Illustration of Edwina from Bridgerton
Illustration by Abby Yang, Minneapolis College

Netflix’s ‘Bridgerton’ Gets It Right in Season 2

Romance and family drama continue in the historical drama’s second season, but the real win is the diversity shown on-screen.

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Illustration of Edwina from Bridgerton
Illustration by Abby Yang, Minneapolis College

Romance and family drama continue in the historical drama’s second season, but the real win is the diversity shown on-screen.

The period piece series “Bridgerton” first premiered on Netflix at the end of 2020. The “reimagined and more inclusive adaptation of Julia Quinn’s book series” was met with adoration, and quickly gained a cult following. The first season of “Bridgerton” is the most-viewed English-language series on Netflix. In its first 28 days on the platform, the show reached a total of 625 million hours viewed. The success of the simple romance-driven series, supported by lavish sets and intricate costumes, is buoyed by the bonus of soothing British accents (which are all real, by the way).

Set in London’s Regency era, the show follows the siblings of the well-off Bridgerton family as they attempt to find love during “The Season” (aka courting season). The “ton” or high society, though, is filled with drama. A mystery writer (Lady Whistedown) emerges, a la “Gossip Girl,” who anonymously reveals secrets of the ton.

Lady Whistledown is both ruthless and seemingly all-knowing, and she rattles high society with her writing during courting season. At the end of the first season, Daphne, the eldest Bridgerton daughter, finds love in the duke. They exemplify the infamous pretend-we-are-lovers-and-then-actually-become-lovers trope, and nothing is as sweet as that — as Lady Whistledown would say.

The second season of “Bridgerton” opens, yet again, with courting season. But this time, the story is focused on Anthony (Jonathan Bailey), the eldest of the Bridgerton sons. After a dramatic bee sting that killed his father, Anthony is the man of the house, meaning he manages the accounts and his siblings — among other things. Having been pressured for a long time to find a suitable wife, Anthony decides that this season will be his last.

Anthony has always been cynical of the entire process, and he decides that he is not in it for a “love match,” but rather for a wife that can perform her duties well and quietly. He wants to better serve his family by finding a proper woman of the house and doesn’t think that his heart needs to be involved.

Meanwhile, the Sharma sisters, Kate (Simone Ashley) and Edwina (Charithra Chandran), rattle the ton when they arrive in London from India to find a match for Edwina. Half-sisters, Edwina’s mother was part of a respected family of the ton until she married a divorced clerk (Kate is from the first marriage) who was below her social standing. Back in London, the eldest sister Kate is determined to find her younger sister not only a suitable match but a love match. Both sisters are not easily swayed, though. They are both intellectual, confident and poised, and Edwina is named the “diamond” of the season by the queen consort herself. Anthony, of course, tries to swoon Edwina. Kate isn’t as persuaded, though, as she doesn’t think Anthony is in it for love. In a slow burn, enemies-to-lovers type trope, it is Kate and Anthony that eventually fall in love.

However, the most important thing about “Bridgerton” this season isn’t the plot; the show’s easy and well-thought-out diversity is what earns “Bridgerton” the stamp of approval this season. Although the first season was relatively diverse, with some characters being actors of color, Season 2 is special because it puts them at the forefront of the story. Not only are the Sharma sisters well-rounded, dynamic characters, but they play roles that have major screen time. In addition, the team working on “Bridgerton,” Chris Van Dusen and Shonda Rhimes, include the Sharmas’ cultural traditions in ways that are respectful and elegant.

There is no over-emphasis or corny moments within the entire season when it comes to this. Edwina refers to Kate as “didi” and slips it effortlessly into their conversations. Kate reciprocates, calling Edwina “bon,” as well as referring to their father as “appa.” Although minor, the simple inclusion of these language indicators means everything. In a moment of sadness, we see Kate massaging Edwina’s hair with oil, which is “an act of intimacy that South Asian mothers and grandmothers have been sharing with young ones for centuries.” The two sisters and their mother participate in the Indian tradition of the Haldi ceremony before Edwina’s wedding, where they apply turmeric paste on Edwina’s arms and face. It is part of traditional pre-wedding ceremonies meant to bring blessings to the anticipated couple. Kate also offers her bangles to Edwina on this day, which are often worn on the day of Indian weddings. Not only do these big moments celebrate their cultural traditions, but so do their daily wear and jewelry.

With nods to traditional Indian clothing and accessories, the Sharma sisters are adorned with care. All in all, “Bridgerton” celebrates, without tokenizing, the Sharmas and their story.

Unfortunately, representation across television media is still lacking. In the 2020-2021 TV season, for example, on-screen AAPI actors and actresses had a 2.9% share of the screen across broadcast television. Those who identify as Southeast Asian had even less time, at 0.5% of broadcast television. Although Asian representation is often blunted to just East Asian representation, there is no doubt that there are more groups to be acknowledged. Hollywood as a whole has a diversity issue, and the new season of “Bridgerton” is contributing to bridging the gap.

Writer Profile

Ally Xu

Northeastern University
Design

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