All Things TV: Review – Bridgerton (Updated)

Dearest reader, Many, many, many moons ago, when Amazon Prime Video was in its wee beginnings (if felt like the beta stages), I was that customer that pestered them repeatedly on how my BSG or various movie videos weren’t downloading/streaming properly. We exchanged many emails—or, rather, I emailed them and they give me $1 credits towards future purchases probably just to get me off their backs. I harassed them continuously on when they would be getting the tenth season of Friends until they finally did—I thank them profusely for that because all their videos saved my mental health at that time. (Netflix was still big on delivering DVDs and their streaming site had few good movies and shows as it was in their early stages of licensing content.)

Eventually later, before Amazon started creating and producing their own shows, they sent out a survey about what kind of shows that I wanted to see them create and produce—I let them know right off: Adaptations of historical romance novels. I even made them a list. I may or may not have listed the Bridgerton novels—I cannot remember. With every survey they sent me, I implored them that this was a very important overlooked genre and that whoever decided to venture into it would find a wealth and goldmine of content, especially amongst women. I am paraphrasing what I wrote—I cannot remember exactly; I was emphatic about adapting historical romance novels into series and that it was imperative to the history of women period. What I didn’t know that apparently there was a sexist asshole in charge of content. (Remember the fantastic show Good Girls Revolt and that cancellation?). So, I’m sure my suggestion and begging was dismissed the same as the Good Girls Revolt’s second season was.

My point? Since the age of twelve, I have been longing to see adaptations of historical romance novels. Historical romance novels was where I learned about sex and my rights and feminism and the unfair caste system and even the vagaries of history. Historical romance is a sociopolitically and culturally underappreciated and overlooked genre that never seems to get the respect it so deserves, most especially from the publishing industry and Lala Land. The melodrama and sentimentality within are dismissed as frivolous and ridiculed as unimportant and foolish—even superficial or overly optimistic, words from a recent positive review of the show. These stories have been and continue to be so very important to women and a cultural and sociopolitical history that is often rejected and caricatured as silly and insignificant.

Of the many, many discussions these adaptions would evoke: the violence and cost of beauty, the refusal and significance to discuss or teach sex education and masturbation, the cultural and historical whitewashing of history, the chicanery of the aristocracy and the feudal system, the history of dubious consent, arranged marriages, white feminism, and so much more.

We need these adaptations now more than ever. Not just as escapism, but as a means of anthropological, artistic and cultural survival.

Bridgerton is beautiful. It is a cultural behemoth of epic proportions for women and men alike—an exquisite artistic milestone unlike any of its kind. It has the cultural significance and equivalence of Hamilton. The fantastic cast, costumes, colors and set design, music, locations, cinematography, editing, production, makeup, hair, food, dances, direction, adaptation, melodrama, sentimentality, romance, sociopolitical issues, and most importantly, the sex(!!) render a refreshing and unique perspective unlike anything prior. 2020’s redemption lives within Bridgerton and how it will transcend and grow into a thriving visual genre—an entertainment solution to the grisly nihilistic dystopian category, faux impractical superheroes and their obsessive imperious cult-like stans, the subsequent Trumpian and pandemic years of doom and gloom and the carnage of death and disease of body and mind and demise of democracy it conjures; a renewal of hope and optimism, of romance and love, desire, redemption, forgiveness and a collective unity; a convergence of everything wonderful with a true representation, friendship and intimacy; and most importantly, of conversation, education and equality. This show actually makes me hopeful for the future. If that makes me a sentimental fool, so be it.

From the character of Marina and her story, to the ignorance and discussions of sex from Daphne touching herself to that provocative scene at the end of ep 6, each scene builds upon the many layers of what it means to be a woman, or even a man in a patriarchal world. It’s a beautiful piece of art, intricate and deconstructing in such vivacious striking details and most importantly, it is hopeful. Its hope is in love, romance, passion, happily everafters and redemptions of assholes and their ilk along with challenging oppressive systems of the aristocracy, of the patriarchy and anything unjust. I loved it so, so much. I cannot wait for more! We need these now more than ever. That the showrunner is a white male, Chris Van Dusen, gave me a teethgrinding pause for obvious power reasons—he did a wonderful job though guided by Shonda Rhimes and their fantastic team of professionals and I give him oodles of credit for that: Bravo and thank you. I hope and I urge other creators to think about adapting more historical romance novels à la Bridgerton.

