Flicks With Nicki – The Buzz about BridgertonPhoto by Nicki Salcedo
In 2000, romance author Julia Quinn introduced us to Daphne Bridgerton in “The Duke and I.” The Bridgertons are a fictional aristocratic family led by widowed matriarch Violet who tragically loses her dearly-loved husband. She alone raises her eight alphabetically named children: Anthony, Benedict, Colin, Daphne, Eloise, Francesca, Gregory, and Hyacinth. There are books for each child and several spin-off stories. Some readers, including yours truly, have been in the family for a long time.
The light-hearted saga tells of family, friendship, mistakes, sex, lies, betrayals, redemption, laughter, love, romance, and the promise of a happily ever after (HEA). There was a collective gasp of delight and trepidation from the world of romance readers (Romancelandia) after Netflix and Shonda Rhimes (“Scandal” and “Grey’s Anatomy”) got behind the screen adaptation. This could go horrible wrong or deliciously right.
The eight episodes of season one of “Bridgerton” focuses on Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor). She is the eldest daughter and must find a husband. The problem is that she wants to marry for love like her parents. She is convinced she won’t find it on the marriage market. Enter Duke of Hastings, Simon Basset (Regé-Jean Page). He doesn’t want to be a Duke, doesn’t want to get married, and doesn’t want children. He also happens to be best friends with Daphne’s brother Anthony, the Viscount. Daphne and Simon pretend to court so she can improve her prospects, and he can avoid marriage altogether. Spoiler alert. Fake courtships don’t work. They will fall in love.
The characters are diverse. Daphne is courted by men of various shades of white and brown. Black and Asian characters are not pushed into the shadows, but brought onto the dance floor. Simon, Queen Charlotte, and the fabulous Lady Dansbury (Adjoa Andoh) are all Black. The controversy here is that some viewers question the historical accuracy of having Black characters in prominent social positions, forgetting that prominent Black people did exist in Regency England. London was renowned for international trade and a whole era of imperialism. There was mingling. If you’ve done your $29.99 DNA tests, you know your grandparents aren’t 100% of who you thought they’d be. Since the dawn of time, our ancestors mixed with people from distant lands.
Shondaland just put the truth in a corset and silk. We aren’t in history, but fantasy.
The soundtrack includes Taylor Swift converted into classical style. The costumes are an interpretive dance of their own. Eloise is the voice of the modern viewer.
Be ready for some sex and nudity. I wasn’t scandalized, but the faint of heart might blush. Daphne knows nothing about sex at the start of the story and that leads to misunderstanding, self-discovery, and terrible mistakes. The older Bridgerton brothers have their own sexual entanglements. The men who seemingly know it all also make mistakes about sex and love. There is masturbation, an orgy, and one scene of non-consensual sex. In a twist, it is a woman who is the predator in that scene. Her choices have grim consequences.
If “Bridgerton” is a morality play, the message is that sex is good and healthy. Sex might lead to unplanned pregnancies, scandal, bad judgement, and hurt feelings. Sex is an issue that depends on class and privilege. But mostly the message is that sex is good and healthy.
There is happiness. The biggest problem with a romance (for newbies) is the HEA. Some people hate the HEA. I love a happy ending. All kinds. I love love. Love is my favorite. The question isn’t if Simon and Daphne work it out, but how. But everyone doesn’t get a HEA in “Bridgerton.” We see unrequited love, loveless marriages, and death. Violet wakes up beside an empty pillow, and our heart aches for her.
“Bridgerton” is a pleasant surprise. Things from the book that couldn’t be translated to screen were replaced with utterly new things. I liked the newness of it. The anachronistic soundtrack, the nod to future parts of the saga, and the addition of new side characters. While my friends swooned over Simon, I watched his friend the boxer, Will Mondrich (Martins Imhangbe) in a side tale about his life, family, and choices. That is a love story, too.
Faithful readers know why there’s a buzz about the show and know why there is a buzzing bee in the opening sequence. You’ll find out, if we get a season two. “Bridgerton” is worth the buzz. It is good enough. Maybe not perfect, but certainly fun. If you’re like me, your favorite characters won’t be Daphne or Simon at all. And you don’t need to read the books to watch the show. But you should! Enjoy the drama, romance, and happily ever after. The next season might be even better. Grade B.
Nicki Salcedo is a Decatur resident and Atlanta native. She is a novelist, blogger, and a working mom.
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