By Batia Segal
What is Bridgerton?
Bridgerton is a drama series set in the Regency era of England and follows the lives of the high status Bridgerton family. There’s a special focus on the family’s oldest daughter, Daphne. The series opens with Daphne getting ready for the new social season of arranging matches for marriage while the town is buzzing about the show’s narrator and town gossip, Lady Whistledown. Lady Whistledown sells gossip papers about London’s high society and her identity remains a mystery throughout the series.
After getting ready for her debut, Daphne enters the ball of awaiting potential suitors. The night begins decently, but Daphne’s older brother, Anthony, pushes away every man that approaches Daphne because he does not see them as fit for his sister. Because of this, Daphne is no longer viewed as desirable. Later on, we are introduced to the Duke of Hastings, Simon. Unwilling to get married, he has the opposite issue as Daphne since people keep pestering him to settle down. After a couple of clumsy encounters, Daphne and Simon decide it is a good idea to pretend to date to make Daphne seem more desirable and Simon seem unavailable, giving them both what they want. As the cliche of romantic dramas tend to play out, from here on out, their tumultuous romance begins. What makes the series different from others is that Bridgerton adds a modern flavor to the Regency era of England. It achieves this mainly by incorporating the common cliche of “love trumps all” and twenty first century ideas of feminism into early nineteenth century England.
One thing that I really loved about Bridgerton is the theme of love trumps all. Although a common trope, Bridgerton brings this idea to an era when love is undervalued as an integral aspect of a marriage. In the Regency era, marriage is simply seen as a business arrangement to either maintain a family’s social status or climb higher on the social ladder. For instance, Simon does not want children for the most of the series. We later learn that the reason is because his father treated him so badly that he refused to produce an heir for his father as a way to get revenge against him. Now, he meets Daphne and eventually falls in love with her. Him falling in love with her gave him the outlet to be able to overcome his childhood trauma and break away from his father’s hold. On the other hand, Daphne’s main concern is to marry someone she loves, even if that person cannot give her children. For instance, she marries Simon knowing that he “cannot” have children. In this case, her love for Simon trumps her other personal desires.
Another thing I appreciate about the series is their emphasis on the importance of honesty and communication in a relationship. For example, when Daphne marries Simon, she is under the impression that he cannot have children which is false. Simon tells her this in order to not reveal the true reason for him not wanting to have kids. Because he keeps this secret, they run into many issues, but if they had open communication they would have had the opportunity to work through the problem together.
A notable character in the series is Eloise, Daphne’s younger sister with the ambition of becoming a writer. While Daphne is symbolic of the girl who wants what the Regency society expects of women, Eloise is symbolic of the girl who wants the exact opposite. She wants to go to University, become educated about the world and be self sufficient without the need for a man. Unlike today where many women can choose to do as they please, Eloise lives in an era where she is not allowed to go to University or has barely any say in how she wants to lead her life. In other words, Eloise is the twenty-first century girl who is forced into nineteenth century norms. I particularly liked this character because despite not having the resources at her disposal she always maintains a certain curiosity about the world around her and is ambitious about finding answers to her questions. For example, her search to find the true identity of Lady Whistledown, she takes her time to look for clues and tries to trick her into revealing herself, but to no avail.
Another thing I think is worth mentioning is the fact that both Daphne and Eloise both actively “choose” the way they want to live their life. This trait is more obvious of Eloise because she is overtly contrasting societal expectations, but it is important to note that Daphne does not simply conform either. Daphne chooses who she wants to marry, despite her brother wanting to choose for her. Some may argue that she is not really choosing, rather she is a product of the constricting society and is simply blending in. This is not the case. It is clear from the way that she rejects Anthony’s suggestion and chooses to stay with Simon. From this example alone we learn that Daphne is as much a “feminist” character as Eloise.
All in all, Bridgerton is a wonderful series full of amazing actors and interesting characters. The production value is phenomenal from the sets to the costume designs to the orchestral versions of modern music. I highly recommend it.