Even though I kind of enjoyed Bridgerton Season 1 for what it was, I have to admit I wouldn’t have considered watching the latest Netflix series if it wasn’t for the queerbait in the promotional material.
This article contains certain spoilers for Bridgerton Season 1. You have been warned.
I fell for the queerbait. I can’t deny it. I fell for it so hard I ended up watching the entire eight episodes making up Bridgerton Season 1. I should have known better.
If the promotional team for Bridgerton hadn’t made sure to add a quick scene showing a queer man hooking up with another dude, I wouldn’t have considered watching this show.
Set during the Regency, I was interested in seeing how such a series would handle queer characters. Also, it was a Netflix show by Shondaland. There had to be at least one queer supporting character if not one in the main cast, right?
Turns out that the queer man the trailer made sure to include was nothing more than a minor character who debuts during the third episode. He’s an artist named Henry Granville (Julian Ovenden) who strikes a friendship with one of the main cast members named Benedict Bridgerton (Luke Thompson).
I was excited when Henry met Benedict. The episodes leading up to their meeting had shown Benedict feeling “different” compared to the rest of his siblings. He’s also an amateur artist. Also, Benedict accidentally seeing Henry hooking up with another man in episode five (the quick scene is what appeared in the trailer) and being quite calm about it fueled my suspicions about Benedict not being completely straight.
Can you really blame me for thinking so? Of course, I’m going to come to such a conclusion due to the time period the story’s set in and how Benedict was talking about feeling different than others. There’s no way a high-society cisgender straight man would have been immediately accepting of a queer relationship.
Also, considering Bridgerton is a show on Netflix, I thought Benedict would either begin a romantic relationship with Henry or, at the very least, their friendship will open Benedict to society’s secretive queer community to help express himself and feel accepted.
I was so wrong.
Turns out, that Benedict feeling different had to do with him wanting to begin an affair with a seamstress that’s below his rank. Due to his older brother Anthony being in a similar situation with a singer named Siena, I wish the writers had gone a different route with Benedict’s storyline.
Anyway, it’s through Benedict we get to learn that even though Henry’s married to a woman (who knows of his sexuality), he’s in love with Lord Wetherby. Seeing a “straight” character like Benedict being interested in Henry’s relationship with Wethryby was strange.
Either the writing team is setting the groundwork for Benedict to explore his sexuality down the line (as of yet, the series hasn’t been renewed for a second season), or we will be getting a narrative arc where viewers get to understand more about the queer community in Bridgerton through of the lens of the straight friend (which I’m not a fan of).
Sharing my opinions on Twitter did lead to people, who had read the Bridgerton book series by Julia Quinn, tell me how none of the Bridgerton children were queer. However, a couple of them also thought the TV series was implying Benedict wasn’t completely straight. And, unfortunately, we all know that ‘implying’ queerness in a character falls under the definition of queerbaiting.
According to readers, the series introduced a minor queer character in the eighth and final book. So, points to the live-action adaptation to introduce morsels of queerness sooner?
If you were interested in watching Bridgerton Season 1 thinking it would feature an important queer character, don’t bother.
As for the series itself, I think the debut season of Bridgerton was enjoyable for what it was. I liked how the writers handled the women finding their strength while operating in a very constricting society. I was so happy when Siena told Anthony to leave her alone.
However, Bridgerton isn’t without its fair share of faults. Even though the narrative champions consent in a number of ways, it was troubling to see one of the main characters, Daphne Bridgerton, throw away her husband’s consent while being intimate with him. Vox wrote an in-depth article about it.
There’s also the topic of how this show handles racism. From the trailer, you can tell that the world of Bridgerton has a Black queen, lords, dukes, etc. Such a change is explained quickly by stating how the king fell in love with a Black woman and that opened doors for the rest of the Black community.
In my opinion, Bridgerton handled racism the same way Ryan Murphy’s Hollywood did. I wanted Bridgerton to spend some time exploring such a topic. We all know that centuries of racism can’t magically disappear overnight.
The show also focused a lot on the issues troubling privileged folk. While the highly-popular Downtown Abbey series made sure to give storylines to the staff, in Bridgerton, the maids, cooks, housekeepers, etc. are nothing more than set dressing. All of them are happy to serve their rich employers.
Bridgerton Season 1 was released on Netflix on December 25, 2020.
Have you watched it?
Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.
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