*Warning: Many, many spoilers*
Bridgerton…I just can’t put my finger on what it is that had me glued. Despite the cringey accents, the occasional terrible actor and the complete over-egging of how life-changing a good bit of rumpy pumpy might actually be, I could not tear myself away from it. So, to redress the balance and to relieve myself of the guilt of having actually enjoyed it, I feel I must cast a floodlight on just how problematic Bridgerton actually is.
‘But Mel, it’s set in Regency England, not woke Millennial west London – what did you expect?” I hear you cry. Yes, Regency England and its beloved high society was one big problematic mess of toxicity, so I cannot blame Bridgerton for merely portraying the era’s prejudices. Actually, the winning attribute of the mini-series is, for me, the way in which it takes a mocking standpoint on the archaic attitudes of the day (somebody give Eloise her own spin-off, please). Not to mention the refreshing representation of people of colour as more than just the help – in fact, this completely saved the whole show. However, these triumphs do not acquit Bridgerton of its romanticisation of these problematic plot lines…
(Please don’t cancel me)
Viscount Anthony Bridgerton in his entirety. This absolute man-child is all mouth no trousers (and I don’t just mean because he has his trousers down for so much of the show). He wants to be the big boss, he wants to patronise his mother, he wants to control his sister’s affairs, and yet has absolutely none of the intellectual means to do so. Even at a time where it would be customary for the senior man of the house to take sole charge, surely said patriarch should actually take charge in practise, not just wonder Mayfair banging on about how important he is. He wants to be treated like the big man, but has the conviction of a spoilt, teenage ne’er-do-well. I dare say if Simon had just shot him while he had the chance, the series as a whole would have been far better off.
Everything Daphney touches turns to gold. Perfect Daphne. Brilliant, beautiful Daphne. My goodness, the writers couldn’t even let her lose a single bet when gambling at the married ladies’ party. “Oh my, you win again Duchess” …what a surprise! What next for season 2? Will Daphne walk on water? Better still, might she turn that same water into wine to be gratefully imbibed by her lowly, loyal subjects? Sweet, sweet, sickly sweet Daphne.
Back to Anthony Bridgerton for a minute, because the way he treats Siena needs dissection. He has the audacity to swoop in at the end like a hero, sweeping her off to a ball when he’s finally realised she’s worthy of being seen somewhere other than on a bed sheet and has the nerve to turn up at her door with a bouquet of flowers as if they are a perfectly suitable and proportionate gesture to mark the end of the emotional torture he has inflicted on her. Flowers, really mate? As if he were not enough of a beacon of toxic masculinity, Anthony does not come to his senses by himself. No, no, no. Our dear Viscount only decides that it would be appropriate for Siena to be seen on his arm when another man sees her worth first. He spots another man of apparently notable rank treating Siena like a human being and, much like a dog pissing in a circle to mark his territory, decides only then to claim her as his own. Her shutting the door in his face was honestly the highlight of the series for me.
Simon, Simon, Simon. The man needs a mother, not a wife. Must we still romanticise this notion of a mysterious, angry man who needs saving from his demons by a woman so desperate to love him that she will bear the whole load of the marriage’s emotional labour by herself. Simon’s not a bad guy, he’s traumatised and needs to heal. But this whole trope of a woman being used as an emotional crutch, or in this case actively volunteering to be one, needs to get gone. It’s not healthy.
How old are the Bridgerton brothers? Firstly, Benedict. He looks about 45 but he’s supposedly only the second-oldest of the brood. Are we honestly to believe he is younger than Anthony? Secondly, Colin (who, in my opinion, is the hero of the whole goddamn piece). He looks like a young man, certainly one old enough to be considered an adult. He acts like the only level-headed, mature grown man in the whole roster of male characters. And yet, when he announces he is to marry, everyone loses their shit as if he’s announced he’s dropping out of A Levels in favour of a night job at the 24-hour Spar. So there I am, questioning myself for fancying someone not old enough to marry, only to find out that he is actually older than Daphne who is of course of marrying age as is the premise that underpins the show’s whole plot. So frankly, who bloody knows? I just want to rest peacefully in the knowledge that Colin is of fanciable age because, out of all of the men in the series, he is the only one of whom I would like a slice.
Simon and Daphne having a baby. I know this was meant to be the big happy ending, but I felt saint Daphne was really quite out of order for pushing Simon to change his mind about having ‘an heir’. She married him knowing that no children were to be a part of their future. He was so unequivocally clear, that he was prepared to die in order to avoid having children…how much more robust in his convictions could he have been? OK so she thought he couldn’t have them, as opposed to making a valid and autonomous choice not to have them, but she chose for them to be married knowing fully that no sprogs were to be on the horizon. Sure, his reasons were vengeful, but they were his reasons to which he was entitled, so to give it the old “why don’t you love me enough to give me what I want” tool is straight out of the manipulation handbook. But of course, sweet perfect Daphne has to have her way, doesn’t she.
I’m not done with Anthony Bridgerton yet, because WHAT is with this man and his obsession with duels?! Every time there was so much as a suggestion of an infringement on his family’s honour, he was all ‘pistols at dawn’. I just feel like there are other, more reasonable avenues that could be explored before a sunrise shoot out. But of course, that would entail maturity, of which Anthony has none.
The men slagging off the ‘mamas’ for being pushy and ambitious in regards to marrying off their daughters, when in fact it is those very men who are upholding a system which determines a woman’s value on nothing more than how eligible a bachelor she’s able to bag. You cannot buttress such a system – one which wildly favours you, by the way – and then whine because the women you are supressing are simply just playing along. If you don’t like it mate, go out and actually prove why you deserve a wife, instead of just expecting one to be served to you on a plate.
Simon and Daphne’s stunning inability to communicate. So many of their problems would have been rectified in a fraction of the time, had they just used their words to tell each other what they were feeling. But much like in Normal People, two people who were obviously destined to be together decided that their relationship was to be akin to a psychic reading where, instead of expressing their emotions and sharing their thoughts verbally, they would instead stay schtum and simply discern information by stropping, huffing and head swooshing. Just use your words people.
With who else could I finish, but with Anthony Bridgerton yet again? The one time, ONE TIME, he criticizes himself is when he blames himself for not having taken Colin to brothels. There were many, many faults with Anthony’s actions, but forgetting to take his younger brother to a brothel was not one of them. The man is an absolute halfwit. I mean…if ever there were an argument for the eradication of the ruling class, Anthony Bridgerton would be it.