The Reel: Why Bridgerton swept the nation

The Duke was looking for a convenient way to get through the summer, and he ended up in a marriage.

Photo credit: Courtesy

What you need to know:

  • This show swept the nation in a way that not a lot of other TV shows have done before or since.
  • You can’t ignore the fact that Shonda Rhimes is a television genius.
  • The man smiled a total of three times in eight episodes and women everywhere swooned continuously.

What’s the first thing you think of when you hear this show’s name? Perhaps the fact that it depicts royalty as black (even though the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt were black, no?).

Perhaps the stunning clothes and endless balls? Perhaps gratitude that women no longer have to be well versed in tiresome small talk and maintaining a household to find and keep a man? Though that last part is debatable, and is a whole other article…

This show swept the nation – or rather, a nation of enthusiastic and impassioned women, in a way that not a lot of other TV shows have done before or since. Why was this? And it was not just Kenya, by the way – globally, Bridgerton racked up high enough viewership to almost immediately be renewed for a second season.

Television genius 

You can’t ignore the fact that Shonda Rhimes is a television genius. No one can ignore the star power, and the pulling power, of a woman who has somehow managed to write hit after hit show, full of mostly tears in hospital rooms, delicious murders and scandals, and also resulted in black women, specifically, charting paths previously unscaled. The casts in her series are household names all over the world.   

But let’s also not ignore the very real pull of the staggeringly rakish main antagonist turned protagonist, Regé-Jean Page – better known to you as Simon Basset, the unwilling Duke of Hastings. The man smiled a total of three times in eight episodes and women everywhere swooned continuously. Even if we factor in his natural magnetism – as a son of the soil of Zimbabwe, we can only hope our future visits there will result in such gems – his thick brows and strong jaw, his, um, walk, there was something different about the Duke, that we were all taken in by. Handsome mildly romantic men are a dime a dozen, after all. So why the Duke?

In truth, women kind of want the guy who will bend to their will.

Because by the end of the show, spoiler alert, he has agreed to do something he had said he would never do: have children. For me, the most unfortunate part about Bridgerton is that it sets itself up to have the exact same morals as a classic Disney movie. Not only is the leading man handsome, aristocratic, and great in bed…at some point, he will also see that the leading lady is beautiful, accomplished, and willing to give him heirs upon heirs if he just puts away the vows he made to himself, in favour of the vows he made to her.

Ultimate expression of love

In truth, women kind of want the guy who will bend to their will, no? Not too much, so that we don’t think they’re pushovers, but enough that we feel like we’ve done the work and contributed to his ‘evolution and growth.’ We think we’re right, and we just want the men in our lives to agree and act accordingly. We want them to give up what they hold dear, for us, and we see it as the ultimate expression of love, as opposed to them completely giving up the individuality which made us fall in love with them in the first place.

The Duke was looking for a convenient way to get through the summer, and he ended up in a marriage. Replace ‘season’ with ‘one night stand’ or ‘double date’, and you’ll find the same situation for many Kenyan men today: went in for one thing, and came out with their hands unexpectedly full. Changing a man, or pleading with him to see your side, for life, sounds simply exhausting, no matter how good he looks in a red dinner jacket and breeches. True love doesn’t change people. It builds them. And no one can change a man who doesn’t want to be changed, unless he’s acting. Which is why I can’t wait to see what happens in Season Two…

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