Emily Clark

TV Series Review

In Regency England, each summer marked the beginning of the “social season”—a time when every young marriage-minded person would attend balls and parties, hoping to make an advantageous match.

For the ladies of the court, this means squeezing into corsets the size of “an orange and a half.” For the gentlemen, it means competing against dozens of other suitors for the affections of a desired maiden.

But for everyone, finding the right spouse means securing a financial future, raising your family’s social standing (because if you marry above your station, your parents and siblings will naturally be exposed to people of higher ranks as well), or, if you marry poorly, surrounding your family in scandal or financial ruin for generations to come.

The Households

“Consider the household of the Baron Featherington,” we’re told. He has three young daughters all “coming out” together (though his youngest, Penelope, would be perfectly happy to sit out the season and immerse herself in books). But his young cousin, Marina Thompson, steals the show, impressing plenty of young suitors while Featherington’s daughters receive scant attention—much to Lady Featherington’s chagrin.

Then there’s the household of the recently widowed Viscountess Bridgerton, “noted for its bounty of perfectly handsome sons and perfectly beautiful daughters,” we’re told. Only the eldest daughter, Daphne, is eligible for marriage this season, but after Queen Charlotte herself declares the young woman “flawless,” her prospects skyrocket. That is, until her brother, Anthony (who is responsible for arranging the details of his sister’s marriage now that their father is gone), scares off every man who comes to court her.

And last, but certainly not least, is the house Hastings. The bachelor Duke is determined that he will never marry or sire an heir (something his late father was obsessed with and which caused the death of his mother). However, after his aunt, Lady Danbury, nags him incessantly, he agrees to make an appearance at the season’s social events and winds up getting dragged into a marriage scheme.

The Scandals

With so many moving pieces, one can hardly be expected to keep up with who is engaged to whom and whose prospects have sunk while others’ have risen. Luckily for the residents of Grosvenor Square, they’re all being reported by the Lady Whistledown in a widely distributed society paper.

Nobody knows for certain who Lady Whistledown is (since it’s a pseudonym), but they are certain her information is correct. Which prompts nearly every family to keep their private scandals (such as an unmarried woman’s pregnancy and subsequent attempt at abortion, a baron’s secret mistress, gambling debts and more) private.

Alas, the same cannot be said of the show.

If you took Gossip Girl, combined it with 50 Shades of Grey, and set it in 1813 England, you’d get Bridgerton. The time period, costumes and emphasis on marriage might be reminiscent of a Jane Austen novel, but the foul language and gratuitous sex scenes (not to mention the scandals taking place) would likely cause even Mr. Darcy’s jaw to drop.

Episode Reviews

Dec. 25, 2020: “Diamond of the First Water”

The Featherington and Bridgerton families begin the social season hoping to find good marriages for their children.

An unwed couple has sex a few times and we see partial nudity (though nothing critical). We see several young women getting laced into corsets and cleavage is on display. An unmarried woman realizes she is pregnant. We hear about a failing marriage.

A man grabs a woman with the intent of raping her, but she punches him and knocks him out. One woman slaps another across the face.

A woman is pressured to tighten her corset and later faints because she can’t breathe. (We also see that one woman’s corset cut into her back.) Another woman is criticized for her weight and blemishes on her skin. People drink, smoke and gamble. One girl purposely spills her drink on another to embarrass her. People gossip about the virtue of some women. We hear the f-word, “b–ch” and “d–n.”

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Emily Clark
Emily Clark

Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and indulging in her “nerdom,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything she loves, such as Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.

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