By Georgia Glenn
Netflix, as many of you know, has been our knight in shining screens over lockdown. It’s helped us escape our world, or perhaps our assignments, and take us to a place where we want to be. For some, it might be Ru Paul’s Drag Race where you can live your drag queen fantasy (yas kween) or it could be perhaps Breaking Bad, where you’re pals with Walter White. But, for over 63 million households, it is the spellbinding and enchanting… Bridgerton.
Since hitting our screens in December, Bridgerton has captured our hearts and thrown out our wardrobes to make room for some gorgeous and glittery dresses. It is a Jane Austen-esque comedy and love story and sob story all rolled into one. Set in 1813, we follow Daphne Bridgerton’s journey into finding a husband worthy enough to give her the life she wants. Poised, well-mannered, and “flawless”, Daphne finds herself as the “incomparable of the season” and she knows full well she is. Phoebe Dynevor perfectly encapsulates a 19th century woman whose entire future rests upon her marriage. From the minute she smiled as she rode into the carriage all the way through to her relationship with the dreamy Duke of Hastings (Regé-Jean Page), I was in love with how she held herself as Daphne and how her character arc was presented. All the Bridgerton characters go through a journey, sometimes good and sometimes bad, but directors Shonda Rhimes and Julie Anne Robinson managed to show the positives and negatives of each character by delving deeper into their past and psyche.
For me, stand out performances would have to be Phoebe Dynevor (Daphne), Claudia Jessie (Eloise), Nicola Coughlan (Penelope Featherington) and Jonathan Bailey (Anthony Bridgerton).
All their characters are so good and complex and amazing that I can’t just talk about one! Let’s start with Phoebe Dynevor. I’ve already mentioned that she mesmerized me from the minute Daphne travelled to Queen Charlotte’s appraisal, but one thing I must point out is her transformation from an innocent young girl to a strong and brave woman. Her dreamy (yet potentially damaging) marriage to Simon (Regé-Jean Page) starts off as a fairy tale; their first dance during ‘Diamond of the First Water’ is captured perfectly through the fairy lights and magical scenery that surrounds them, even introducing a spotlight and empty dance floor to show that they are the only people in their romantic, wistful world. However, soon the dream fades. Due to her upbringing, Daphne doesn’t understand how children are made (kindly made clear by Eloise’s exclamation asking “how does a woman come to be with child?”) and almost takes her anger out on Simon for not educating her once they were married. Daphne exclaims her anger through facial expressions and body language but, most importantly, her voice. She mixes her love for Simon and her anger at society and resembles an accurate (but sad) representation of women during the 19th century.
In contrast, Eloise and Penelope are the epitome of rebellion and independence. Each girl, both alone and together, challenges the views around them and refuses to submit. Penelope is a romantic at heart and wears her heart on her sleeve for all to see, although Colin (her true love) blindly ignores it. She remains the sweet and romantic girl throughout Bridgerton, but it is only when her relationship with Colin is compromised by her cousin Marina that she lets her voice be heard. Coughlan is an absolute powerhouse and definitely makes her presence known. Her interesting outfits make her stand out from the crowd but it is her voice and confidence which makes her known for the right reasons.
Eloise, on the other hand, has no interest in romance and instead makes it her mission to find out who the mysterious Lady Whistledown is (you won’t be disappointed when you find out!) I loved seeing a woman, arguably the heroine of Bridgerton if ever there was one, fight for her passions and continue to do what she wanted regardless of what society expected of her. The most poignant scene for me was in ‘After the Rain’, where Eloise expressed to Daphne “thank you for being so perfect…so I don’t have to be”; for me, this says everything about Eloise. That underneath all this confidence and bravery, she is an insecure but happy girl. For Eloise, Daphne’s life and her siblings’ future arranged marriages means that she can be who she wants to be and not worry about her family’s reputation. It will be interesting to see how she develops over the next 8 seasons as suggested by the director.
And, last but certainly not least, we move onto Anthony Bridgerton. I must admit, I instantly thought he was an overprotective and idiotic brother who only held the title of Viscount Bridgerton because his father had passed away, and clearly didn’t have the knowledge or decency to hold it. However, I was proved sorely wrong as the show reached its climax. Anthony experiences all kinds of emotions throughout the season, and constantly holds his head up to avoid letting others see him crumble. His one true weakness though…was love. His love for his mistress who didn’t want him anymore allowed us to see who Anthony truly was. It was a perfect example of how men were treated during the 19th century and how, for them, the stability of their lives also depended on who they could and couldn’t love. Bailey portrayed a true, stereotypical Viscount but it is only when his feelings are put at risk that we see the real man behind the title.
Overall, as I’m sure you can tell, I absolutely loved this show! It was a way for me to live my dream of being a member of high society, where I can go to all these balls and dances and dress in fabulous clothes. But, it also showed me the troubles that come with it; after all, love comes at a price, and Bridgerton shows what price it can come at.