An Original Period Drama: Review of Netflix’s Bridgerton

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Kristen Sheng, Entertainment and Arts Section Editor

“Bridgerton,” a Netflix series set in 19th century London, was released on December 25, 2020. Based on the Bridgerton novel series written by Julia Quinn, the show follows the lives of several families in high society through a season of finding romantic pursuits during the Regency Era. It focuses on the Bridgerton family, which includes Violet (Ruth Gemmell), a widowed mother, and her eight children. Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor) is a debutante and is deemed as the one to watch by the Queen (Golda Rosheuvel). Simultaneously, a new anonymous gossip column written by Lady Whistledown (voiced by Julia Andrews) becomes widely popular and uncovers scandals within high-class society. As Anthony, the eldest Bridgerton son, interrupts Daphne’s chances of finding suitors, Daphne is lost in how to find a husband until the highly sought after Duke of Hastings, Simon Bassett (Regé-Jean Page), convinces her to formulate a facade with him, given that he has no intention of ever marrying. With such, the pair is able to fool society and Lady Whistledown into believing that the Duke has the intention of courting Daphne, leading to her gaining numerous callers and him losing the mob of single ladies and their mothers chasing after him. Quickly, Daphne and Simon’s acquaintance turns to friendship. Meanwhile, other powerful families, such as the Featheringtons and the Cowpers, are also navigating their daughters through society. Through a broad range of storylines, “Bridgerton” develops and displays several multi-dimensional characters, including Eloise Bridgerton, the second eldest Bridgerton daughter (Claudia Jessie), who resents a woman’s role in society and her need to marry, and Lady Danbury, the Duke’s guardian, a prominent independent woman who was essential to Simon’s upbringing. 

Set in an alternate society, “Bridgerton” includes many current aspects such as classical versions of modern popular music and diversity in significant roles while keeping the authenticity of the Regency Era through its costumes. Some covers of recent hits by a string quartet in the series are “thank u, next” by Ariana Grande, “Girls Like You” by Maroon 5, and “Wildest Dreams” by Taylor Swift. By incorporating unique details such as this, “Bridgerton” can be set apart from other period shows and creates a relatable aspect for the audience. Much of the cast, including the male lead, is portrayed by people of color. Although unsurprising considering “Bridgerton” was produced by Shondaland, the show has received criticism for seeming historically inaccurate for a period drama. The cast has responded with support for the way the show was casted. Regé-Jean Page said, “I get to exist as a Black person in the world. It doesn’t mean I’m a slave. It doesn’t mean we have to focus on trauma. It just means we get to focus on Black joy and humanity.” While race was not a significantly prominent topic of conversation throughout the show, Black characters understood its importance to their identity.  “Bridgerton” brings out differences between characters through their costumes while keeping fashion true to that of the 19th century. “The costume team came to 238 people […] In the end, there were about 7,500 pieces,” said Emmy award winning costume designer Ellen Mirojnick. Throughout the show, extravagant dresses and sumptuous suits were prominent, considering the characters attended elaborate events regularly. The costumes truly transport the viewer to a different century. “Bridgerton” is an original period drama that separated itself from stereotypical productions set in the Regency Era. 

Personally, I enjoyed “Bridgerton” very much. It tells an incredible love story between Daphne and Simon while keeping supporting characters relevant. The show repeatedly reinforced the importance of family, which was relevant to the time when the slightest scandal could bring shame to the whole family. “Bridgerton” brought attention to gender norms during the 19th century while simultaneously altering racial norms. I highly recommend this show if you enjoy period dramas and romance stories. The Lady Whistledown aspect and her gossip column reminded me of the similarity in “Gossip Girl.” “Bridgerton” has received tremendous amounts of praise including a 92% rating from Rotten Tomatoes, which I think is well deserved. However, it is rated TV-MA, which means it is recommended for mature audiences (18+) since it includes mature language and content.