(Disclaimer: - ‘This is my opinion’.)
I loved it. Watched the whole series over two nights. Brilliant portrayal of the era.
Yep, isn’t there always a BUT?
You know you can’t please all of the people all of the time anyway, and I’m not usually one to comment, argue or criticize, BUT…
Sometimes, one just has to say stuff.
I write Regency romance so I think I have a bit of a grasp on the society of the time and I do a lot of research to ensure I get things right. For the Regency is specific in time and place. 1811 – 1820 and set in England. Although in terms of fashion etc it is now loosely accepted to be from 1800 – 1830. Of course history was going down in other parts of the world during these years and so the term has come to be used to define an era in history.
Nevertheless, the Regency era in England was very specific.
There were not so many people of ‘true color’, that is people who are visibly colored, in England at that time and those who were would have found themselves ostracized and quite likely victimized, especially in the upper levels of society.
Many of the British aristocracy had sugar plantations in Jamaica and kept slaves. Their attitude towards people of color, by today’s standards, was beyond abusive.
That’s why for hundreds of years there has been a struggle, even involving life and death, for colored people to be recognized for WHO they are instead of for the color of their skin.
Apparently Queen Charlotte had Negroid features and though she was light skinned and had fair hair, she was called the Black Queen, and in true Regency fashion, they denigrated her for it and made fun of her ‘ugliness’. The caricature of Charlotte that was presented in Bridgerton, I found vaguely offensive.
In real life she had fifteen children, thirteen of whom survived to adulthood. Little mention was made of her as a mother, or even of her first born, the Prince Regent, for whom the era is named. If you needed a character to caricature, he was tailor-made.
Queen Charlotte was a real person, one we hear little about, but was used as the subject of that throwaway line about the King marrying a ‘woman of color’ which apparently gave other people of color overnight acceptance in the society of the time.
So instant in fact that an apparently full-blooded Negro man held the position of a duke with an ‘illustrious line of heritage’ he would ruin his only son’s life over.
That one throwaway line and that unreal portrayal of the society of the time says, ‘Look, we’ve fixed the problem of colored people being accepted in society. The fight was never necessary.’
In my view, the makers of Bridgerton thumbed their noses not only at Britain and her history, but at every single person who struggled and fought for the recognition people of color have today.
It was a struggle and most people of color will tell you it’s still a struggle now.
Yes, things are changing. There is a greater awareness and this new understanding is being vocalized. Hopefully the next generation will finally accept all people as people and not feel the need to be pointing out their color, ethnicity or acceptability in every situation and society.
They will not feel the need to make a point by casting a colored actor as a Duke or as the Queen of England, any more than they would cast a non-colored actor as Martin Luther King, even in a work of fiction involving him.
Having said all of that, I have to say Adjoa Andoh as Lady Danbury was superb—she just looked wrong!
The movie was great. But it had the potential to be phenomenal, to show people the era as it truly was—and why that needed to change.
With typical 21st century self-satisfaction, we think we’re more enlightened, can rewrite history to suit how we want the world to look today—and that like everything else in modern life, the gratification of our wishes is instant.
Maybe I’m reading too much into a work of fiction whose purpose is primarily that of entertainment but for many people this is their only exposure to history and what more enjoyable way of learning than through entertainment? But regardless of disclaimers to the contrary—for who even reads those?—many will see this as an accurate portrayal of the era.
And it was. In all aspects but this one of color.
Sorry, you can’t call me racist. My first husband was Samoan. My children, grandchildren and great grandchildren are a grand mix of races and ‘shades of brown’. I have a son, who when younger, could have been a stand-in for the Duke. It’s not about ‘color’, it’s about authenticity and dare I say, cultural sensitivity. For, as in all things, that works both ways as well.
I try to imagine a fictional movie about slaves fighting for their freedom with white actors cast in the lead slave roles, or any of the slave roles.
What about a movie about the Ming Dynasty of China with white western actors.
You see? It’s visual. We have visual expectations when we think of those things, just as we have a visual expectation when we think of the British society of the Regency era.
Goodness, am I becoming too black and white in my thinking? Deep groan, awful pun. Might be time to lighten up!
One other little plot hole that is still bothering me—did no one find the Prince’s diamond necklace abandoned on the wall in the gardens? No one noticed it was missing from around her neck? That would have caused a scandal right there! And actually, to be true to the times, she would probably not have been allowed to accept such a valuable gift from him unless they were actually engaged.
Now I suspect I’m becoming super-critical! Best I get back to work and check for my own plot holes.
And did you read that disclaimer at the start? This is just my opinion, of course! I’m no world authority on any of it.
Watch the series and tell me what you think.
23 January 2021.