“Bridgerton” on Netflix: Diversity in the 19th Century

The Bridgerton series would hardly attract any further attention as a teenage drama with soft porn interludes, were it not for the idea of ​​bringing in non-white people as queen, lovers and domestics. London around 1820, the Queen is very black and emphatically unattractive, but equipped with man-man airs. The youthful lover, the Duke of Hastings, is gorgeous and dark; the female heroine is a pale, flat-chested dove with blue eyes. The development of the story follows the drama of desire and prohibition, which is familiar to (almost) all readers. Here, however, charged by the black and white look, which – and that is the trick with Bridgerton – is not addressed. The drama does not result from the range of skin colors, but from a family trauma: the black duke had a very difficult childhood and swore revenge on his heartless father for it: I will never have a grandson for you!

This sets the dynamic in motion. So for the fate of the Duke Hastings and the flat-chested pigeon: Phase 1: He does not want to marry, but does not say why (trauma). Phase 2: She blackmails him into marriage. Phase 3: Coitus interruptus. Phase 4: She learns of the oath. Separation. Phase 5: forgiveness and childbirth.

The production dismantles with relish the tradition of historical reconstruction in costume films. A mixture of set pieces is created. The costumes, the gestures, the language contain rough historical allusions. These are the patterns of empire dresses, the indispensable aristocrats or the lovers in close relationships. Women are subject to the fate of brides on the marriage market, which has been well known since Jane Austen. That’s about it; the rest is a soap opera of the present: girls bitching, men boxing, maternal worries, everything like at home. The show is miserable to watch because it’s not about characters, but about types that are laid out schematically. But that doesn’t matter, because there are beautiful bodies, wild colors and bizarre dress orgies in artificial silk.

Dreadful questions arise immediately

And why 58 million clicks and page-long discussions in the features section?

The Bridgerton series is number 1 on the Netflix series in 76 countries. The producer Shonda Rhimes is the only black woman in the big film business – extremely successful with middle-brow hits like Grey’s Anatomy, the female-friendly thriller series Scandal, and the unwatchable How to get Away with Murder. She focuses on diversity and is considered to be a pioneer for women, blacks and other minorities. She also follows the principle in Bridgerton – a provocatively diverse cast, completely independent of the historical reality at court.

This immediately raises terrible questions: If black and white pretend everyone is the same color, does that contribute to political education? Where is the woke pain of the offended? A real thought trap: good or bad? The answer is made more difficult by the fact that the Bridgerton producer is, for her part, a famous black woman that has made it to the top. 

The diversity here does not refer to skin colour, but to the hierarchy. It’s just fun to play upside down. A special carnival is raging here: the low becomes the high and vice versa. With this, Rhimes intuitively found a gold vein. It’s about the bursting open of closed worlds. It fits: at the moment she is working on a series about the impostor Anna Sorokin in New York, who cheated the establishment there out of millions and exposed the duped to complete ridicule in court. (In 2019 Anna Sorokin was sentenced to prison for fraud. Paroled January 2021.)

In the wrong world all are idiots. And nothing is to be taken seriously. It’s a double-edged thing. The sting that other worlds could contain something ideal that we would like to have, that we desire, but which we cannot admit because it is inaccessible – this sting is simply pulled here.

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