Don’t you want to know about the lives of the upper classes in London in the 19th century? Despite the curiosity about an unknown world, people who are new to period dramas feel a psychological distance and an invisible barrier to a new genre. There must also be some people who like period dramas but are bored with the typical or predictable ones and want something even more special. Bridgerton, which I will introduce in this article, is a drama based an eight novel series by Julia Quinn. Bridgerton dramatizes the first novel The Duke and I and deals with scandals and romance concerning a fake relationship between Bridgerton’s eldest daughter, Daphne and a duke named Simon. While most period dramas are deeply rooted in historical content, Bridgerton focuses on romance so that anyone can relate to it and watch it comfortably. Let’s find out more about the characteristics of Bridgerton, a drama that everyone, from those who are new to period dramas to period drama buffs, can all enjoy.
A spirit of modernity in Bridgerton
With new and various features, Bridgerton is updated with modern concepts. Let’s take a look at the four modern features in the period drama that I found:
1. A modern female lead - Daphne is bold and driven.
The main character Daphne Bridgerton is a very independent woman. In the drama, when a stalker is obsessed with her and she almost gets caught up in a scandal with him, she tries to solve the situation by herself before the men arrive, by punching the guy, rather than being passive and waiting for her brothers or the duke. Also, unlike the women at that time who were in a position to accept a man’s proposal, Daphne asks the duke to marry her first. This proactive feature of Daphne’s character distinguishes her from other female leads in period dramas.
2. A female-centered storytelling approach
The plot of Bridgerton is not only driven by Daphne’s point of view but also by the way her sister Eloise and her friend Penelope as well as another charming female character, Marina Thompson, see the world.
Eloise is a character who claims that marriage is something that restricts a woman’s life and she values women’s independance above all. While Daphne’s story is centered on marriage and romance, her sister Eloise’s story is focused on mystery and detective work to find out the identity of Lady Whistledown. Even though these two are the same Bridgertons, the difference between the values that the two characters are pursuing makes the storyline more interesting and flavorful. Marina Thompson also appears veiled early in the drama, but as the story develops, the drama shows that she is just a typical woman at that time by showing the struggle she goes through in living as a woman and her constant fights against the norms of society.
3. Costumes with a modern design and color palette.
In Western society at that time around, the range of clothes allowed for women was not wide except for the dresses which highlighted a woman’s body shape by tightening their waists with a corset. Thus, Bridgerton’s design team tried to escape from the corset-tight dresses and made efforts to create by hand nearly 7500 pieces of clothing for this drama alone, using a wide range of designs and modern colors. You can see from the main poster that Daphne is wearing a comfortable dress without a corset.
4. New platforms and music with modern elements
The way the story is told by Lady Whistledown’s society papers in Bridgerton is similar to news reporting or breaking news told by today’s SNS. Bearing in mind that sending out letters or news took several days at that time, the quick process of making gossip papers and spreading them out can be seen as the birth of a new platform, considering the drama’s characteristics and the fast speed of modern aspect.
Also, since the setting of the drama is a social season in London, ball scenes appear in the drama quite often. Anyone who has not seen Bridgerton yet might be surprised when watching the ball scenes because they can hear some familiar songs. In these charming balls, the music created a classical atmosphere by arranging various pop-songs such as Araiana Grande’s ‘Thank U, Next’, Billie Eilish’s ‘bad guy’, and Marron 5’s ‘Girls Like You’. Through the pop and classical music integration, a new genre of music is created to match with the characteristics of Bridgerton which adapted modern features in a period drama.
Now, I would like to compare and analyze the relationship between typical period dramas and Bridgerton in three aspects: elements that are the same, additions, and deletions made in the course of this modern interpretation.
The Same: the status of women
The setting of the drama is a social season of upper and aristocratic class as I mentioned above. Balls are often recognized as a woman’s marriage market and Daphne, who shows the modern aspects of women, also is only independent within the framework. Ultimately, what really matters to her is love, marriage, and childbirth. Bridgerton criticized the social situation of women being seen as someone who must be accepted by men and the marriage market at that time which almost made women impossible to get married if they get involved in a scandal before marriage. This criticism works as an indicator of the low social status of women in the 18-19th centuries.
The addition: the appearance of black characters
A lot of viewers were surprised with the fact that even though the setting of the drama is around the upper class of the 19th century London, black characters appear as a duke, a duchess, and even a queen. Considering that London was a white-centered society and black people’s human rights were low at that time, the appearance of black characters is where the modern point of view has been adapted the most in the drama. Even the duke is portrayed as one of the most attractive men in the drama. We can guess that the appearance and portrayal of black characters are in line with the global human rights and especially Black Lives Matter movement.
The Deletion: the removal of the interclass barrier
The main female character Daphne is from a viscount’s family, and the main male character Simon is a duke. Even though the Bridgerton family has a deep historic background, romantic relationship between a duke’s family and a viscount’s family was almost impossible to happen in those days. But, in the drama, there is very few obstacles and restriction caused by their class difference and barley no character disagrees with the two people’s relationship. There is the feeling that this drama has not taken a sense of realism into consideration by focusing too much on romance.
There are many responses and reactions to Bridgerton, which has gone through a process of modern adaptation. In particular, the audiences have shown very opposing reactions to the appearance of black characters. One is that it was difficult to focus on the drama and the other is that it was a good try to capture the social atmosphere in the drama. But what we really must focus on here is that the new attempt Bridgerton tried to express its own characteristic through various ways in the traditional stereotyped drama industry. I hope Gachon University students will enjoy this drama while thinking about differences and distinctions from the era or other period dramas at that time even if it is not mentioned in this article.
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