Ready to discuss Bridgerton? (And be prepared for spoilers!)
What are your thoughts?
Love it? Loathe it? Tell us what you think!
And if you’d like to see our reviews of ALL the books in the series, click here. We also have a discussion at our forums, the [email protected].
I’m SO interested to see who they pick for Kate. I think this will be the make or break season for me. Fingers crossed they get the humor right!
Hate it. Loved the book series but this is trying to hard to be « socially relèvent ».
Too naive and too simple , they probably paid more attentions on costumes ♀️♀️
I dislike the main characters: Daphne and Simon…. I don’t see the spark between them. It doesn’t feel like they’re in love. I prefer Penelope’s storyline. She seems more genuine.
Hate, hate, loathe. They have completely ruined the wonderful books with this PC, modern version that completely erases the fact that it takes place in the early 1800’s. The casting is awful, the costumes and music are deplorable.
I thought that some, but not all, of the costumes are beautiful, although I don’t think all of them are accurate for the time period. For example, I read somewhere that leaving out the bonnets that women would have worn outside was a conscious decision, but I still missed them, and I don’t think the surplice bodice of Lady Featherington’s gowns was period appropriate either (although she probably looked better in them than in a straight bodice).
As for the casting and music, I liked them. I know that there were no black dukes in Regency England, but I didn’t care and focused only on whether I thought the actors played their roles well. There is a scene where Lady Danbury explicitly discusses race, which is rather 21st C, but for the rest of it race is not an issue, the characters are who they are. One of the best Hamlets I’ve seen was done by a black British actor, another excellent Hamlet was Benedict Cumberbatch. Although totally unlikely that a medieval Danish prince would be black, I didn’t feel that the casting of the former was done to be PC but because he could carry it off. And a famous production of “Othello” was done by the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, DC where all of the actors were black except for Othello, who was played by Patrick Stewart. Sometimes things are done for shock value but sometimes it’s a way to make people actually pay attention to works that they might otherwise take for granted because they think they know them. Just my opinion, of course, YMMV.
I think that’s an excellent way of putting it, Susan. A lot of it comes down to personal taste. As you said, YMMV. To me, period appropriate details like costumes, where or where not to wear a bonnet, demographics, etc., matter a lot. Not because I’m well-versed in history (far from it), but I want to think I’m not being sold a bill of goods when I watch or read a piece classified as historical fiction.
On the subject of Shakespeare, the only production that ever blew me away was Twelfth Night at the Globe Theater with Mark Rylance and Stephen Fry (there are DVD copies available, highly recommend!) In the spirit of the original time period, it is an all-male British cast in period-appropriate costumes down to the last stitch and button. Seriously, they used actual button molds from the time period! It is so on the mark, in fact, that Stephen Fry asked the costume designer if she would have been okay fudging the buttons a bit- say, would a 1603 button mold be close enough for a story written in 1601-1602? And she was like, “Absolutely not!” That is some hard core dedication to accuracy right there, and it really makes the production shine. Plus, it’s absolutely hysterical.
Now I’m off to see if I can stream that production. I love that they were so invested in period accuracy, and Mark Rylance is amazing in almost everything, from broad comedy to intimate drama. OTOH, I think one of the best productions of “Coriolanus” — most definitely not my favorite play — is the 2011 modern dress version starring Ralph Fiennes and Gerard Butler. It’s intense and bloody and powerful and makes brilliant use of technology, as in an expository scene played as if done by talking heads on a Sunday morning TV show (link to review below). Were there TVs in Shakespeare’s time? Of course not, but the staging is still brilliant.
I started Coriolanus and never got to finish it for some reason. What a great cast. I was surprised at the time it never got more press and it just seemed to disappear. I’ll have to track it down to watch the rest.
Thank gods someone else hates it!
As I noted earlier in the week, you and the two people above me seem to suffer from a lack of imagination to envision a world that’s not ivory white. I have no idea why you all seem to think Quinn is anti-PC. None of her books embrace straight-down-the-middle traditional values in the first place. But your constant example of the “PC-ness” of the series is the colorblind casting. Not everything has to be perfectly historically accurate and when your cry out about historical inaccuracy involves the race of the characters it says much about your character without saying anything more.
We would appreciate it if you would stick to addressing the words of other posters rather than their characters.
To be fair, it’s not like the Quinn books are historically accurate either or offer Jane Austen caliber writing.
I agree that, like the Quinn books, the Netflix series has its flaws. For me, those flaws were that there wasn’t enough to plot to stretch it out over so many hours of TV so they padded the story with some non-essential and repetitive scenes.
