Bridgerton – what to think? – SPOILERS

I read Julia Quinn’s The Viscount Who Loved Me years and years ago, and loved it. Then I went back and read The Duke and I and despised it. Like rip the book apart at the seams and set it on fire hated it. I hated the marital rape – that’s what it was and flipping gender didn’t change that. I hated the whole true love changes people’s minds about wanting children. Hated it. I think I read a couple of the other Bridgerton books that followed but couldn’t say for sure – this all happened before I started using LibraryThing to track my reading, and I can’t find anything on my old LiveJournal (which is imported here to WordPress and dates back to 2005 o_o).

So I’m maybe not the target audience for Shondaland’s Bridgerton on Netflix. I was iffy about it based on the first 5-10 minutes, but a couple of people in Romancelandia Twitter were saying good things, so…

It works as historical fantasy, emphasis on the fantasy. The costuming and sets and all are…not really accurate but are lovely. The actors playing Daphne and Simon have amazing chemistry, and Simon (played by Rege-Jean Page) is smoking hot, with amazing waistcoats and a voice and a gaze to die for. Lady Danbury’s casting is A+. A bunch of things were added or changed in ways that presumably aid in the visual nature of television storytelling, but which were kind of ~meh~ otherwise. [I’m looking at the change in Anthony’s character, and the added Featherington family subplots.] The director clearly watched earlier Austen adaptations with all the restraint and unresolved sexual tension, and decided to resolve it here. Repeatedly. And leave NOTHING on the cutting room floor.

And I was enjoying the series. Until episode 6. With all of the other things that were changed, why was the marital rape not changed? With an added layer of grossness due to a white character ignoring a stated lack of consent by a Black character. It’s just…ugly. I have mixed feelings about Daphne generally, and about the ignorance she went into marriage with, and the way Simon took advantage of that – he knew she had no idea what he was doing. And his wordplay – cannot have children is not the same as will not – is disingenuous and deceptive at best. But she clearly did what she did intentionally, and didn’t bother to understand why until after the fact.

Part of me wants to go re-read the book, to see if the aftermath is handled better there. Because watching the remainder of episodes, all I could think was that if they were a modern couple they would need so much therapy and to actually talk to each other, but my expectation for an HEA for a historical couple was low. I didn’t really buy Simon’s jump from no children ever to happy to be a dad without some kind of exposition about how he and Daphne talked to each other about how abusive his father was and the damage it did to him as a child. But I don’t have the book and am not inclined to buy a copy since I wanted to set it on fire the first time around.

ETA: one of the added subplots involves a very sympathetic WoC who is wedged into an ugly, semi-villainous position. I felt sorry for her, and thought she deserved better from *everyone* around her, and completely understood the choices she made. I don’t really know what to say about it and defer to readers and watchers of color.

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2 responses to “Bridgerton – what to think? – SPOILERS

  1. Happy holidays, JMC!

    I left a long comment yesterday but it vanished into the ether. Grrr. Short version: I have no interest in watching Bridgerton. The books were enjoyable when I read them but they didn’t hold up on rereads a decade ago, so I can’t believe they would work for me now.

    I’m glad that Black and other POC actors are getting topline roles in the kinds of shows that previously excluded them, and it would be great to see a historical series in which the racial diversity of time was taken seriously and explored. But the interview I read with the white-dude writer/showrunner did not give any indication that this was it (it’s in Deadline but I’m not linking in case it shoots this comment into the spam filter).

    As for the marital rape, if people want to draw lines between non-con and rape, I’m not going to stop them, but I’m not going to engage, either. If you’re engaged in an intimate act and your partner says “wait” and you don’t, that’s shitty and abusive regardless of what you call it. It was in the book, and it sounds like it is in the show. And for all the reasons readers have pointed out, it doesn’t mesh well with HEAs and likeable protagonists (which is what Quinn and I assume the TV people are trying to write).

    • Hi, Sunita! Happy holidays to you, too! I hope you’ve been well.

      I had not sought out any of the any of the media about the production in advance of watching, lazily, and I’m guessing the tone would have warned me. There are so many ways to fix that scene and to get the same outcome – separation, need to communicate – without the non-con, that the decision to keep the scene in seems almost intentionally obtuse and indifferent to the harm.

      I shed a lot of books when I moved in 2013, including almost all of the historical paperbacks that had accumulated on my shelves, and I have not revisited any since. The only Bridgerton book to survive The Great Purge was The Viscount Who Loved Me. I’m going to try to re-read it now, but am guessing it will not have aged well for me.

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