So, Deadline just announced that Shondaland, producers of Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away With Murder, are making… Sorry, what?… A Bridgertons series. An “epic” adaptation of the world famous romance novels. But, judging by the way Deadline describes the project, it sounds nothing like a light and charming romp through Regency England. If anything, it sounds like commercialized debutante warfare.
For anyone unfamiliar with The Bridgertons Series by Julia Quinn, I’ll provide a bit of background. Quinn, a medical school drop out turned star romance novelist, wrote a delightful eight book series of historical romances centered around one family. A majestic, bipolar 19th century family with devious minds and lots of scandalous intrigue?
…judging by the way Deadline describes the project, it sounds nothing like a light and charming romp through Regency England.
No, not really. We have a lovely dowager viscountess and her eight children, who are alphabetically named: Anthony, Benedict, Colin, Daphne, Eloise, Francesca, Gregory, and Hyacinth. Yes, I typed those names out from memory. No research needed. They each have a novel dedicated to the discovery of respective soulmates, all of whom are diversely attractive and troubled. A stuttering duke with PTSD, a wallflower talking smack in gossip columns, a botanist baronet widow. You name it, Quinn wrote it. Oh, and they have this hysterical family game of Pall-mall (Pall-mall being reminiscent of croquet). If I remember correctly, the competition got real. So yes, there’s lustiness, excitement, and humor. But these are not the Bridgertons the Deadline article announced.
“…the series unveils a seductive, sumptuous world replete with intricate rules and dramatic power struggles, where no one is truly ever on steady ground. At the heart of the show is the powerful Bridgerton family.” – Deadline
Everything That’s Wrong
The world of the Bridgertons, approximately 1813 London, may be seductive and sumptuous, but that’s as far as we can go. Intricate rules? No more intricate than anyone in the Regency era would be used to. And, if memory serves, the Bridgertons break those rules constantly with zero repercussions. Countless scenes in which a man and woman chill out together, sans chaperone. Ladies with foul language. Sneaking off in the middle of a ball to get it on. Things like that.
Dramatic power struggles… Let the record show that I have wracked my brain and cannot remember one single power struggle. For the Bridgertons and their extremities, there are no fights for supremacy, no political currents churning below the surface à la the Borgias or the Tudors. This is primarily due to the fact that the Bridgertons have nothing to do with politics and are not in fact all that powerful. But it also has to do with the audience for this series. No one who reads the Bridgertons cares about their “rise to power”, which leads to my big concern about the Netflix show.
This acclaimed and heartwarming set of love stories is not Grey’s Anatomy. Nor is it Scandal, How to Get Away With Murder, or even The Catch.
This acclaimed and heartwarming set of love stories is not Grey’s Anatomy. Nor is it Scandal, How to Get Away With Murder, or even The Catch. The number of alliances, betrayals, and badass moments in the Bridgertons comes out to zero. To say that the upcoming show and Shondaland’s other productions have nothing in common is an understatement. Will these people know what to do with our family of eight?
I’m not saying a producer with an entirely different set of credits can’t make something new. Or maybe I am. I still haven’t decided. And I can’t decide if I’m excited or fearful. But this helps: the character of Lady Whistledown (pseudonym for Regency London’s reigning gossip queen) will be voiced by none other than Dame Julie Andrews. This choice doesn’t technically make sense, due to a particular secret of the series which I refuse to spoil. But, you know what, I’m okay with it. Julie Andrews will do us all a favor and guarantee the show has class.
I don’t want to see a great series of historical novels become an over-stylized piece of drama extreme. And I don’t want the female empowerment aspects manipulated to gain viewers. The announcement in Deadline was just that: manipulation.
“All of this, of course, is grounded in a 21st century gender equality mindset, because, as Quinn says, ‘portraying a healthy relationship in literature is the most revolutionary thing you can do.'” – Shondaland
Of course it’s grounded in a 21st century gender equality mindset. That means, “Rest assured, this isn’t like other romance novels. And Shondaland will make sure it’s sexy and intense.” Sexy and intense is what draws audiences in. Charm and romance aren’t considered valuable enough to popular television.
Luckily, ‘charm’ and ‘romance’ are synonymous of Julie Andrews! The woman projects grace and loveliness into everything she does. She’ll place us gently into the Bridgertons’ arms and we won’t mistake old world England for anywhere else… We hope.
This series is set to premiere sometime in 2020.
What are your thoughts on the upcoming Bridgertons Netflix series? Are you hopeful or quaking with dread?Are your corset popping in anger or pleasure? Let us know!
CULTURE (counter, pop, and otherwise) and the people who shape it.