But overall I thought the Netflix series was fun and entertaining — a much needed, not too serious entertainment to distract us from a turbulent and difficult 2020.
I thought the casting was one of the strengths of the Netflix series. Penelope sparkled. The actor playing Simon was perfect — not only extremely handsome but somehow he delivered lines with aplomb that would have been cringe inducing from a less competent actor. Ditto for the casting of Lady Danbury — she came alive in the Netflix series whereas in the Quinn books she was more of a caricature, reciting more or less the same tired remarks in every book. The Bridgerton brothers ranged from bland to dislikeable (Anthony) for me but they would hopefully improve.
Unfortunately, there aren’t very many “historically accurate” movies or TV shows made. There aren’t many “historically accurate” romance novels written either. I would love to read more historically accurate romance novels — if you have any recs, please, please, please share them.
Its a very slick and beautiful production, nicely entertaining, and I love the modern take with multi ethnic actors and actresses. But there was zilch chemistry between Phoebe and Simon. The two of them are beautiful humans for sure. But I felt no investment in the characters. And excuse me a woman from that sheltered era would immediately fee so sexually free? Ultimately I didn’t care whether or not they ever got together. The big sex scene was very ho hum! And I love a good romance with enticing sex scenes. This was not one.
I think that is why so many viewers were taken with Eloise, Penelope or Marina- because those were the women who showed passion and feeling.
Daphne and Simon were both presented in a very different way than the book which took a lot of the rawness out of their personalities and smoothed it all over. It made them both prettier and less messy, but also more plastic. They elevated Daphne so much, changing her into the most admired girl of the season, it made it harder to connect with the same character who was on her second season in the books and couldn’t find a husband because she was constantly “friend zoned”. We instantly feel a connection to Eloise or Penelope because they are the underdogs (the way you do with the Bennets in P&P).
Daphne was set up as the loveliest, most admired girl of the season with a rich, loving and influential family and the backing of the queen. We don’t see her struggle or try to achieve anything. She’s set up as the winner and her only “risk” is if she doesn’t make the best match of the season.
Simon is a stunningly handsome Duke with even more advantages than Daphne. His biggest challenge is that he’s still hung up that his father was mean to him as child (oversimplified I know) and the series also cut a lot of his edge and rawness out. He’s so cool and aloof all the time you never see the simmering rage and constant hurt he has in the book.
So in the end it’s like watching the rich prom king and queen to see if they get together. Once they marry, Daphne isn’t at risk of social ruin and unlike many heroines she has a wealthy family to fall back on so the peril doesn’t seem so great. Simon never seems in that much peril because as a rich Duke the advantages are all his.
Even their sex scenes were filmed to make them seem the most beautiful rather than to show any connection. When I watched them I was aware how staged they seem and how they were about creating a pretty composition rather than be about how the two characters connected.
I also found the reconciliation at the end to be so blah. Like, what? Simon just woke up and realized he was making himself and Daphne miserable? They, as a couple, were the least interesting lovers or possible lovers in the show. And WHAT HAPPENED TO FRANCESCA?
This conversation is like potato chips. You can’t read just one. I spent waaaay too much (fun) time this morning going through all the comments.
IKR! I keep coming back every couple of days to read new comments. It’s wonderful that this space exists. Kudos to Dabney and the rest of the team
I watched all 8 episodes in 4 days. I admit I had to skip the sex scenes — too much like soft porn and I wasn’t comfortable.
No it isn’t “the books”. Some of the extra plots were more interesting than others. But the acting itself was very well done. Simon and Daphne made a
believable couple. One I rooted for. Disappointed they revealed Whistledown as I think I was a couple books in before I was positive who she was irl. This was a pure giveaway and mystery would have been more fun. How many romances have been turned into dreadful movies with stilted acting? (I seem to remember a few Nora Robert’s’ made fir TV movies that I could not watch they were so bad…)
At those ‘porn’ scenes I was thinking that I am watching ‘50 shades of Grey’ annoying
So Francesca is in the first episode but is never introduced. It’s odd.
I hated this show so much. As a longtime fan of the books, it felt like every part of the books and the characters and why I loved them, was destroyed. I wanted to love it. Even the parts I did enjoy weren’t enough to overcome my disappointment in it. Not even the sexiness of Regé-Jean Page was enough to make up for this dreck.
I think there are many who love the books who feel as you do!
Yeah I know, it’s just a bummer as everyone seems to be gushing about it so much and I don’t have it in me to do so. I don’t feel like it deserves it. Maybe if it improves in season 2, it’ll deserve it, but it fell short in so many ways.
