Connecting with Culture
Our blog reflecting on weekly news, trends, innovation, and the arts...
WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR BRIDGERTON
It was the distraction that the end of 2020 needed: a mash-up of a Jane Austen novel and the noughties teenage drama Gossip Girl. With all eight episodes arriving on Netflix on Christmas Day, Bridgerton was streamed by 63 million households within the first four weeks.
Filled with colour, featuring beautiful people in eccentric costumes, and narrated by Julie Andrews, it is delightfully escapist viewing, centred around debutante Daphne Bridgerton as she seeks to find a husband.
Enter Simon, the Duke of Hastings, a man who has sworn off marriage and future children due to a traumatic childhood. For various reasons, Daphne and Simon decide to fake a courtship, but soon the pseudo-romance becomes a real one.
Over the course of the series, Bridgerton sets up the success of Daphne and Simon’s relationship as the ultimate. The ‘hurdles’ they face – abusive pasts, poor communication, long-held grudges, societal expectations – are designed to make us desire their relationship’s success even more, giving a transcendent meaning to the protagonists’ love.
And it works.
But such wilful pursuit of one thing over all others comes at a cost.
Daphne’s fears of a future without a husband and children result in her sexually assaulting her husband in the hope of getting pregnant, and refusing to accept any responsibility for her shortcomings.
Simon’s emotional scars from his abusive father lead to him lying to the woman he loves and wilfully depriving her of what she desires and what – according to societal norms – she has a right to: children of her own.
Bridgerton appears to end happily – the couple stay married and in the final scenes we see them clutching a newborn, gazing lovingly into each other’s eyes. But throughout the series, there is no real sense of ‘treating others how you would like to be treated’ (cf. Matthew 7:2), nor is there any redemption: no apologies, no forgiveness, no justice.
Perhaps that’s what made the series so enjoyable – the complete and utter escapism of it. But no matter how beautifully you dress it up (literally or metaphorically), selfish pursuit of goals instead of sacrificial love will ultimately lead to destruction – of ourselves and our relationships.
As much as Daphne and Simon might be #relationshipgoals because they are beautiful and well-dressed, with clear chemistry and many a lingering glance, they are not portraying love in all its fullness.
That can – paradoxically – only be found in the laying down of one’s life.
Alianore (formerly Nell Goddard) is the Church Partnerships Manager at International Justice Mission UK. She tweets as @alianoree.
Please note: this programme contains some sexual content and nudity