
Instead of hiding behind a computer screen, our whistleblower instead writes a gossip newsletter. One that is narrated by the sensational Julie Andrews. Sorry, Kirsten Bell, but you have some fierce competition.
One that ruffles more than a few feathers throughout the season. She is our narrator who positively infuriates the eccentric Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel), who is given such an entertaining personality that you can’t help but relate.
Not to mention, there is always an expose in every episode. Something watchers such as ourselves crave, especially when we know secrets about almost everyone. Especially the Featherton’s supposed delightful cousin, Marina Barker (Ruby Barker), who arrives just in time for the fun, but she already had some herself that lands her in some precarious situations.
What might be the best part of this costume drama is the sexiness. I’m not talking about the oiled half-naked boxing men (although, they are mentionable) but I’m talking about the sex. Sex in period dramas is so fun because it’s so taboo.
The last thing I expected our dashing main man, Simon the Duke of Hastings (Regé-Jean Page), to tell our darling leading lady Daphne to “touch herself”. This is fun itself, but it leads to a more timeless issue surrounding women not being fully educated on sexual health and the implications that can lead to later in life.
And especially in marriage.
Now that we’re casually on the topic, marriage is made exciting again. There’s none of this ‘they meet, they fall in love, they live happily ever after’ clichés here. Instead, it’s more of a ‘they meet, they plot, they fall in love, and they make mistakes’ which is much more realistic.
Plus, there are a few different types of marriage to look over here. The real kind, the boring kind, the embarrassing kind, and the I-want-to-kill-my-useless-husband kind. One thing Bridgerton does not lack is diversity.
And this can be seen in the casting choice. After all, our main couple is inter-racial which does allow for some applause. We don’t get to see it often, especially in a period drama, but they didn’t focus on race.
For once, romance was not dwindled down to ethnicity: it was about the grand game of gossip. All our characters are human and not defined by the colour of their skin.
Unless they were blushing at their secrets being typed into society.
Because between the scandal of exposed abandoned secret children and gambling debt, there are lies and affairs. All very sexy and oh-so entertaining. Not to mention a close look at women being paraded into the marital cattle market like lambs to the slaughters.
Think ‘Dance Moms’ only they win a domesticated life rather than a trophy.
It’s one of those series that will enrage you at the same time though. I won’t lie, there were some anti-climatic moments which were infuriating. Watchers go into a period drama looking for a romance of a lifetime, a woman breaking free from her tight ribbons and perfection.
Whilst we do get that, it doesn’t come easy.
London becomes a battleground in a sense. Mothers parade their daughters like prize-winning mares and the men screw around at their own pleasure. There are a few traditional clichés in that sense, but we’d be boring if they weren’t there.
One cliché that stood out was women fixing men. Ah yes, let us not forget the ‘Anna Karenina’ aspect of the eight-part series. Surprising, it is our flirtatious Duke of Hastings that has the trauma, coming from a neglected childhood that festered a great hatred of his father in his soul.
It’s one of the main focuses of the series because of the implications such hate has. Although, the way it was handled was less than cliché; because it was done through sex. Usually, in period dramas, men choose to marry for the sole purpose of creating an heir, however, this is the very reason the Duke of Hastings chose not to marry.
Not that it lasted very long. Side-note: Never will you see such a magnificent pull-out method.
And although there are dark notes, it is a decently funny series. There are obvious quips at the expense of society’s outrageous social norms and pearl-clutching moments. You’ll fall in love with a character and the want to throttle them. If anything, ‘Bridgerton’ will keep you on your toes, and maybe open your eyes to other people’s predicaments.
Luckily for you, you can stream all eight episodes on Netflix right now.
Featured image credit: WhatsonNetflix.com
Deputy Editor of Brig Newspaper. Fourth year journalism and English student at the University of Stirling. Lover of covering social issues and creator of 'The Talk' column for everyone who needs to hear it.