I am on your side on this one, Rachel. I am watching and nearly finished with it because there’s nothing much on right now, deep in yet another lockdown, but I am also disappointed and struggling to like it. It’s so OTT for me and so I am finding it hard to “go with its flow”. Every time I watch it I wonder what those who have always criticised those of us who read romance think. Does it confirm their prejudices about the genre, do they sneer and smirk at it or are they entranced and (secretly) converted? If they are entranced, will they admit they like it and stop denigrating romance books and readers? I wonder, wonder, wonder. And, I will stick my head above the parapet and just say there is an elephant in the room here that no one wants to address except to gush over it. That’s fine; no problem for me but……….. If we still had the frownies, I would probably need a shovel to get myself free of them for mentioning this. Ducking now and taking 10 to think about what I have said before posting this. Oh well, 10 minutes later, here goes.
I think it confirms the sense that many have that romance is light and believes in fairy tale happy endings. If you’re someone who thinks that’s useless Bridgerton isn’t going to change your mind. But, on the screen, we are used to seeing stories that we know real life is NOT like that and for many the simple fun they’ve gotten from the show is all they need.
It entertained me, but I also look at it critically and know it’s Dynasty-esque. Or maybe more Gossip Girl meets Reign. If I had come into it a huge Julia Quinn fan, I’d likely be very annoyed with it.
Like a lot of things made to be pop culture friendly and appeal to the masses, it removed a lot of nuances and went for big broad emotions and spectacle. Instead of being a second season debutante and kind of easy going, Daphne had to be the “diamond” and very stressed out.
If they took a Joanna Bourne novel and changed it this way I’d likely be livid, but I didn’t have the emotional investment in Daphne and Simon many people did.
It was eye candy and I loved seeing Penelope and Eloise come to life but I wasn’t riveted and emotional as I was watching North and South or Pride and Prejudice or any adaptation that grounds itself in reality. I just took it for what it was.
I’m not attached to Julia Quinn. I read the novels 10 years ago and enjoyed them, but quickly moved onto other authors. There’s a reason I stopped reading her. But, at the same time, I had enjoyed her writing enough, and remembered it enough that the changed they made were jarring and kept throwing me out of the story, unfortunately, and not in a good way. I just dearly hope no one ever decides to make a Georgette Heyer novel into a movie or comes for my beloved Mary Balogh or Courtney Milan or Alyssa Cole. I understand that a lot of the internal struggle is lost because showing that kind of monologue on screen is difficult. But Outlander did a superb job of showing Claire’s narrative. And I frankly think that if people want romance, there are a lot better shows for it. This show was beautiful on the surface, but as a review on Vox said, ultimately far too shallow, with characters that weren’t explored that much, and ultimately empty. If people love it, good for them. I just wish the articles, etc, would stop on certain pop culture websites, because I’m sick of it already, it’s already been talked to death. What I do hope that comes out of it, is that other, better romances and stories are told, and maybe by authors who deserve it, if they want to write a colorful, beautiful world, embracing people from all walks of life, so that everyone watching can see something of themselves in it. So many people were excited to watch this, and I think felt betrayed by being teased it would be for them when ultimately it was not.
I agree that there was a shallowness to the production.
The characters had basically one emotion they were allowed at a time and with characters like Anthony it really ruined who they were. I’m still not sure why Daphne had to be changed to take whatever was quirky about her away.
I also agree that Outlander is the gold standard for adapting a modern “romance” from a woman’s point of view. There’s no question that things like costume and music were probably more of a priority in Bridgerton than truly multifaceted characters.
I am hoping that it is the kickoff for a lot of other productions that see that historical romance is profitable and in demand.
I agree with all of this!
I will form a rebellion if they TOUCH Mary Balogh!!!!
Hi Elaine S, The Netflix numbers can’t possibly be only those of us who’ve actually read the books. So, to me, that would indicate that there’s not a lot of judgmental snark going on by those who have no idea of the actual storylines. We the readers might have our very valid complaints but the new-to-the-story viewers seem to be sticking with the whole series. My guess is that your point of “secretly” enjoying is going to prove accurate. But will it lend validity to the written genre? Will sci-fi or anime gain “validity”? Only time and repeated favorable exposure will shrink that elephant.
I think if a series is well acted, written and impressive enough it can help a genre gain validity. The first several seasons of Game Of Thrones helped give fantasy more respect as you had a show that included dragons and zombie like creatures combined with impeccable acting and complicated storylines.
