Normally, I’m quick to hop on the bandwagon for new shows but with Bridgerton I took my time. I’m not sure what it was but I think I felt disengaged by Shonda Rhimes' Shondaland for a moment or perhaps it was the mere fact that I had enough shows on my roster. Who actually knows but what I do know is this: I avoided Bridgerton like the plague or consumption or whatever disease may have been ravaging them during the Regency Era.
With all my TV shows going off-air soon, I decided to reconsider my position on Bridgerton with the release of the newest season (season two), and it didn’t disappoint. First and foremost, it was a relatively stress-free show which I’ve been leaning into because the world is glum enough but let's not get sidetracked.
Bridgerton, in all actuality, is a relatively feminist show – as feminist as it can be for the time period. We see women making a way for themselves when there isn’t a way. Above all, we see women taking ownership of their wants and needs (sexually and otherwise) – from Eloise (played by Claudia Jessie) protesting the traditional roles handed down to her, to Kate (played by Simone Ashley) doing whatever is necessary to protect her family. We see the female leads being fierce!
But, hunny, let me tell you this! Had I known that Bridgerton had the sex scenes that it does…I would’ve moved on it immediately.
They weren’t raunchy or graphic, but they were centered around the feminine. Truly, there was so much that Bridgerton got right about sexuality – here are just a few of the things that I found to be the most significant.
1. Sexual Desire
Though in that era, it was frowned upon to be seen alone with men (outside of immediate family), much less have sex with them – I think the show still does a great job of identifying sexual tension in a way that’s not too subtle. The show made it clear that sexual desire and lust are not improper emotions to feel – and no amount of virtue can remove the intensity found in those emotions. Granted, depending on the social status of the woman, I noticed that there were fewer expectations of virtue than others but I can’t fault the show for depicting an otherwise realistic dynamic that no doubt occurred for women and their sexuality.
For instance, they waste no time in allowing Siena (Sabrina Bartlett) to express her sexuality in any manner she sees fit because of her social status as an opera singer. They don’t tease the sexual tension out between her and Anthony. There’s even a scene in season one where Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor) points out that women are not told in great detail about the act of sex because they wouldn’t be able to get anything done if they had truly known.
2. Woman-Centered Pleasure
In this show, women don’t just lay there and get fucked, they do the fucking! Siena being aggressive and taking the lead during sex is but one example. Though not under the most pleasurable circumstances, I’d even say there was power in Daphne climbing on the Duke even if for no reason other than to prove all of the moving pieces were…working! Time and time again, we see women going after their sexual desires with certainty and without regret – at least not for the act of sex itself.
In my opinion, what's great about the show is that it doesn’t portray sex as some "dirty" act. I’m not stating that the show is perfect because again, it does have to be somewhat rooted in the reality for women at that time. However, what I would say is they could’ve made this another Regency Era tale where women are sexually assaulted and have little to no sexual autonomy. And Bridgerton does the opposite of that. Instead, women are portrayed at the center of their own pleasure.
3. Sexuality is Fluid
Although they don’t do a deep dive, they make a brief attempt at highlighting the complicated nature of sexuality for men during that time. Benedict Bridgerton (Luke Thompson) begins to run in a new social circuit (artists, of course, because some cliches must remain) and he finds himself held to secrecy. Not only in regard to the modern sex parties he’s attending but to Sir Henry Granville’s (Julian Ovenden) sexuality.
What I like about their mention of his sexuality is that rather than Benedict being homophobic and completely dismissive, they leave space for curiosity with his character – not necessarily curiosity to partake but to potentially unlearn his ignorance.
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Featured image by Liam Daniel/Netflix