Art can change the world—historical inaccuracies and all

‘Bridgerton’ is a ‘nod’ to Jane Austen that retells Eurocentric narratives

Author Robert Morrison discusses England during the Regency era.

As Netflix debuts the second season to Bridgerton, author Robert Morrison, Queen’s National Scholar, discussed the series’ nod to Jane Austen’s work.  

Bridgerton is a show loosely based on Julia Quinn’s series of romance novels set in early 19th-century England. It follows a courtship-turned romance between Daphne Bridgerton and Simon Hasting, Duke of Hastings, as well as the gossip and scandals that saturated British high society.

In an interview with The Journal, Morrison explained how the show’s portrayal of the lavish lifestyles of upper-class British folks—complete with balls and promenades—only represented about four per cent of the population during the Regency era.

The Regency Era refers to 19th-century Britain after King George III was deemed unfit to rule and the throne was taken over by his son, the prince regent. England was at war with France during this time, led by Napoleon Bonaparte, leaving many women waiting to be married.

Both Austen’s work and Bridgerton offer an optimistic view of England during the Regency era, which Morrison said is historically inaccurate. Despite these inconsistencies, he believes the show is helping the world move forward through a form of art.

“Art can do many things. One of them is to try and reproduce the past with as much clarity and accuracy as possible,” he said.

“That is not what Bridgerton does. Parts of it are historically accurate, but much of it is not. What Bridgerton does imagine, though, is something else that art can do, which is to get us to think carefully and critically about the past and how it shapes, and often limits the world around us now.”

Producer Shonda Rhime’s inclusive approach to casting, such as having a queen with African lineage, proposes a new way of retelling Eurocentric stories. Morrison believes it’s helping the public visualize what a world with representation could look like.

“We can’t always have narratives about white people falling in love with white people—if all the narratives are [the same], society stands still,” Morrison said.

“Art, I believe, can in this role push the world forward, can make us think differently and more broadly, because it presents us with a version of the past, that like Bridgerton, may be essentially escapist, but that also asks pressing questions about gender, race, sexuality, and equality.”



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