Bridgerton Series Two – Escapism and Representation

Dearest reader, 

Have you watched the latest series of Bridgerton yet?  Us too.

Okay, we didn’t just watch it, we binged it and then watched it again.

The hit show has just broken the single week record for most viewed English language tv series – that’s 251.74 million hours viewed for the week following its release.

It’s not hard to see why this sumptuous series draws us all in and makes such compelling viewing (and no, it’s not just the racy scenes).

Not only is it pure escapism and visually sensational, it’s also incredibly refreshing to see regency-era characters that represent racial and cultural inclusion without being colourblind. 

Period dramas can all too often be guilty of shoehorning Black and Brown actors into ‘extra’ roles or contained within lazy views of what they know to be historically accurate. 

The Sharma Sisters. Source, Netflix

You can check out loads of previous articles and resources like this one where we delve into the rich and interesting Black & Brown history of the UK and Europe, which by no means is as White as the curriculum would have you believe.

But today we want to suspend reality for a moment and lean into that escapism. To talk about the joy, just like series one, that this instalment of Bridgerton is bringing to so many, those who are relishing the depiction on screen of these beautiful dark skinned lead characters proudly defying stereotypes with their fierce independence and brilliant feisty comebacks.

“I do not know that my heart is big enough to convey what it has been like watching Bridgerton season 2 and seeing Simone Ashley and Charithra Chandran as Asian women playing romantic leads on a mainstream show. I am 41 and this is the first time I’ve seen it”.

Poorna Bell, writer.

The stunning Simone Ashley plays the lead role as Kate, or Miss Kathani Sharma to use her full name as Anthony Bridgerton does, pronounced authentically. Some of the most poignant moments of the show are in the relationships and rituals between her and her sister (Charithra Chandran) and mother (Shelley Conn). Like the intimate scene of Kate oiling the hair of her little sister Edwina, or the Hindu pre-wedding ceremony of Haldi (mixing turmeric with water and oil to apply to the bride’s skin) whilst a traditional Bollywood song Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham plays in the background.

I’ve never brought anything like that (Haldi) to screen before in my life, so that was incredible to perform with Charithra and the team. The hair oiling scene was my favourite because that was one that I definitely resonated with. I think a lot of women from a variety of heritages and cultures can relate to that really intimate bonding moment of two women applying coconut oil to their hair. I really loved filming that scene with Charithra and I think her performance in it is truly so amazing. There’s such a pivot within the story and the fact that I could carry that scene as her eldest sister applying coconut oil to her hair, that’s just incredible. It was done in the most non-performative authentic way.

This is representation. 

It’s sharing our culture with the world and normalising it.”

Simone Ashley

 

“I cried a little watching that scene. I never thought I’d hear the word Haldi on Britain’s biggest show. It was quite incredible to see the objects of affection look a little like me”

Billie Bhatia, Stylist magazine.

 

Director Shonda Rhimes may have taken full creative liberty: the Sharma name is north Indian, but Kate and Edwina call their father Appa, the Tamil name. The family speaks Marathi and Hindustani, which aligns with their Bombay upbringing, but Kate calls Edwina “bon”, a Bengali word for sister.

However whilst the cultural references are not perfect they are joyous and dealt with sensitively and authentically. 

Anti Racist Cumbria trustee Zainab Houghton agrees:

“As a woman of Asian heritage, I felt so proud seeing these two gorgeous young Brown women taking on these leading roles in a ‘Hollywood’ capacity , where Asians are so stereotyped. The attention to detail that was taken was truly heartwarming, from the sister being called “didi” which is a respected way of addressing an older sister, to the Haldi ceremony before the wedding, the fact that she made herself a Chai because she disliked English tea, to one of the most famous and much loved songs that the Asian community swear by being used. It made me so proud that this was acknowledged albeit it was mainstream traditions, but still. Growing up, Asian women on telly for me were always weak and subservient, so it was incredible seeing a women who challenged the White man. Young, Brown girls will see themselves and not just in the ‘Bollywood’ capacity.”

 

If you haven’t seen it yet, this is your official invitation to get comfy, crack open an Easter egg and indulge in the sweet treat that is Bridgerton season 2 over this bank holiday weekend.

Enjoy.