Three years ago Shonda Rhimes, the successful creator of the series “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal,” moved to Netflix for $100 million. And finally, this December 25th will see the arrival of her first production on the platform, a period drama whose glamorous and impeccable invoice hides a quite classic romance. Based on the novels by Julia Quinn and adapted for television by Chris Van Dusen, “Bridgerton” series chronicles the life of Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor), the eldest daughter of the powerful (and gorgeous) family of the title. Set in London during the Regency period at the beginning of the 19th century, the story tells of the efforts of the beautiful young woman and her family to find her a good husband after debuting in the competitive marriage market.
Daphne hopes to follow in her parents’ footsteps and marry for love. But when her older brother starts managing his suitors, the society magazine that the mysterious Lady Whistledown writes calls into question her reputation. The solution will come from the hand of the attractive and rebellious Duke of Hastings (Regé-Jean Page), an inveterate bachelor who proposes to fake a relationship so that she can once again be the most desired girl and he can get rid of all the mothers and daughters who want to hunt him down.
Although the setting is nineteenth-century, the discourse is well anchored in the present. From her obvious feminist perspective to a racialized cast where Queen Charlotte is played by black actress Golda Rosheuvel. A license based on historical data, as the wife of King George III of the United Kingdom was of African descent.
“You have no idea what it’s like to be a woman and your whole life is reduced to a moment,” says Daphne of her complete and utter dependence on marriage. While her sister Eloise (Claudia Jessie) dreams aloud of escaping her slavish fate and dedicating herself to writing. And her friend Penelope (Nicola Coughlan) seems more interested in devouring books than looking for a boyfriend.
In fact, Lady Whistledown herself, the omniscient narrator of “Gossip Girl”, compares the presentation of young women in society to the sale of cattle. And remember, things very often hang on striking the ever difficult balance between being chaste and desirable, at the risk of becoming a spinster or overly slutty. By the way, the only women in fiction who enjoy some freedom, although they pay their price well by living on the margins of society.
The soundtrack insists on its contemporary vision, for example, with Billie Eilish’s ‘Bad Guy’ performed by a string ensemble. But beyond pointing out the machismo and strict social norms that both men and women suffer, the series at no time concludes with the deactivation of this discourse, nor do they propose alternatives. It almost seems that the convenient romance between the protagonist couple comes to perpetuate them. At least in the first four episodes. Well, Daphne Bridgerton is candid, innocent, and pure, as well as smart, insightful, and determined to the point of punching a nasty stalker in the face. And the womanizer, quarrelsome and arrogant Duke of Hastings also turns out to be vulnerable, with a temperament that seems to be justified given his lonely and sad childhood at the hands of an abusive father.
We’ll just have to trust in the magic of fairy tales to see this as more than just absolutely enjoyable entertainment. Because the lavish dancing, palace romances, and bickering of Lady Whistledown will surely have Netflix audiences baying for more from this romance-themed marathon. The series is also right in satirizing this world of appearances and hypocrisy, pointing to the power of words to build stories. Well, the ability of the unknown writer to build or destroy the image of young women is a pretty poignant account of the potential modern-day social media dictatorship. Likewise, “Bridgerton” manages to value friendship and the search for identity above, or at least on the same level as, love. That, and the fact that visually, this is a veritable fantasy