A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Bridgerton is a soapy series set in Regency-era England based on the novels by Julia Quinn. It follows a cast of upper-crust characters involved in society dramas and dilemmas. In an unusual but welcome move for period dramas, the cast is diverse in terms of race and ethnicity, with people of color represented in every strata of society, from nobles to servants. Expect plenty of explicit sex scenes, including partial nudity (breasts, bottoms), implied masturbation and oral sex, multiple partners, suggestive movements/noises, and passionate kissing by both same-sex and male-female couples. Sexual politics is also a complicating factor in the drama: Upper-class women are shamed for being alone with men and called "loose" or "ruined" as a result. Meanwhile, men have sexual affairs and mistresses and are called nothing worse than "rake." One storyline involves an unplanned pregnancy. Several characters smoke cigarettes and one uses snuff; characters also drink, sometimes to excess. Violence includes very physical boxing matches, and characters hit each other violently during disagreements, and duel (with guns). The characters are very wealthy, with expensive parties/dinners, elegant clothing, precious gems, huge estates, and servants (who are universally loyal and enthusiastic about their jobs) ostentatiously on display. A character with a larger body type is insulted for her appearance; women are often laced into very tight corsets that leave bloody marks on their skin. Characters talk about marrying for love, but they also automatically consider anyone who's rich or who has a noble title to be more important. Cursing includes "bitches" and "f--k."
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What's the story?
Based on Julia Quinn's series of romance novels, BRIDGERTON is set in England in 1813, where reigning Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) is a dark-skinned woman whose multiracial heritage paved the way for other people of color in the "ton" (think of it as the Regency-era's one-percenters). Our story picks up as Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor), the eldest daughter of a powerful, rich, and connected clan, is set to make her society debut. Her family has high hopes that she'll attract a prestigious (and rich!) husband. But a series of missteps -- as well as the overzealous chaperoning of her older brother Anthony (Jonathan Bailey) -- cause her popularity to plummet. First, a distant cousin of the "tasteless, tactless" Featherington family arrives to steal her thunder: It seems that the beautiful Marina Thompson (Ruby Barker) is the most sought-after debutante of the season. Next, Daphne rubs the most eligible bachelor, the Duke of Hastings (Regé-Jean Page), the wrong way at a party, causing a stir. But when the Duke and Daphne formulate a secret plan that solves both of their biggest problems, they embark on a path that will lead both of them into complications they never intended. And it's all chronicled by Lady Whistledown (the voice of Julie Andrews), the all-seeing, all-knowing Gossip Girl of Bridgerton's world.
Is it any good?
Sumptuous costuming and sets, swoon-worthy sex scenes, and an admirable decision to simply ignore the blinding Whiteness of Regency-era society make this series a potent treat for romantics. The pleasures of Bridgerton are many, and fans of Downton Abbey and Jane Austen will be in heaven soaking it all up. There's the usual: handsome footmen, trotting horses, sprawling estates, family drama that plays out in rooms with brocaded walls and extensive silver tea sets. But although period dramas like Downton pretended that its lords and ladies were too genteel for steamy sex, Bridgerton does no such thing, with a commendable focus on both male and female pleasure.
It is disappointing, however, that Bridgerton skims so lightly over the gender, socioeconomic, and racial politics of the era. Granted, there's an in-universe reason why its society is multiracial, but we never hear much about how Queen Charlotte's (Golda Rosheuvel) biracial background contributes to her struggle to lead her kingdom, or how the formidable Lady Danbury (Adjoa Andoh) became a society maven. The servants are universally loyal and devoted to their rich employees, and though Bridgerton's female characters sometimes chafe under the notion that their value is connected to marriage and children, the amount of time we spend examining that notion versus the screen time granted to scenes of romance displays where Bridgerton's heart really lies. It all adds up to a drama that's delicious and enjoyable, but a bit empty for all its beauty.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Bridgerton's multiracial universe, which is very different from the all-White cast that populates most dramas. In Bridgerton's world, diversity seems to be accepted and not remarked upon much. Do you prefer this approach, or would you rather dig into the racial and ethnic politics of this world? Do the characters of color have as much screen time as White characters? Are their storylines as complicated and central? How does race and ethnicity play into their character, if it does?
Compare the number of servants in this film to the number of nobles. How many people had to labor for noble/royal characters to live lives of ease? What things did the upper-crust characters have done for them that average people do for themselves? Are the servants given storylines of their own in Bridgerton? What about non-noble characters? Why do you think this choice was made?
Bridgerton is produced by Shonda Rhimes' production company Shondaland, which also helmed shows like Grey's Anatomy and How to Get Away with Murder. How are Shondaland's shows similar or different from each other? Is there a distinctive stamp on her shows?
Does the amount of sex, drinking, and smoking in this series seem realistic for its time period? Why, or why not? Do period dramas frequently contain sex scenes and nudity?
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