No, Bridgerton does NOT need to address racism
Note: This article contains descriptions of Bridgerton that some readers might consider to be minor spoilers and links to articles that contain spoilers.
Can Black folks get a moment of peace? Can we exist without always having to address our collective trauma?
Since the start of the pandemic, I have found myself implementing every imaginable method of self-care. One thing that keeps me going is binge-watching the latest show that has captivated our culture. I love the communal aspect of engaging with a show that everyone is talking about.
Discussing my favorite shows with my close friends and family creates a layer of connection that is difficult to have in such an isolated period of history. Season 2 of Bridgerton is the latest show that I have been eager to discuss. Since we all finished the latest season, my mom, sister, and I have been analyzing and kiki-ing over it. I’ve also had fun talking to the ladies in my cross-cultural group about the show.
My “Blindian” group chat consists of me and three other women of South Asian and Indian descent. We have spent time reflecting on representation in some of our favorite shows, including the latest season of Bridgerton. One of my Indian sisters shared that she was surprised and deeply impacted by the presence of a dark-skinned Indian woman on the show. Seeing a dark-skinned Black positively portrayed on such a popular television show has also been good for my soul.
Although Bridgerton is a period drama, it uses race-blind casting. The Queen consort is played by a Black woman, and other Black and Brown actors portray members of the nobility. Of course, Black and Brown people weren’t usually members of the British noble class in real life; race-blind casting disrupts the historical status quo and allows Black and Brown folks to live their best Regency-era lives.
Bridgerton’s race-blind casting also gives Black and Brown women the opportunity to be leading ladies and love interests, something that has been absent from popular television shows in years past. Shonda Rhimes has created a safe space for Black and Brown women to be the protagonists, to fall in love with their knights in shining armor, and to be desired. We get to see ourselves being doted on, protected, and sought after—something we do not always experience in real life. In a world where Black women are frequently seen as the least desirable, Bridgerton provides us with a sense of reprieve from the politics of race and romantic partnership.
The most important thing that Bridgerton does goes beyond the optics of casting and characterization: it imagines a world in which having melanated skin isn’t automatically a source of trauma. Rimes’ Regency era is an equal playing field–the dynamics of race, caste, ethnicity, and racism don’t exist. Class is the only stumbling block for the Bridgerton family and the people who inhabit their world.
Some people take issue with Bridgerton’s approach to diversity. Popular articles from Vice and NPR call Rimes’ approach to diversity into question and raise concerns about its implications. While there are valid concerns when it comes to analyzing race and diversity in most television shows, many of the critiques leveled against Bridgerton miss the point of what the show is supposed to be.
Bridgerton creates a fantasy world in which Black people get to exist without being beaten, enslaved, shot up, or attending to the needs of white people. It creates a world in which we simply get to do and be without orienting ourselves around our oppression. James Baldwin said, ”To a be a negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.” Bridgerton provides us with an escape from that rage. It gives us a world where we don’t have to constantly psychoanalyze race and racism.
It is important that we create sacred space in our lives to decompress from anti-Blackness. Entertainment is the way that I reclaim my time and prioritize joy. Reclaiming your time might involve journaling, prayer, exercise, spending time with loved ones, or going to therapy. Prioritizing self-care is how we protect our peace.
Bridgerton doesn’t need to be racial trauma porn in order to be entertaining or ground-breaking. We don’t need yet another show illustrating the many facets and manifestations of our oppression. Constantly viewing this type of media does not contribute to our individual and collective wellness. Can Black people be colorblind for an hour?
There is enough trauma and anti-Blackness in the real world; we don’t need it in our entertainment, also.