Netflix’s latest show du jour has pulled in millions of viewers, but its unusual casting decisions have left fans unable to decide if they love it or hate it.
It’s been described as Gossip Girl meets Pride and Prejudice with a wildly attractive cast and a banging soundtrack (if a classical instrumental rendition of Ariana Grande’s Thank U, Next sounds like your jam, you’ve found your niche).
But Bridgerton takes some pretty big creative licence on the classic period drama narrative by casting a number of black actors in its leading roles.
Shonda Rhimes’ latest creative endeavour is set to be Netflix’s fifth most successful original show ever and is expected to be streamed by more than 63 million households in the 28 days since its Christmas Day debut.
The raunchy program is based on a book series of the same name by Julia Quinn, and follows eight powerful siblings as they look for love in Regency-era London in the early 19th century.
And while it has successfully sucked in viewers with its opulent costumes and scandalous storylines, it seems the diverse cast has quickly become one of the most hotly debated aspects of the show.
Some critics have condemned the show’s historical inaccuracy, claiming it glosses over centuries of colonisation, slavery and oppression.
One review for Refinery29 claimed the drama “did a lot of hinting or winking at race without actually ever going there”.
Fans took to Twitter to question the plot and how the King’s choice to wed Queen Charlotte (a Black woman) effectively ended racism.
what really doesn’t make sense is that in effectively one generation racism was ended because the king married a (light skinned) Black woman? suddenly Black people could be part of the society ton like that?
I need more explanation!!
— Dr. Shantel G. Buggs, Ph.D. (@sgbuggs) December 26, 2020
Others discussed whether Bridgerton’s ability to move between fantasy and historical drama genres was enough to suspend belief.
This was me too I found it hard separating the views, but also its meant to be fantasy and we don’t get to just see black bodies as humans in media. They always have to be black and in pain firstly and thats what I enjoyed just the slight reversal of the tropes
— Santa’s Sally Sagiterrorist 🤶🏽 (@hairaconda) December 30, 2020
But some were just in it for the soundtrack.
Who CARES if it isn't historically accurate they were playing Thank U Next on strings at a ball
— Bolu Babalola (@BeeBabs) December 26, 2020
Unlocking a door …
Golda Rosheuvel, who plays Queen Charlotte, defended the decision to cast diverse actors and said it opened a door for black stars that has long been held shut.
“It is what it is, and it’s beautiful, and it’s to be celebrated,” Rosheuvel told OprahMag.com
“We’re having fun. We’re being naughty. We’re being sexual, we’re being grand. All of the things that human beings are. I’m biracial. I was brought up in England.
“My mother was crazy about period dramas, which made me crazy about them. I never thought that I’d be able to be in one. It was something that was far away. I couldn’t touch it.
“Now we can rewrite that story for the little girl who’s sitting at home. That cycle is stopping now.”
Regé-Jean Page, who stars as Simon Basset, the hunky Duke of Hastings, also criticised the erasure of people of colour in period dramas.
“I like to represent the world we live in, the audience we’re serving, and people who have always lived,” Page said.
“It’s not like people of colour existing is a modern phenomenon. We’ve always been there, we are here, and we’re gonna be there.
“I think one of the best ways to do that is to have conversations with people because there are unique concerns that affect how we navigate in society.”
Currently sitting on the Netflix throne as the most popular show in more than 75 countries, the series also has an impressive Rotten Tomatoes critical review rating of 92 per cent.
So whether fans watch it for the risqué plot, for the decadent imagery or just for the attractive cast, it seems everyone is just a little bit obsessed with Bridgerton.