After seeing people rave about it all over social media, I finally caved during the last week of winter break and watched the eight-episode Netflix series Bridgerton… in a total of two days. Shonda Rhimes’ Bridgerton is a fantastic modern take on a traditional 19th century courtship story of the eligible elite seeking love in high society, and I encourage all Gossip Girl and Jane Austen lovers to watch it.
While the general plot was highly predictable, the romance, extravagance, and modern twists made it difficult to stop watching. The show takes place during the peak London social season, when Lady Violet Bridgerton tries to help her eldest daughter, Daphne, in her quest for an unlikely “love match” with Duke Simon Hastings. In addition, London’s 19th century Gossip Girl, Lady Whistledown (the voiceover of Julie Andrews, of course), publishes anonymous gossip pamphlets that are as good as gospel. Her clever reports on the social scene not only move the plot along, but spice up the show with a great deal of controversy.
One of my favorite parts of the show was each episode’s visuals. The courting season means nothing other than grand balls — at least one per episode — and each is a spectacle of their own that can be summarized in one word: lavishness. The ballroom walls are lined with gold-framed artwork, the tables filled with all types of food, and each young woman sparkles in impressive jewelry. Best of all, the balls entail weekly trips to Modiste, the upscale gown shop in London. The vivacious and intricately-crafted ball gowns alone were enough to keep me hooked.
Bridgerton includes fictional details interspersed with hints of history. Most notably, Bridgerton features an interracial cast; even Queen Charlotte is of mixed race. Despite a brief explanation that King George III’s marriage to the queen solved racial tensions, there are no other acknowledgements of this casting decision. Race is not a central theme of the plot; it simply exists. The casting provided an intriguing twist, challenging the norm that fantasy TV show casts are all white.
The show includes other progressive details as well; for example, Daphne’s sister Eloise wants to seek a path that doesn’t involve marriage and children. Though this plotline attempts to make the female characters more three-dimensional, Eloise, who always trots around with a book in hand, felt a little cliché. Additionally, some modern twists felt out of place altogether, like an orchestral take on Ariana Grande’s “Thank You, Next” at the first ball which was bizarre enough to bring me out of the narrative.
Despite a few plotlines that fell flat, Bridgerton’s old-new storyline, scandal, and aesthetic details make it an entertaining show that’s great for binge-watching during quarantine.