What’s the big deal about Bridgerton?

Dearest gentle reader, I find that I must make a confession: I am hopelessly and utterly obsessed with Bridgerton

I devoured the newest episodes within days and am so desperate for more that I am rewatching all the previous episodes, despite the fact that I’m woefully behind on my list of other content I need to catch up on for 2024. (Even my beloved House of the Dragon on HBO is having to wait for me to get my Bridgerton fix.)

When Netflix released the first episodes of this series back in 2020, I knew right away this show would be a must-watch for me. While I hadn’t yet read any of the Julia Quinn romance novels this series was based on, I’m a sucker for a British costume drama.

What makes Bridgerton unique is its diverse casting, classical covers of modern pop music, and its colorful costumes that are not necessarily period-accurate. If you’re looking for a historical drama that provides a peek into what society was actually like in the Regency era, this is not it. Ladies did not wear loudly-colored glittering ball gowns or dance to a string quartet playing Taylor Swift. 

However, this series is a deliciously addictive (and unabashedly soapy) drama. While some fans of period dramas are bothered by the departures from historical accuracy, it doesn’t personally phase me. Bridgerton is a fun, frothy fantasy that doesn’t make you think too hard about what you’re watching. Plus, I think it has brought new fans to the period drama genre, which is always fun to see. When a genre gets popular, that means more projects within that genre start getting greenlighted.

Even if you haven’t watched a single episode of Bridgerton, I bet you’ve seen the memes on social media or at least read some of the chatter about the show. And if you thought, “That’s definitely NOT for me,” there’s no shame in that. Still, I think the phenomenon surrounding this show is well worth discussing for fans of pop culture and the entertainment industry.  

I’ve seen some people poking fun at Bridgerton for being like cotton candy: all sugar and no substance. To be fair, Bridgerton isn’t the type of more intellectual storytelling (like The Godfather or Citizen Kane) that has something important to say about the world. But to me, there’s a place for both kinds of storytelling in fandom, and people shouldn’t be ashamed of enjoying some lighter fare. Bridgerton is no more “silly” than Zack Snyder’s 300 or some of the crazy stunts featured in the Fast and the Furious franchise. If it brings you joy, it brings you joy. 

Bridgerton has found such a wide appeal, I think, because the stories it tells are timeless. Sure, it’s set in a (highly fictionalized) version of Regency London, but the characters’ experiences are the same ones many people have shared throughout history: navigating family relationships, falling into (and out of) love, repairing a friendship, feeling anxious about how others perceive you, and so on. The human experience has looked different throughout the centuries, but at its core we all want to feel safe and loved. 

It’s also fun to engage with serialized storytelling in a franchise and to connect with characters and watch them grow. And because we care, sometimes fans will complain. Like how this most recent season, some of the costumes were even a little over the top for me (just Google “Cressida Cowper dresses” and you’ll see what I mean). And the writers maybe tried to weave in too many extra side plots, that distracted from the main couple (each season, like the books, highlights one of the Bridgerton siblings’ love stories). 

There’s also the inevitable debate when a popular book series gets adapted for the the screen, and changes to the story are made. I’ve read two of the Bridgerton books and find that, based on my experience, I actually prefer the TV series. I think the actors’ performances add some depth and nuance to the story that I didn’t necessarily get from the books. And the Queen Charlotte prequel series produced by Netflix is actually quite good.

I’m also curious to see if interest in the series will remain at a fever pitch now that the identity of mysterious gossip columnist “Lady Whistledown” is publicly known. However, in an era of increasing uncertainty in the entertainment industry, I think Bridgerton is still a very safe bet for Netflix to continue investing in.

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