Pop Culture with Tatiana

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A dash of Downton Abbey, a cup of Gossip Girl, a teaspoon of Shonda Rhimes and a sprinkle of nudity, what do you get? Bridgerton.

I’ve had to make haste to bring you this review!

Netflix, has claimed its biggest hit ever with Bridgerton, a Rated-R period drama set in Britain in the early 1800s. In a statement on Wednesday, it was announced that some 82 million households watched the show, in its entirety or partially, within its first 28 days of being released. The show has made the top 10 in EACH of its markets except Japan. It reached the number one spot in 83 countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Brazil, France, India and South Africa. Bridgerton did not just exceeded Netflix’s original viewership projections, it blew them out of the water.

SPOILER ALERT if you have not watched it and you’d like to, please do and come back and read my review 🙂

Bridgerton received an 86% rating on rotten tomatoes, which is quite good but personally, I give it 60% why? Because I am not a 17 year old girl anymore.

It is basically the exact same concept as Gossip Girl, in the sense that the story revolves around people of high society who worship a anonymous gossip columnist, mixed in with some Downton Abbey and some classic Shonda Rhimes clichés. Oh and of course, multiple sex scenes and a few swear words because they have to stand out in some way right?

Overall, if I have to describe Bridgerton in two words it would be enjoyable, because it is relaxing, not too harsh on the nerves like The Handmaiden’s Tale but extremely predictable, it lacked originality. Do you remember the classic 90s Rom-Com She’s all that? A couple pretends to be together to trick their family and friends. Bridgerton basically copied them.

This is part of my opinion, but obviously the record breaking statistics prove that people generally loved it.

The story

The story is set in the competitive world of high society’s “debutantes”. At the beginning of “the season” all of aristocracy’s (the ton’s) young ladies that have reached the age to marry are presented to the court and from then on they can be courted by any young man who wishes to do so (albeit the extent to which they are chaperoned is intense).

The first season of Bridgerton is centered on the complicated romance between the eldest Bridgerton daughter, Daphne, played by Phoebe Dynevor, and the Duke of Hastings Simon Bassett, portrayed by Regé-Jean Page (basically Blair and Chuck am I right?).

If you are reading this, I will assume you’ve watched it so I will carry on assuming you know how the story develops.

My Review

I must admit I was thrilled when I pressed play on Bridgerton you know why? Because the 1800s version of Gossip Girl who is called “Lady Whistledown” is voiced by Julie Andrews! How delightful!

The series’ timing likely played a role in its breakout success. It arrived amid the latest deadly COVID surge with people in many countries exhausted after months in quarantine. The show was officially renewed for a second season in January 2021 “I think the show really provides an incredible escape for audiences at a time where that’s exactly what’s needed,” said the series’ creator Chris Van Dusen.

I agree, the costumes, the set decor, the make-up and OMG the queen’s hair? they were lovely to look at and did provide a certain escape for most of us who are still locked in our homes. However the effort towards cleavage amplification in some of those gowns was a bit too much, made me wonder if it was actually like that at the time. Also was it never cold in England in the 1800s? They are always in short sleeves and nobody wears a coat at any point.

One of my favourite things about Downton Abbey was the language, the dialogue, and in Bridgerton the English is even more upscale and uptight so I loved that. Even though the notions expressed in Downton Abbey are much more intellectual than Bridgerton. I wish we still called the tailor “the modiste” and used expression like “make haste”!

Another positive point about the show is the diversity of the cast and how it was presented to the audience. They really broke conventions on race. Black people are part of England’s aristocracy but the show’s production did not make a huge point about it like “Look at us we are so diverse”. It was presented naturally, which is good. They mention that the fact that the King married a black woman made their community more respected, and there is talk of “the colonies” but it is not the focus.

Which now brings me to the Queen! She sniffs cocaine?! what? and she places wagers? Honestly the Queen’s character is the most far fetched of all, which was quite comical.

I must admit some parts were funny; the idea that a drink of raw eggs and garlic could cure a hangover? Or even worse oil and charcoal?! Thank god we don’t live in those times anymore.

I also enjoyed the music. The idea that a string quartet plays renditions of modern pop songs like Ariana Grande’s “Thank you, Next” and Maroon 5’s “Girl Like You” was lovely. But on some level it did certify the idea in my head that this show is made of teenagers and young adults.

Now why did I find this show so cliché and predictable?

The “True love match”.

