The Dangers of Romanticizing “Bridgerton” and “The Crown”


Writer Bashirat Oladele argues the importance of remaining critical when watching scripted television about British aristocracies and monarchies in this op-ed.

In traditional Netflix fashion, the end of 2020 provided us with a variety of content to keep us busy during the holiday season. Bridgerton, produced by Shondaland, premiered on Dec 25 and follows the story of Daphne Bridgerton during the Regency Era who is in search of the right man. Similarly, on Nov 15 The Crown’s fourth season premiered, this time delving into the marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. Both shows provide viewers with a glimpse of the monarchy and British aristocracy, but it is crucial to remain critical when indulging in these shows. If there is anything the West is infamous for, it’s romanticizing imperialism and the monarchy in the form of entertainment. This ahistorical cleanse of high society is particularly interesting in a generation that seems to be against extravagant displays of wealth as we see in Bridgerton.

Despite Bridgerton’s obvious virality, it’s interesting to see why the show was a global hit. Perhaps it was the perceptions of Brits in their fancy outfits or the handsome Duke? But, how does one watch these shows, mesmerized by the glitz and glam, that was stolen from former colonies and ignore the atrocities of the British Empire? While the show does take creative license with history, slavery was still active in the early 19th century. In erasing or overlooking this fact, it presents the empire in a rose-tinted view, in an appears to absolve them of their historic crimes. It also ignores how colonization has contributed to the wealth attained by aristocrats.

Furthermore, whether we see a minor representation of Black characters in these depictions, does it truly mean anything if the historical context goes unacknowledged? For a show that appears to have inclusive casting, dark-skinned Black women do not get adequate representation at all. For example, Will, the boxer, and the Duke’s absentee father were dark-skinned men who had lines (albeit they had stories associated with aggression, a dangerous trope put on dark skin Black men) whereas the darker-skinned women were just in the background and are disregarded. Alternatively, every Black character with a significant storyline is fair-skinned. Characters such as Marina, the distant relative of the Featherington’s, had complex narratives and bold monologues while dark-skinned Black women had barely any speaking lines. The lack of representation of dark-skinned women, other than Lady Danbury, plays into colorist tropes that dark-skinned women are reduced to such as being the mammy.

In a moment of self-awareness, there is a scene between Simon and Lady Danbury where they discuss why they are the only Black royals. She mentions “Look at our Queen, look at our King. Look at their marriage, look at everything it is doing for us, what it is allowing us to become. We were two separate societies, divided by color until a king fell in love with one of us.” Other than this, race is barely acknowledged, acting as if a post-racial society exists. In Regency England, of all time periods. Furthermore, it provides the sentiment of how love is stronger than racism, when structurally this is not rooted in reality and race impacts many of our lives and how we navigate society today. The blatant ignorance of race is absurd because the time period in which these characters lived was created through racism — the country estates, the palace— all of which occurred due to the impact of British colonialism.



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