Lessons for society on inclusivity, courtesy of the ‘ton

Jun 12, 2024 |4 min read
Bridgerton book on a table

Lady Whistledown is back for a new season! Since its debut on Netflix in 2020, Bridgerton has swept viewers off their feet and swirled us into a tizzy of romance, drama, gossip and scandal. Shonda Rhimes’ lavish production of Julia Quinn’s novels stands out, not just for its eye candy and beautifully designed costumes, but for its groundbreaking approach to inclusivity. The show has set a new standard for representation in period dramas, and its taught society a thing or two—often with a cheeky wink.

 

Historical influence, with a twist

Whether you’re an aspiring duke, a rebellious debutante, or a gossip-loving wallflower, representation empowers and inspires. One of the most striking features of Bridgerton is its cast of diverse actors in prominent roles, challenging the traditionally white-centric portrayal of Regency-era England.

Bridgerton integrates diversity seamlessly into its narrative. The show does not make gender, race, disability or sexuality a central issue. Instead, it presents a world where diversity is a given; a re-imagined version of Regency London where the focus is on the richness of character, rather than who is playing them. Bridgerton encourages viewers to envision a world where inclusivity is the norm. This approach sends a powerful message - inclusivity should be an organic aspect of storytelling rather than a forced addition.

 

Breaking Down Stereotypes

The series also challenges stereotypes by portraying its characters as complex and multi-dimensional. For example, characters of colour are not confined to supporting or subservient roles; they are central to the narrative, with thought-out backstories and personal growth. Queen Charlotte is the ultimate stereotype-buster. Not only is she a woman of colour ruling the ‘ton with a fist of iron (and a pack of Pomeranians), she is proof that you can be authoritative, feminine and fabulous all at the same time.

The Bridgertons themselves are also perfect examples of breaking down stereotypes: Eloise Bridgerton is uninterested in finding a husband; she’s too busy dreaming of a life beyond the constraints of her society. Meanwhile, the charmingly clueless Colin Bridgerton shows us that men can be vulnerable and sensitive, challenging the traditional notions of masculinity. This nuanced portrayal helps dismantle harmful stereotypes and fosters a more inclusive and empathetic society.

 

Creating Conversations and Challenging the Status Quo

Much like Eliza Haywood, the real-life inspiration for Lady Whistledown, Penelope Featherington’s double life encourages viewers to look beyond appearances and question their own assumptions; proving yet again, it’s always the quiet ones you don’t suspect. Eliza Haywood’s The Parrot was aimed at white upper-class men and used satire to challenge and provoke. She exposed hypocrisies and biases about race and gender; showing that not everyone is like you.

Lady Whistledown’s secret pen(wo)manship sparks important conversations about race, representation, and inclusivity in media (such as if it’s right to “twist” history in the name of representation?). It has prompted discussions about the importance of diversity in storytelling and the ways in which media can influence societal perceptions. By bringing these issues to the forefront, the show encourages viewers to reflect on and challenge their own biases.

 

Lessons for society, courtesy of the ‘ton

Bridgerton has captured our attention, but also set the bar incredibly high for future productions. It's shown that inclusivity isn't just a trend; it's the future of storytelling. And if we can all learn to be a little more like the diverse and delightful characters of Bridgerton, society will be all the better for it.