Extravagant gowns, impeccable dialogue and longing gazes - Netflix’s Bridgerton has brought with it a completely new audience finding themselves pining for that Regency era-like romance for their own life-story!
From intricate storylines and complex characters interweaving the tantalizing love stories, of course, the loosely book-based adaptation has certainly taken from the old, but has made seamless space for the new too.
For starters, our recent protagonists like Kate and Edwina Sharma, as well as Queen Charlotte herself in the most recent edition of the series, bring an unexpected delight and depth to the plot by not only being women from different backgrounds, but also showing how these differences would play out in a time where it would have been both geographically and historically impossible. But why does the show’s casting choice matter so much anyway?
Misrepresentation is the bane of my existance
There’s always been discourse on representation in Hollywood - whether it's about gender, race, culture, sexuality or background - and now, it's no longer about whether we are indulged when we ask for a glimpse of interesting characters from all over the world on screen, but how these characters are portrayed and constructed instead.
In a world which has Liz’s “spiritual awakening” in Eat, Pray, Love (2012) and Kelly Kapoor from The Office (2005 onwards) to Kingo of the Eternals (2021), and a plethora of other side-characters who have flirted with being comic reliefs, “exotic” Bollywood caricatures, cheesy plot devices and nerdy, disliked outcasts, the Sharma sisters seem to be a breath of fresh air.
Here we get to meet two multi-dimensional characters with their own thoughtfully constructed character-arcs, who have been given the opportunity to acknowledge their heritage wherever natural, and are dark-skinned - which even Bollywood is taking long enough to celebrate.
And the best thing about them is they get to make mistakes - whether it’s Kate figuring out that she cannot project her own desires on her sister or Edwina herself taking charge of her story, like during the confrontation.
The core of Bridgerton still remains the fantasy and scandal, which the characters constantly navigate, but with it, they quench the stubborn drought of inclusion in cinema today. When talking to The Telegraph, Charithra Chandran (who plays Edwina) expresses,
"I think that Bridgerton has done for TV what Hamilton did for theatre," she said. "It encouraged a totally different audience to watch period drama and romances. And it made us feel seen on screen."
Sip Tea With Scandal, Not Scam
The creators of Bridgerton, notably Shonda Rhimes herself, have a flair for mastering a delicate balancing act of plot and storyline and diverse portrayals. Kate and Edwina’s place in the story doesn’t seem forced, yet their backstory makes sense and gives them adequate meaning and motive for their actions. And through it all, they don't have to fall back on the helpless maiden trope - and stand alone as strong female characters.
When I watched the first season of Bridgerton, I didn’t even realise how important South-Asian representation is till its successor. I found aspects of my life in the Sharma family, from the small Bangla phrases they use to the Haldi ritual before Edwina’s big day. Through a critical lens, all these nods to Indian culture weren’t exactly culturally accurate - mixing quite a few traits and characteristics from vastly different parts of the country, but I think I speak for many when I say I relished whatever I could get.
What's Next For The Ton?
Bridgerton has increased my expectations of seeing myself reflected on screen, and the industry does seem to give me hope too. From the last season of Never Have I Ever being released to catching a glimpse of Pavitra Prabhakar in Spider-Man: Across The Spiderverse, our main characters on screen are so much more emotionally rounded while being entertaining and connecting with audiences, even those not Indian, while having a central role in the plot.
All photographs used here belong to CottonBro Studios on Pexels.
One thing remains common throughout this cinematic revolution of brown representation - having South-Asians in the writers' room and director’s seat directly translates to incomparable representation on screen as well!