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Why Bridgerton was so Popular

There’s a show called Bridgerton and here is the rundown in case you are unaware. It premiered on Netflix in America in late December of 2020 and caught wild amounts of attention from those who adored the show. It was the latest from Shondaland, the production company headed by one of Hollywood’s most sought-after showrunners Shonda Rhimes. The show is set in Regency-Era England and follows the Bridgerton family who are prominent members of aristocratic society in 1813 London. This specific season focused on the love story of the Bridgertons eldest daughter, Daphne, from her coming out into London Society to well… I’m not gonna spoil anything. I want to break down the perfect storm of things that made this a phenomena.

Alrighty before I dive in too deep I first want to establish some of the things in the show that didn’t work for me because it will bother me if I don’t. First of all; culture throughout history is something I’m very much interested in, especially when it comes to the regency era. I love understanding how the environment and technology of the time influences their art, how they ate & dressed, and what social customs were in place and why. (Is this the blog where I admit I’m into historical reenactment? Sure why not.) So something that turned me off from the show were the intentional anachronisms. From the costuming to choice of music in the background. The costuming of Bridgerton seemed to be all over the place. Clothing historian Karolina Zebrowska breaks down the inconsistencies on her Youtube channel very well (check it out if fashion history is something you're interested in). Certain characters wear clothing based on styles from eras that aren’t even close to the year 1813. One example is the featherington mom who is costumed in dresses that look as if they’re really from the 1950’s. While the queen (who is the queen) wears a dress that resembles Elizabethan Era fashion (when in reality what she wore would have dictated upper class fashion because again. She’s the queen). There’s also the use of fabrics like polyester and I’m bothered by how cheap the more plastic fabrics look against characters who are costumed in more period-appropriate fabrics. Of course every period piece also needs the corset scene, but it especially doesn’t make sense here because the dress style that specific year had higher waistlines that didn’t accentuate any curves in the body itself. Rationally, women wouldn’t have spent a dramatic amount of time tying a corset that they would have worn every day (also the corset wouldn’t have made skin-contact as chemises were always worn as a first layer).

In many of the Ball Scenes I picked up on the String quintet versions of modern highly-recognizable songs that interrupted my suspension of disbelief. Overall, I understand that part of the vision over at Shondaland with Bridgerton was to have a contemporary lens over the material. And I think some people really liked that about the show. However, these anachronisms kept reminding me that I was watching a TV show. This kept me from fully investing myself in the story and believing the world they set up.

(OH AND ONE OTHER THING! Something lastly that bothered me was the character of the Opera Singer whom I never recalled watching a scene where she didn’t end up somehow unclothed. I do however want to give the producers the benefit of the doubt by assuming that this actress is a nudist and that they just had to work with it.)

My opinions valid as they may be, they cannot refute the droves of loyal audience members the show garnered and that have made this series into a zeitgeist. I actually plan on breaking down how this became such a huge success.

Bridgerton just happened to offer escapism at the right place and the right time. We will never forget 2020. That’s all I’m going to say. On second thought, let me say more. Nobody wanted to actually live in the current day that year. To forget everything, we turned on our devices and loaded up our favorite streaming services then we used film & tv as our escape. Bridgerton offered just that. An escape to a love story during a time divorced from technology. Notice how period pieces were so well received! It didn’t even matter if they were from the year 2005. Meanwhile shows that took place in normal settings (i.e. HBOmax original ‘Love Life’) seemed to get no attention from audiences or critics. Of course the show would have had to go into production sometime in 2019. So I don’t think those at Shondaland and Netflix actually had planned things to happen this way. But it’s lucky for them that they did!

And to all you men who didn’t sit down with their mothers, girlfriends, or wives because you’re a manly man: I invite you to sit back down and go watch ‘Falcon and the Winter Soldier’. Because in reality, they’re the same thing, just with a different color palette. As far as plot beats go, the characters’ highs are high with lows that don’t feel so low. When characters (protagonists especially) are at those lows they don’t stay there for long either. Period Romance as a genre is already a popular source of dopamine already as is. It ties in well with escapism, imagine being in a new world that’s different & enthralling and where a dashing man fights for your honor. Like many period romances, the source material from which this show is based on is based on the popular book series. The series is written by Julia Quinn. The source material is within the vein of the popular dime novels. And typically, things that have a mass appeal don’t tend to have great amounts of substance to them. Many associate that form of entertainment with being cheap or classless but that doesn’t stop millions from picking those books up and enjoying. That’s not a bad thing either! In a world full of immense pressure, this TV show delivered on the good feelings and I’m sure that meant a lot to someone out there.

Bridgerton really captured the imagination or re-imagination of it’s audiences. Befriending an unmarried pregnant woman or turning down the proposal of a prince weren’t things you could do as part of British regency-era aristocracy. And yet in this world that’s been created, it is all possible (a bit taboo but possible). Elements of the show reimagined the era to be more pleasing to our modern sensibilities. I can understand how that encourages hope in a way. Perhaps by envisioning the past as something better than what it was can glean a hope of what the future could look like.

I sincerely hope I didn’t come off as pretentious. However, for reasons stated above, I personally didn’t catch The Bridgerton Itch (The B.Itch if you will). Although I can understand why others did like it. It’s got a lot to offer in the way of escapism, a rare dose of good feelings, and a hopeful re-imagination of what life can be. And now there’s a crowd of loyal fans salivating for the second season. Before I go, I’m interested to know some things. First of all, did you catch The B.Itch (Bridgerton Itch)? What was your favorite show that premiered in 2020? Are you offended I likened ‘Bridgerton’ to ‘Falcon and the Winter Soldier’?

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