The Bridgertons are back in the Netflix ton.
Already they are #1 on the streaming channel in South Africa and I have to confess I binged the series this weekend.
In 2020 we had a Covid Christmas with all we girls down with the virus. On Christmas Day, we were visited by our healthy family who didn’t live with us, along with my son and new daughter-in-law who were visiting Cape Town. We sat on the upstairs balcony and ‘visited’ with them as they camped on the lawn downstairs. Then we went back to bed; ordered Nando’s for lunch and caroused on flu meds and watched the first season of Bridgerton, taking fever nap breaks in between episodes.
We survived Covid and the excess of raised heartbeats , not to mention the weirdness of watching raunchy scenes with my children.
So when the second season landed this weekend, my daughters, now living in their own apartment, laid on some food; I bought the chocolate; my sister bought the doughnuts and we dined out on the first four episodes of the Shondra Rimes epic rom-com-meets-Barbara-Cartland, clashing with modernity and strong women.
(Everyone has of course finished the season already on their own by now.)
There was the usual mix of ‘Oh mys!’ (from we genteel ladies) that accompanied the hilarious subtitles which, for some reason, were on, causing much giggling from our audience of four: from ‘[sighs deeply]’ to lots of ‘[hmmns]’ and ‘[moans]’ (including a ‘shuddering moan]’ and my own personal favourite, ‘[exhales sharply].’
As usual, the sumptuous gowns, wigs and sets did not disappoint, making us all wish we were living in that era, forgetting of course that most of us would have been the servants in those times, not the nobility, not to mention the indignity of chamber pots that preceded the glorious luxury of flushing toilets. (Mind you, a large number of our citizens still have to live with those – that is something necessary to check one’s privilege over.)
The show does of course satirize the lunacy of the marriage meat market that was the ‘season’ in society along with the subjugation of women’s roles by marriage and social standards of behaviour in general: from the widow having to give up her home because only a distant male heir may inherit the property (echoes of Jane Austen there – whom many refer to as one of the first ‘feminist writers); to the need for a woman to marry well to be secure in life – and having to wait to be chosen. As Lady Danford says in one scene, ‘The world is not kind to single women.’ Sadly little has changed for many women 200 years later.
Despite some obvious tropes, like the influence of parents’ deaths on children’s fears and phobias (a la Family Stone) and the rather cliched meet-cute of the protagonists (What’s with Viscount Bridgerton’s assumption that a woman galloping on a horse must be in trouble and therefore in need of rescuing?!), there were some interesting take-homes like how depression and grief play out in people’s lives, with Lady Bridgerton’s words, ‘This is my best.’ summing up how those for whom the black dog is a reality get through each aching hour.
It’s a series that offers some fun and intrigue, and of course we are drawn to the glitter and glamour of it all, never mind our awe at Queen’s Charlotte’s neck strength which rivals a grand prix driver’s as she holds up those magnificent hairpieces.
So pour your Pimms and get ready for the spectacle that is Bridgerton.
I’m waiting for the brocaded gowns of Season 3 already.