The one-year anniversary of the first COVID-19 case has come and gone, and for many, finding new and interesting ways to occupy oneself has become increasingly difficult as the months go by. But amid all of the bread-baking, exercising and puzzle-solving, one source of entertainment seems to be practically universally reliable: great television.
"Bridgerton" was happy to deliver. The Netflix series, released on Christmas Day, has taken the world (and the internet) by storm, blowing viewership projection rates out of the water and serving as a popular topic for social media users, particularly on TikTok.
The show was created by television producer Shonda Rhimes who also produced the popular programs "Grey’s Anatomy" and "Scandal." If "Bridgerton’s" 82 million views are any indication, it seems that Rhimes has crafted another hit.
The show centers around protagonist Daphne as she navigates her way through the gossip-filled and competitive high-society marriage market of early 19th century London. And while its attractive leads, sexy romances and generally interesting premise may have drawn audiences in, "Bridgerton" offers that and so much more.
The series initially reads like an old-timey "Gossip Girl," narrated by a similarly watchful gossip columnist who mercilessly commentates on the entertaining happenings of the market from beginning to end. But when, in the very first episode, a decadent ball is set to a string quartet rendition of Ariana Grande’s “Thank U, Next,” it becomes clear that the show is a bit more ambitious than initially expected.
This modern musical twist continues throughout the series, going on to include hits from the likes of Billie Eilish and Taylor Swift, alongside several other popular 21st century artists. While this small addition adds some energy and uniqueness to the show, it certainly isn’t the only way Bridgerton breaks away from the mold of other period pieces.
For one thing, the show boasts an incredibly diverse cast, which has served as a major source of both praise and backlash from audiences.
Bridgerton has been commended by some for casting people of color alongside white actors in lead roles. In opposition, some have criticized the show for not doing enough to talk about race issues and even implicitly furthering the issue by denying Black characters lines and positive attributes as compared to their white counterparts.
Furthermore, just as with "Hamilton," other critics have knocked the show’s casting diversity for its lack of historical accuracy.
But in this regard, "Bridgerton" is pretty good for what it is. For one thing, the show isn’t supposed to be entirely historically accurate, and it doesn’t claim to be. What "Bridgerton" offers is escapism, a fantasy-land rooted in some reality that also takes a lot of liberties in the spirit of true historical fiction. Perhaps the solution for dissatisfied history fans is to think of "Bridgerton" as its own genre altogether or to take a moment and realize why diversity on television is so important to begin with.
In addition to featuring a racially diverse cast, "Bridgerton" can be commended for its social commentary, especially when it comes to gender roles. The show has clear feminist undertones that make impressive efforts to empower strong female characters and represent the plights of women throughout history and in the modern world.
The show certainly doesn’t deal with the issues of systemic racism and sexism perfectly by any means. Despite the representation of people of color and some small plot points, "Bridgerton" doesn’t have much obvious commentary on discrimination or racial issues at all.
It is, however, a step in the right direction.
The choices made on "Bridgerton" reflect the ongoing desire of television writers and producers to be more raw, empathetic and most importantly, unapologetically inclusive. While this show may not have gotten it completely right, it will no doubt serve as a base for future projects to build on and is definitely worth a watch.