The scene in which Daphne swoons just because the Duke rolled up his sleeves… It is great! if you are 17. And then she’s so enthralled by the way he licks a spoon… okay.

I also thought some of the character’s initiatives were too stupid. Accepting a duel and potentially die just because of a vengeful promise to a father you hated? And it was so predictable that Daphne would stop it.

Also why does no one ever ask “why”? Penelope clearly doesn’t want Marina to deceive Colin, nobody asks her why. Simon tells Daphne he doesn’t want kids, she doesn’t ask why. Instead they do not speak to each other for a whole episode. She finds out why because she looks through his letters (which is the 1800s version of looking through your boyfriend’s phone I presume).

Which brings me to the final episode. So after swearing off having children his whole adult life, and threatening to leave his wife, Daphne just gives Simon a three sentence motivational speech at the end and suddenly he’s changed his mind? Give me a break.

Also all this “I Burn for you” nonsense come on it’s too much.

Bearing in mind this is high society in the 1800s, so everything is at an extreme level of proper. Young ladies are chaperoned constantly. The slightest idea of a girl being alone somewhere, god forbid with a man, would lead to scandal. In the meantime of course all the men are free to do what, and most importantly, whom they please.

The level of sexual naivety of the young girls is astonishing, but after some research it seems as though this is how it was at the time. Girls really have no idea how a baby is made.

But I did appreciate Daphne’s initiative of trying to find out the truth as the story progressed.

https://twitter.com/ErmSherp/status/1343830514206003200?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1343830514206003200%7Ctwgr%5E%7Ctwcon%5Es1_c10&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.marieclaire.com%2Fculture%2Fa35131549%2Fbridgerton-memes%2F

Also the choice of casting, I felt that Phoebe Dynevor who plays Daphne Bridgerton could have looked older. She looks so young (which I guess is the point of the story) that for me it made the sex scenes a bit difficult to watch.

However I did appreciate the actress’ personality as well as her acting abilities. Dynevor and Regé-Jean Page shot a series of sex scenes for the show. But Dynevor recently told Glamour Magazine that the solo scene—showing her character Daphne Bridgerton masturbating—that was the “hardest” to shoot.

“That’s saying something, because there were a lot of difficult scenes to shoot,” the 25-year-old actress told the outlet. “You feel very vulnerable in those scenes. We did the intimate scenes like stunts—we blocked them out, so you have yoga balls in between you and all sorts of things that never make you feel exposed in any way. You always feel safe. I’d rehearse with Regé so much that we both knew what we were doing. It felt very practical.”

(Sorry I had to with this meme)

“But on my own, it’s a different thing,” she noted. “The stage directions are very specific: You have to have an orgasm. It’s a difficult thing to rehearse, which means you don’t. You just do it.”

The actors actually worked with an intimacy coordinator named Lizzy Talbot to help choreograph those vulnerable shots, including Dynevor’s solo scene.

“I always get back to the fact that Lizzy was on set for that scene,” Dynevor said. “If we didn’t have an intimacy coordinator, it would be our director, who was a male, coming up to me and telling me what to do. That would have been awkward.”

“I felt so safe in the knowledge that Lizzy was there, so that if something went wrong or the director wanted something different he could speak to her first,” she added. “I think it would have been a very difficult experience if Lizzy hadn’t been on set protecting me and looking after me. No one wants to be told how to orgasm by a man.”

And the last thing that was SO PREDICTABLE Penelope Featherington is Lady Whistledown! Bearing in mind it makes more sense than Dan Humphreys being “Gossip Girl” but it was so predictable. What a coincidence that scandal fell upon the Featherington family just as Marina was about to elope with Colin, the day after Marina told Penelope she was set on marrying him even if her real baby daddy was alive.

The record breaking statistics

I am not surprised that a show filled with sex scenes, scandal and period costumes would propel the binge-worthy show to success 

It was announced that some 82 million households watched the show, in its entirety or partially, within its first 28 days of being released. Breaking the previous record held by fantasy hit The Witcher with 76 million viewers in its first 28 days.

Netflix said it now has more than 200 million subscribers globally, after adding 8.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2020, beating its own expectations. But the streaming service typically keeps its viewership numbers a secret, and the company’s data has been said to lack nuance and third party verification. Media critics are wary of such self-reporting.

Meanwhile Season 2, which starts production in the spring in the U.K., will chronicle the pursuit of a suitable marriage for the eldest Bridgerton sibling, Anthony, played by Jonathan Bailey, as chronicled in the second book of Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series, The Viscount Who Loved Me.

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