Bridgerton: A Review

Well, first I must apologize for not writing as much last year as I thought I would be. An unexpected increase in workload meant I had little time for anything other than trying to sleep and survive. But I resolve to try an start this 2021 year off with a bit of fun and fluff.

Bridgerton | Netflix Official Site
Courtesy of Netflix

Bridgerton, if you haven’t heard, is a book series by Julia Quinn set in the Regency. The books are fictional, so there is very little attempt at them being historically accurate, other than the basic facts (like who is the ruler, dropping the name of well-known and famous society leaders, etc). Now, the Netflix series has gotten some criticism for casting people of color, some in prominent roles. To me, it’s refreshing because it IS historically accurate. Sorry to burst the fragile misconceptions of every Austen Adaptation ever, but there were non white people living in England during the 18th Century (and even earlier, if we’re being truthfully honest). Theatre folk (of which I will always be), know that blind casting really is the best way to cast roles. People who are good SHOULD play parts that suit them as actors, not skin color. And we should have more diverse casting. We should have disabled actors, trans actors, etc cast based on their ability, not their looks. But I digress…

Romance novels have this reputation for being the cheesy bodice rippers published by Silhouette or Avon (for example). But Romance Novels are a unique literary form that we should never sneer at. Many of us have probably read a cheesy romance novel, or two, growing up. I myself m exceptionally fond of the Gothic romance novels of the 1960s and not just because they have fun cover art (which they do).

Vintage Gothic Romance Books Classics Paperback Novels 1960's 1970's Women  running from houses, heroines in pe… | Gothic romance books, Gothic books,  Gothic romance
Courtesy of Pinterest

Romance novels are pure escapism. Austen novels have been labeled as romance, young adult, and adult fiction in libraries and in bookstores. I myself have outlined for 6 Austen style novels (one being written and edited and rewritten and you get the picture). There is nothing wrong with writing or enjoying Romance just as long as you remember not to take it too seriously (thought it can be hard).

The 'Bridgerton' Ending, Explained | 'Bridgerton' Season 1 Finale
Lady Danbury and Simon Basset, courtesy of Marie Claire

As an adaptation, I think Bridgerton is well done and has moments of being far superior than the recent ITV Austen adaptations. The costumes are rich, colorful, and sometimes a tad ridiculous (the Feathertons in particular), but they are all well made and have that silhouette we all associate with the Regency Era. They do an adequate job of visually giving us insight into the person’s social status, mood, marital status, and degree of social acceptability. As well as mixing elements of the fantastical with the historical. Visually, it is a delight.

Romp and circumstance: why Netflix's Bridgerton is just our cup of tea this  year | Period drama (TV) | The Guardian
Queen Charlotte, courtesy of Netflix

Now, as far as the adaptation goes for being faithful to the book, I must confess that I cannot supply any information. Now, I did try to read the first novel, The Duke and I, but had to stop due to a triggering element that, while it was not the same in the series, a similar event was depicted and I do have issues with it. That element is rape. In the novel, the “heroine” rapes the Duke (he is drunk) and denies it ever occurring up until they are married. As a victim of sexual assault, I could not finish the novel. No matter how it is framed, nor that the people involved end up being “in love”, rape is never acceptable. Ever. I found it repugnant and disturbing that any author would use the disgusting and reprehensible troupe of rape, but framing it within the confines of a romance, thus trying to make it acceptable (or palatable) to the reader.

not amused puppy - Google Search | Funny animals, Funny, Funny pictures
Puppy is NOT Amused, courtesy of Pinterest

I found the rape so triggering, that I engaged in some self harm (which I will not disclose as to the TYPE other than it doesn’t involve any knives nor blood and yes, I do see a therapist and have for years). Now, the adaptation did not include the rape scene as written, but still included a rape scene nonetheless, which was extremely disappointing. Any forward thinking person will tell you that even in the midst of engaging in a sexual activity, when one person says STOP or NO, it all stops. Period. The adaptation still had the heroine rape the Duke, but now within the confines of the marriage bed, which makes it that much better.

Reader, it does not.

Spousal rape is real and it should never be treated lightly nor be filmed as one person had the right to continue. And that was how it was framed. Daphne is seen as being in the right to force her husband to ejaculate inside her because she wants a child. This is rape. He clearly tells her to stop. Not once, but many times. And yes, we should be having this conversation because no mater how much I enjoyed this adaptation, I am utterly disgusted they would still keep Daphne’s rape of Simon in. It doesn’t matter that she did it after they were married instead of before. We do not need to see depictions of rape, including spousal rape, in any adaption that is advertised as a romance. This season is framed around the book The Duke and I. It’s touted as being a historical romance.

Bollywood angered over Hathras gang rape, demand justice for victim |  Deccan Herald
Courtesy o the Deacon Herald

Rape has no place in romance novels. It has no place in adaptations. No matter how much I enjoyed this series, I cannot fathom why the producers decided it would be perfectly acceptable to include rape. The story could have worked perfectly fine without it. Simon (the Duke), in a moment of passion couldn’t have forgotten to pull out since that was his main form of birth control. Or have him use a condom (yes, they existed) and have one tear or rip or perhaps he forgets? There are so many other ways to possibly hint at Daphne being late with her period without the rape. The pull out method is known to not be 100% effective against pregnancy and considering they devoted an entire episode to them screwing each other, you are telling me that not once he might have forgotten to pull out? Seriously? I understand that this is a work of fiction. Trust me, I know because I write fiction (though I endure the added burden of trying to be as historically accurate as possible). But once you start having some structure of reality to help us believe the world we are in, logic will come into play. According to Planned Parenthood, unless you are using a condom and/or birth control with the pull out method, 1 in 5 who only do the pull out method will get pregnant within a year. So, this means Daphne really had nothing to worry about because statistically, she would have gotten pregnant eventually.

Now, the series is enjoyable and I do recommend it because it is so rare for me to see anyone who looks even remotely like me on screen (big or small) that isn’t a terrorist or a servant that the biggest draw for the series IS the diverse cast. And if you ignore (or skip) the whole rape scene, it is an enjoyable series.

There’s still the old troupe of how the fat girl can’t possibly be anything other than the friend until she magically becomes beautiful (Yes, I’m looking at you Lady Whitstone).