Over the Christmas period, Bridgerton has fast become a favourite for Netflix bingers everywhere, but what is it that makes this show so universally popular, where other period dramas have failed? Rampant with sexual scandal, this show is certainly like none of its predecessors, and whilst Austen purists might turn their nose up at elements so out of place within a typical Regency-era period drama, it is undeniable that these are what makes the show so uniquely brilliant!
The series follows an anonymous gossip magazine-writer’s musing on the matchmaking season in upper class London, or the ‘ton, as it is commonly referred to, and centres around the young Miss Daphne Bridgerton’s search for a husband after she has been named ‘lady of the first water’ (i.e. the prettiest girl of the season). Miss Bridgerton struggles to find a match thanks to her overprotective older brother, and quickly devises a scheme with the rakish duke of Hastings to draw in suitors, whilst her fellow siblings and other members of the ‘ton deal with their own pursuits of love, husbands and other scandals!
Gorgeously sumptuous visuals colour the series, rivalling the likes of the recent production of Emma, which will make any viewer want to hop onto Pinterest. Indeed, special praise must be given to the clever colour symbolism used, with different palettes being associated with different households: pastel blues, pinks, and purples for the infallible Bridgertons, seductive, passionate red for the Duke of Hastings and his mentor Lady Danbury, and green and yellow for the jealous, short tempered Mrs Featherington!
It is also no surprise that the soundtrack, comprised of orchestral covers of modern pop, has already taken social media by storm. The music, provided by the Vitamin String Quartet, is both beautifully elegant and key in bridging a connection between the viewers and the events on screen. With familiar tunes by artists such as Ariana Grande and Shawn Mendes floating in the background, everything going on suddenly seems a lot more relatable: where one might not usually understand the excitement of a 19th century ball, dancing to thank u next in the club is very familiar to the show’s audience, and so creates a uniquely new perspective on the familiar period drama scene.
Although enough liberties have been taken in this particular spin on the Regency romance to make an academic blush, this is a part of its beauty. The author, Julia Quinn, and TV creator, Chris Van Dusen, have succeeded in reconnecting the prudish dignity of the time with its repression of sexuality. Overall, a show is created which is not only sumptuously exciting, but also relatable to watch in a way historical television usually is not, with characters that viewers can actually understand and sympathise with. Gone is the rigid dialogue of dramas that tends to drive many viewers away from the genre! Viewers are given a clearer-than-ever idea of the struggles of a woman in the early nineteenth century, and the true perils of a life without the financial support of a man. Whilst the sexual content of the show is fun for us viewers, we are able to understand the fragility of a Georgian debutante’s reputation, and the focus on marriage and its various stages highlights the crippling limitations of female free will, and, above all else, the importance of securing a husband.
One may regard this form of literature as low, or even trashy, but one recalls the same thing was once said about the gothic genre! Yes, it does not meet our modern-day standards of ‘good writing’, but no, this is not a bad thing. It is this very ‘trashy’ luxury and ‘outlandish’ debauchery that allow this book series to make such a good show of escapist television.
Feature image of The Temple of the Four Winds at Castle Howard (a familiar location from the show) by alh1 available on flickr.