Updated 28 DEC 2020: There has been some talk about the provocative scene in the last ten minutes of episode six. Some have called it rape—I will refer to it as dubious consent given the power dynamics of that circumstance and era and the context of the situation (if you’re unfamiliar with the men-women power dynamics of that era, I recommend you brush up on your women’s history; Daphne is chattel; she has no power in that relationship; she is a piece of property—all women are; what power she has, she takes sometimes at the cost of others; where Daphne succeeded, Marina failed as is often, unfortunately, the case between amongst white and BIPOC women or rich and poor women—in all eras; the show excelled illustrating this distinction). The discussion regarding dubious consent or rape and that scene is a much needed discussion and one we should continue having—always. I am concerned that some are suggesting it be edited or removed—I strongly disagree. I have stated my objection before about how rape or dubious consent scenes should not be eliminated or censored to the point of removal and I stand by that. We need to be able to tell our stories, most especially about rape or dubious consent or any sexual trauma, notably men because they are ‘silent victims’ of sexual assault and this story gives them a voice or possibly the courage to speak about such acts. But this was fiction, you add—if you believe something like this has never happened in the history of humanity, you are being incredibly naïve. These scenes should not be removed; they should be handled with care and they should be discussed, but absolutely not eliminated lest we circle back to where we started where these acts are silent violations and their victims suffer alone and reticent to come forward and tell their stories. We have many mediums at which to criticize; some even have the privilege of getting paid to critique and complain; I encourage you to utilize that and I remind you that not everyone in the world has the agency or fortitude or power to speak up about such violations and often suffer in a brutal silence; these stories could give them hope or at least tell them THEY ARE NOT ALONE. Perhaps Daphne should’ve done what Alana and Margot did to Mason Verger on Hannibal and stick a cattle prod up his ass to stimulate his prostate for ejaculation then use a turkey baster to get pregnant, eh? That certainly would’ve been a twist and one I would’ve cackled maniacally to.

Updated 29 DEC 2020: Your perspective is limited when you think that rape/non-con/dub-con stories only harm or disturb victims; could it be possible that the stories give them the hope and courage to speak about their experiences and heal?

Updated 29 DEC 2020: This is an informative, interesting and recommended thread on the power dynamics white, black, man, woman and why, by not calling it ‘rape’, we cause harm. Here’s another from a sex educator. Another tweet.

Updated 29 DEC 2020: ‘Two-pump chump‘. 🤣

Updated 29 DEC 2020: I’ve always found it helpful in my learning process to ask the right questions and boot the ego (meaning don’t be a whiny little bitch), if that helps. For example, does Simon have a right/entitlement to Daphne’s uterus? Could she tell him no, she doesn’t want children? What if she gets pregnant, what happens then (see Marina’s storyline)? Does Daphne have a right/entitlement to Simon’s ‘seed’? What happens if she gets pregnant? Etc. This is removing race from the situation, but keeping with the time period. It is reductive and cruel to insult and belittle someone when they’re attempting to learn. You demonstrate your capacity to be a bully when you do. A lot of us are slow learners. And, a reminder, I have a dark sense of humor and am flippant on many occasions along with gallows humor and give zero fucks if you care for it or not; it is a survival and self-preservation mechanism. You need not read—move along then. Now, where were we…when were cattle prods invented?? Wikipedia states 1930. Damn.

Update: Now I REALLY, REALLY want someone to adapt this book. Imagine the conversations then.

Update: I urge you to continue listening, learning, asking questions, and discussing—I know I will. I am finished updating this post though. I find, in my experience, it rarely helps to lecture someone that has no interest in listening and learning; they usually need to find enlightenment on their own. May we all be enlightened and entertained by Queen Shonda, her knowledge, creativity and her illustrious crew—all hail!

Update 21-JAN-2021: I know I said I wasn’t going to update this post anymore…I lied. I read two reviews that leaned more towards academic and while I don’t agree with everything that’s written, they are far more educational and informative than the other reviews—‘Bridgerton’ Isn’t Bad Austen — It’s An Entirely Different Genre by Claire Fallon and The Black Ton: From Bridgerton to Love & Hip-Hop by Tressie McMillan Cottom. I’m also waiting for someone to start the discussion on how utilizing depictions of sex in this visual genre could have a more positive effect for our ever problematic boys and men and how they treat women or their sexual partners—at least start the discussion. With the rise of online porn, this is an opportunity for this genre to welcome and explore that in patriarchy, especially if someone decides to do the pirate (SEA SHANTIES!!) or medieval (hyper-masculinity delusions of grandeur) historical romance genre in this anachronistic style given that these would attract more male eyes in addition to the women. Anachronism need not be bad; this style can be utilized as an altruistic social force given you employ a certain suspension of disbelief awareness—if you can do it for superheroes and witches and warlocks and aliens, you can do it for this genre.

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