Ok, my fellow friends, we need to have a conversation about Bridgerton, the hottest new Netflix show, if you’ve somehow managed to not hear about that.
Over the course of a 3 day weekend, I watched the whole season. (I was pacing myself. Could I have watched it faster? Yes, but I wanted to savor it.)
I’m going to break this post into two parts: Review and Frustrations.
As far as being entertainment, this met my mark. I thought it was melodramatic, scandalous, and witty enough to keep me interested. There are a whole host of characters to follow–which means plenty to love and hate. And there is one character who had me cursing at the TV all the time, so the hate was real.
The plot is what you expect from your basic Regency romance: Daphne Bridgerton is newly out in society and searching for a husband. Quickly described as the “Diamond” of the season, she’s held in high esteem…until her prospects suddenly dry up after her overprotective brother drives all the suitors away. Now, if Daphne has any hope of landing a husband, she needs a new plan. Enter the Duke of Hastings, her brother’s best friend. He’s practically fending off mothers with a stick to keep his vow never to wed. He agrees to help Daphne become more desirable to the men of society if she will help him keep the mamas away.
So yeah. Guess how that one ends.
But just because I knew where it was headed didn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. Daphne is one of eight Bridgerton children, so there was always a lot going on. There were also the Featheringtons next door who were constantly getting into trouble. So while I may have known how Daphne’s story was probably going to go, I didn’t know about the other plot lines. And that was fun to discover as I watched and thought I knew how it would go.
The casting is interesting. At first, I was a bit of a historical purist, in that the casting is very multicultural and that didn’t mesh with history. Like they made Queen Charlotte a woman of color. But after watching the first episode, it was fine. In fact, it made the story all the more interesting. It’s basically a slightly alternate version of history in which King George and Queen Charlotte’s marriage actually ushered in the acceptance of different races in this society–including as Dukes and other noblemen. It’s very Shonda Rimes, I’m discovering, from my very limited knowledge of her shows.
Sometimes the plot/show did get a little tedious, but I overall enjoyed it. And it was also kind of awesome (and distracting at times) that the music in this was a lot of current pop music in string instrumental versions. I got super distracted at one pivotal moment in the series because it was playing Taylor Swift’s “Wildest Dreams” instrumentally in the background. I spent a good chunk of time trying to place the song rather than watching the show!
The other day at school, I was talking about this show with my coworkers at lunch. It was five women, all of us socially distanced around a large room. Three of us had seen the show, two had not.
Immediately after I brought it up, it was being batted around by two of them that this show was “trash”. One had seen it, one had not. They were calling it “trash” because it was based on a romance novel and had lovemaking scenes in it. One, who has a 17 year old daughter who has been asking if she could watch this, said that she told her no because her daughter really only wanted to watch it for the nudity scenes. (Which…like…is that really a terrible thing? I know that’s her daughter, so yuck, but…) She explained that this kind of TV was trash and wasn’t worth her time.
And…I sat there silently processing what had just happened, feeling something akin to a growing pit in my stomach area.
Because look. I’m a proponent of reading whatever you want. You read comics? Cool. You only read nonfiction books about gardening? Awesome. You’re an adult aficionado of children’s books? Good for you.
So I’m kind of starting to hate it when people dump on romance novels. I have learned so much from the historical romances I’ve read–things about class issues, things about the history of “unpickable” locks, things about women’s rights and how women fought for their own little slice of independence, my God, I’ve even learned a good bit of French from them. But most of all, I’ve learned that relationships take work and compromise and compassion and forgiveness. And that we’re all heroes and heroines in our own stories.
I made this argument at Christmas with my family when my family made fun of me for watching so many “predictable” Hallmark movies. I said, “You say Hallmark is predictable, but what about every Fast and Furious movie? I’ve never seen any, but I’m pretty sure something blows up in every single one of them.” One of my brothers immediately said no, but my dad was kind of laughing and he went, “Yeah, I think it does.” Point. Made.
So the problem does not seem to be that these stories are predictable and I’ve seen enough action and comedy movies to know that plenty of nudity and dirty jokes work their way into those movies too. Yet no one has a problem with those. They have a problem with it as soon as it’s about a loving relationship (which seems odd to me that this is the problem) and marketed to women.
I hate that people hear “romance” and they immediately get these mental images of 50 Shades and every crappy romance novel they’ve ever read. There are absolutely loser novels out there, as there are in every genre. I’ve read some real snoozer nonfiction books. I’ve read YA that has made me uncomfortable. But that doesn’t mean they’re all worthless.
It’s time to start accepting romance. I’ve mulled this over in my head for a while, and I think I might start adding romance novels into my reviews, since I’m reading so many of them anyway. Then I’ll be posting a bit more frequently and maybe expand my audience a little. I know you all aren’t romance fans, but I think maybe I can help normalize reading them. And I really want to do that.