If you haven’t seen it, I’m sure you’ve heard. The newest evocative drama on Netflix, “Bridgerton,” has become a pandemic must-watch. From the true elegance exuded through the setting and style, to the myriad storylines and characters, the Shonda Rhimes-produced show takes a different approach toward the Prince Regent era — one that’s surprisingly similar to a particular beloved TV drama from 2007.
XOXO, Gossip Girl vs. Lady Whistledown
“Gossip Girl” follows the lives of a group of fortunate teenagers who live on the Upper East Side of New York City. The series was based on a series of novels authored by Cecily von Ziegesar in 2001. Unfortunately, after six seasons, the show came to an abrupt end. According to Rachel Roth, writer for CBR, “Gossip Girl” “was a victim of the 2008 financial crisis.”
Even though it’s been a few years, you know you still love her — every teen to middle-aged adult did after “Gossip Girl” made its debut on The CW back in December of 2007. What made the show stand out was the mysterious narrator that was behind the main characters’ secrets being blasted, a blogger known simply by her signoff — XOXO, Gossip Girl.
“She is anonymous and has readers constantly trying to work out who she is,” explained Joanne Kavanaugh, a writer for The Sun.
This omniscient narrator concept is one we also see used in “Bridgerton,” which is based on the novel of the same name by Julie Pottinger, aka Julia Quinn, published in 2000. The show’s omniscient narrator, voiced by the infamous Julie Andrews, is a newsletter columnist named Lady Whistledown who exploits the richness happening inside the personal lives of the members of high society.
On top of that, the anonymous speakers of both shows turn out to be one of the main characters of their respective stories who also get written and publicized about. “The only difference is, GG waited six seasons before being outed,” Kavanaugh pointed out, “but Lady Whistledown was revealed at the end of season one.”
Aside from the similarity between the two shows, there were other classy acts as well that got viewers thinking about the oldie-but-goodie:
Same Opening Scenes
In the first episode of “Bridgerton,” the young women of society are seen prepping with their mothers for the annual social season where they will be chosen by the Queen of England herself to see if they’re ready to merge into society to find a husband.
The same occurs in the first season of “Gossip Girl:” “In season one, in an episode called Hi, Society we see Blair and her group of mean girls get ready for their debutante ball. Their mothers and grandmothers are all involved in making sure they are ready to become part of society,” Kavanaugh declared in her article titled “10 Ways Netflix’s Bridgerton is the same as Gossip Girl.”
Dazzling Outfits & Dramatic Outings
Despite the shows being set in a different time period, the style portrayed in both “Bridgerton” and “Gossip Girl” center around a regal and more sophisticated look, which complements the numerous invitations to the many luxurious events where most of the shocking situations would occur.
Powerful and Scandalous Families
“Both shows are filled with scandalous events,” Kavanaugh put simply. Both shows set up outrageous moments each and every episode that continuously unfold through the tellings of their unidentified narrators.
Not to mention the leaders of the storylines: “Both shows are full of powerful families who rule high society. In GG you have The Waldorfs, The Bass’, The Van der Woodsens and The Archibalds. Then on Bridgerton you have the royal family, The Hastings, The Featheringtons and of course The Bridgertons” — and that’s just to name a few.
The Diverse Portrayal
“While ‘Gossip Girl’ is a series that takes place in New York City, which is known for being a cultural and racial melting pot, the entire main cast is white,” explained CheatSheet writer Elana Rubin. “‘Bridgerton,’ on the other hand, takes place in 19th century London, which has often been whitewashed on screens.”
In many of the shows set around this same time period that we’ve seen before, we’ve never witnessed a display that contributed to the awareness of Black culture back then. “We want modern audiences to relate to the story and to see themselves on screen,” Chris Van Dusen, the director of “Bridgerton,” told Rubin.
In fact, the character Queen Charlotte of England, who was married to King George III, was deemed the first Black queen of Britain. Charlotte was only 17 years old when she became queen.
Apparently, Alfonso III of Portugal demanded the hand of a woman named Ouruana in marriage. Ouruana, who was the daughter of the governor of a small town named Faro, was — to use the archaic terminology — a Black Moor, and the couple started the mixed-race bloodline that would lead to Charlotte’s birth. As reported by Deneen L. Brown of The Washington Post, the royal physician to the queen, Baron Christian Friedrich Stockmar, described Charlotte as “small and crooked, with a true mulatto face.”
The Cultural Influence in Entertainment
“Charlotte’s ancestry became the subject of public fascination when Britain’s Prince Harry married American actress Meghan Markle, whose mother is Black and whose father is White,” Brown continued in her article. “Some people hailed her as Britain’s first mixed-race royal, prompting a reexamination of Queen Charlotte’s heritage.”
Leave it to Rhimes to accurately depict a true Black queen! Rhimes’ work and the entertainment industry now also starkly contrast with the late 2000s and “Gossip Girl,” which only had one partially mixed-race character.
“… having Black people in a big budget production period show—or film—about England before the 1900s feels like a foreign concept for white directors and writers,” wrote Carolyn Hinds from The Observer.
“Bridgerton” has made its mark as the first period piece to properly include the truth behind British royal history, which says a lot about the impact of the newfound racial awareness our world has experienced in these adverse times — changes that offer hope for television’s whitest genres.