Based on Julia Quinn’s best selling novels, the Shonda Rhimes’ produced Netflix series, ‘Bridgerton,’ created by Chris Van Dusen, immediately struck me in the same way as Ryan Murphy’s ‘Hollywood.’ The setting and the imagery is familiar but everything feels different. There is an obvious attempt to reinvision these stories to address prevalent themes that are relevant today.
While Murphy’s ‘Hollywood’ imagines an American film industry that was less oppressive and more equal as far back as the 50s and 60s, ‘Bridgerton’ reimagines Britain’s Regency era (think the same time period as ‘Pride and Prejudice’) where British high society can include black families (and not bat an eyelash) and the norms and mores carry with it a contemporary charge and sensibility.
Because that’s what the 8-episode series asks you to accept despite all you’ve seen from previous Regency-era films and series. ‘Bridgerton’ follows the eponymous Bridgerton family, a particularly wealthy aristocratic family whose eldest son carries the title of viscount. The viscount, Anthony Bridgerton (played by Jonathan Bailey) and his mother, Lady Violet (Ruth Gemmell) must navigate the rigors of high society as the eldest daughter, Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor) is of age to be introduced to society and must find herself a suitable match and be married.
The series puts much emphasis on the careful machinations of the aristocrats in playing with the perceptions of society because in this era, a woman’s fate is completely tied to an advantageous marriage. In this period of history, all a woman is expected to do is to get married and start a family. This is one of main themes that is tackled head on by the series.
What complicates matters is that Anthony takes a rather stringent course and interferes with Daphne’s own hopes of finding a marriage based on true love, just like their parents. Anthony is thinking of her welfare and the image of the family, but the intelligent and passionate Daphne has goals of her own.
Things are further complicated when the most eligible (and desirable) bachelor in London, the Duke of Hastings (Rege-Jean Page) is corralled by his aunt, the Lady Danbury (Adjoa Andoh) to court Daphne but the cold and arrogant duke will have none of it. In fact, Daphne and the Duke’s first meeting leaves a terrible impression on both and they cannot stand each other, even if Lady Violet and Lady Danbury think they are perfect for each other.
To make matters worse, a leaflet written by a certain Lady Whistledown, creates chaos as the candid gossip columnist threatens everyone’s games of manipulation and self-branding. It’s like an episode of ‘Gossip Girl’ except Lady Whistledown is narrated by none other than Julie Andrews.