Everything about Netflix’s latest binge-worthy series, Bridgerton, is exquisitely rich in colour.
(I watch a few episodes of a Regency-era period drama and now throw around words like ‘exquisitely’).
From the intricately-crafted gowns of the Featherington gals to the sharp green landscapes surrounding the sprawling manors and, more importantly, the cast itself, Bridgerton is an aesthetically-pleasing feast for the eyes.
Shonda Rhimes, queen-of-all-things-TV who produced the series under her Shondaland production company, was of course going to add inclusion into her first major Netflix release having helmed diversity-rich shows like Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder for ABC.
What we didn’t bank on was her not making race a central or underlying theme at all.
The Duke of Hastings aka Simon Basset (Rege Jean-Page), Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) and Lady Danbury (Adjoa Andoh) play some of the key characters in Bridgerton and, incredibly, they’re all Black or mixed race casually playing royals and aristocrats as though it’s the most normal thing in an English period drama.
Snaps for Queen Shonda.
In this fantasy world, people of colour simply exist just as we do in real life and it’s the type of racial inclusion we have long called for on the small screen.
How inspiring to see Black people taking part in ballroom dances rather than sidelined as the help which is stereotypical of period dramas – and sadly true of the times they depict.
However, Bridgerton offers a fun escape from the heartbreaking realities of the era which, of course, deserve to be shown but we’ve seen countless times before. No matter how many times Queen Charlotte sauntered into a scene with an exaggerated afro wig or a tower of braids, I rejoiced and laughed the same as much as I did the previous occasion.
Bridgerton does feature one obvious reference to race though.
In episode four, Lady Danbury tells the ever-charming Duke of Hastings: ‘We were two separate societies divided by colour until a king fell in love with one of us. Love, your grace, conquers all.’
By ‘one of us’, she was referring to Queen Charlotte whose real life heritage has been called into question since the early 20th century with some historians tracing part of her ethnicity to Africa.
For those who were thirsting for some type of explanation for the fact Black people exist in high society circles in Bridgerton, the slight nod would have satisfied their need for acknowledgment.
However, I actually found it completely unnecessary.
Too often in the real world, we people of colour often feel that our positions of success have to be explained to those outside the community, who might expect us to fail or who shudder at the idea of our elevation.
‘YOU drive this car?’
‘YOU’RE the CEO of this company?’
‘YOU got this promotion?’
Then the ultimate question: ‘How did you do it?’
I’ve been asked this so many times in life that I almost start to prepare answers before stopping myself short and realising, would a white person be asked this?
Therefore if race isn’t a central storyline in the series – not even in the interracial relationship between the Duke of Hastings and Daphne Bridgerton (Pheobe Dynevor) – and the goal is to just allow people of colour to exist in positions of power, the explanation wasn’t necessary.
Interestingly, series creator Chris Van Dusen recently said that he doesn’t believe Bridgerton has a ‘colourblind cast’ given that race was clearly considered to some degree when incorporating people of colour into the story.
However I would argue that the mere fact that Black and Asian people have prominent places in this Regency-era society does make the series colourblind after all.
That’s by no means a bad thing.
Bridgerton has set an unprecedented tone that TV casting should be colourblind (to a certain extent), and will no doubt inspire future productions to adopt the same approach.
Black characters should be integrated into fictional worlds where we would otherwise be excluded from in real life because, after all, fiction allows for creative licence so why not?
Bridgerton has proved that we can be included seamlessly without racial equality having to be explained at every turn.
The genre of the period drama has been reinvented through Bridgerton, providing a masterclass on how to make a colourblind series the right way.
Only now, it would be an injustice for the buck to stop at Shondaland.
We’re salivating to see what’s next just as much as the Regency gals waiting for the next issue of Lady Whistledown’s gossip column.
Bridgerton is available to watch on Netflix.
Credit: Original article published here.