Is Bridgerton going to be the show that does that for the romance genre- in my opinion, doubtful. Outlander has done more in that sense (even though Gabaldon insists it isn’t “romance”) by drawing people of all ages, sexes etc. into the riveting story and romance. Are the men I know who follow Outlander avidly going to start watching Bridgerton- probably not.
That doesn’t mean that Bridgerton can’t be a hit and influential in many ways but I don’t think it’s likely to transform anyone’s idea of what romance is. It’s actually doing the opposite in many ways, leaning into the clothes, jewelry, houses and spectacle more than trying to humanize the stories. Even the emotional aspects like Marina’s story were played like high drama (her screaming etc.) rather than super nuanced performances.
I do think Bridgerton will be influential in whetting people’s appetites for more historical and romantic stories and some that result may be more realistic, nuanced and complex.
Just have to say, I agree. The first seasons of GOT were excellent, and Outlander has done more. This show? Not so much, not when it’s mainly frothy articles gushing about the wigs, or the fashions, or the pop music. And not when they treated ever character of color so poorly.
It felt to me like they wanted it both ways regarding people of color. They showed them completely integrated into the aristocracy yet had an awkward conversation about how it only recently happened with the King’s marriage? That made no sense.
I think they felt that by making one half of the main couple a person of color and adding the character of Marina and making Lady Danbury and the Queen such strong characters they were doing enough. Everyone seems to have a different opinion on this though. Certainly there was almost zero representation of other ethnicities, including Asian, in the main characters.
I think Kate will almost surely be played by a woman of color next season if they want to keep up what they have started with season one. I expect most, if not all, of the upcoming Bridgerton partners (with the exception of Penelope) to be persons of color as half of the couples are already cast as white -as the books are all Bridgerton centric.
It is clear to me that a main goal of the show’s creators was to create a big popular splash amongst bloggers, reviewers and other pop culture metrics. In that they have surely succeeded.
Kate… Black? Now that you say that, I can see it.
I’m expecting Kate to be a PoC as well (or if not Kate, then Edwina and her step-mother). I think they could easily go with an Indian actress, especially if they want to explore more interactions between the British society and other cultures of that time and round out the diverse casting a bit more. I noticed the painter’s wife looked like she could be of Indian descent. Regardless, it will be interesting to find out who they cast.
Yes I could see that. As I said it will be interesting to see how diverse the cast gets as the show goes on.
Will they address the British Empire’s conquests in India? The China trade? There is a lot of real history they could roll into the show if they choose.
Throughout season one, I felt the added stories were common enough tropes in Regency romances, and were perhaps there as part of the overarching world building, such as Marina’s story, the gambling subplot with Penelope’s father, and Simon’s friendship with the pugilist, etc.
Yes! They even threw in a mention of “Gretna Green” with Colin and Marina. They were covering all the bases.
One item I hope they will stay true to the books on is Newton. Hopefully, it will be an overweight, lovably excitable Corgi and not some high in the instep doggie breed (LOL).
Or a number of other ethnicities. Season one was largely cast with black or white actors. I wonder if they will diversify even more.
I could see an Indian actress playing Kate as well. I loved Aishwarya Rai and Martin Henderson together in Bride and Prejudice. Or a Chinese actress? Or you name it, there’s so many ethnicities that have been underrepresented in TV that I think there are many possibilities that will be well received.
As long as they get the right actress for the part with the right personality it works. Kate is such a fun character I’d really love to see her shine on screen and liven Anthony up a bit. We’ve only seen him angry and sulking. A happy funny Anthony would be welcome.
Yes. As I’ve said, I love the diverse casting.
I would really love it if they explored other ethnicities in the casting, and as you said, explored the relationship of Imperialism in England and the countries they colonized through that. I think that’s one of the things that made me so angry about the Black casting. They had some wonderful POC actors, and it felt like the parts they gave them, weren’t enough, and they deserved more. Not enough story to care about the characters, not enough meat for the actors to chew on. Also, I’ve noted some articles talking about 1) the queerbaiting with Benedict’s plotline, teasing a queer arc in the trailer and not coming through, and 2) Treating Marina, the black woman so shabbily. They did a lot of hinting at race, without actually going there, and there’s a lot more to explore in the story as opposed to a one-line throwaway by Lady Danbury, explaining how they came to be where they are. There’s also a problem with colorism, in that there are no darker-skinned actors, only light-skinned Black people are acceptable on-screen, which is a common Hollywood problem in general. Also, I’ll say it, Daphne wasn’t interesting enough for Simon.