Featured Image courtesy of Liam Daniel/NETFLIX
Shondaland’s newest series ‘Bridgerton’ is basically an 1800s “Gossip Girl”. It had the anonymous gossip columnist that reported on ALL the tea (while its readers drank actual tea), and this gossip was piping hot, as the show takes place during marriage season where all the eligible ladies are presented to society in order to find a husband.
The show revolves around the Bridgerton family, specifically the “diamond of the season”, Daphne Bridgerton. She is beauty, she is grace, she will punch a man in the face. As Daphne meets several suitors at several balls, eager to meet the love of her life, she accidentally bumps into surly, standoff-ish Lord Simon Hastings. Every woman has their eyes on Lord Hastings, and he hates the attention. So, he and Daphne get into a fake courtship so more men will see how desirable Daphne is once she is “with” another man and women will stop bothering Simon. It’s one of those tropes where two people fake date and eventually fall in love with each other. While there are several sub-plots that deal with the other Bridgerton siblings’ love lives, Daphne and Simon’s is the main plot.
On the other side of the playing field of love are the Featherington family, who have had overall bad luck. Lord Featherington is a gambler who secretly gambled away his three not-so-attractive daughters’ savings and the daughters are just like the stepsisters from Cinderella. The youngest Featherington Penelope pines over the ever so dense Colin Bridgerton while Colin has his eye on Penelope’s cousin Marina who has a suspicious backstory.
There’s a lot more to get into, but most of the tea is told by the omniscient narrator Lady Whistledown, the aforementioned 1800s Gossip Girl. Even though this Lady Whistledown is anonymous (until the very end), the ladies of high society fuss over how they are perceived because at that time, there’s not much a woman can do.
One of the strongest aspects of this show was the modern takes it had, specifically with the Lady Whistledown character/presence and the hilarious modern songs turned classical pieces. The first few episodes take place at several balls where ladies can meet possible suitors, and at those balls, the music is obviously live with actual quartet players. However, the songs that the quartet is playing are recognizable to the viewers- have you ever heard “thank u, next” by Lady Ariana Grande played as a waltz? Or “Wildest Dreams” by our queen Taylor Swift in an action-packed montage (you’ll understand what I mean by “action-packed” once you watch the scene). These connections to modern day kept me entertained and almost involved with the storyline and was a creative way of compiling an enjoyable soundtrack for the show, especially with all the balls that take place.
The way the show addresses feminist issues was refreshing as well. Throughout the show, the characters remind each other and the audience that as a woman in the 1800s, you don’t have a lot of options in life. From Eloise’s frustration over how she can’t attend university unlike her brothers to Daphne ranting about how she HAS to marry soon or god forbid she becomes a spinster, ‘Bridgerton’ reminds us that even centuries later, there is still a lot of work to be done in terms of gender equality.
The visuals and cinematography were stunning and everything I wanted in a modern feminist show set in the 1800s. The color palette reminded me of Autumn de Wilde’s 2020 film “Emma.” which was a movie adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel “Emma”. The pastels perfectly captured the fun, optimistic and petite aesthetic and mood of the show. Maybe there’s some group of cinematographers that work exclusively on adapting 1800s feminist literature into modern media and they share/recycle color palettes.
While the show was caked in pastels and plenty of patterns, I thought the show lost its way towards the end of the season. Once Daphne and Simon cleaned up their messy situation and fell out of the main plot line, the transition to the other characters, specifically the Penelope-Simon-Marina love triangle was a bit harsh. The first few episodes were focused so much on Daphne and Simon’s slow burn, fake-turned-real romance that when it came time to shift gears, the aforementioned gears were a bit rusty. The show could’ve ended after the end of Daphne and Simon’s romantic plot but it was likely for the sake of the novel that the show was based off of that the season continued for a couple more episodes.
If you like “Gossip Girl”, Jane Austen, and classical Billie Eilish, then you should definitely binge all 8 episodes of the series now on Netflix.