Sunday, June 16, 2024

The “Bridgerton Effect”


The world of Bridgerton is pure fantasy, although the romantic stories told are entertaining. In reality the Prince of Wales, not his mother Queen Charlotte, was at the center of the "Ton." The "Bridgerton Effect" is far-reaching, however. From The Christian Review:

Simon Webb, historian, novelist, journalist, and producer of the YouTube channel “History Debunked,” very recently coined a phrase or, more properly, a label that some of us may find useful. Applied to the recent spate over the last five years of television dramatizations, very many from the BBC and, here, PBS, that purport to faithfully realize the works of great British and European fiction, the label describes an utterly ridiculous and non-historical, even anti-historical policy of multi-racial casting in period dramas, periods in which the population of the countries where the dramas are set were as a matter of plain fact predominantly, overwhelmingly Caucasian. Mr. Webb’s label is the “Bridgerton Effect,” named after the silly and trashy series “Bridgerton,” in which black, and I think recently Asian, high-born lords and ladies right up to the queen herself cavort naughtily and haughtily in Georgian England.

There would be little to complain of in this tendency if it indicated a strong taste for farce. But, as Webb has argued, the recent appearances of a black Sophie in Tom Jones, a black Javert in Les Misérables, and, in “Bridgerton,” a black Queen Charlotte (née Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz) attended by black ladies-in-waiting skew history beyond all recognition, that is, for those who know history. That said, Webb opines that had the producers of these shows prefaced their episodes with narrative voice-over informing the audience that the drama rested on the premise of an alternate universe, well, viewers might have suspended their disbelief at least long enough to learn exactly what that universe was. He goes on to state the obvious: they didn’t.

Of that last thought, I will disagree somewhat with Mr. Webb. The new world of televised dramatized classics is the alternate universe. Its population consists of leftist producers, directors, writers, and corporate boards whose constant handwringing over their past racist and colonialist sins persuades them to distort history and literature as a perverse act of atonement. The motive? Perhaps they calculate that a rising generation of youths ignorant of their past and disinclined to read will swallow whole their fabricated “history” as 24-carat, solid-gold truth, thereby guaranteeing that they won’t repeat the sins of their fathers.

Of course, this line of thinking flies directly in the face of logic. If lords and ladies in England’s past really were black, they were also privileged and, therefore, hardly objects of racism. But don’t expect logic here. The kiddies and even adults must be schooled, and the content of the curriculum includes as its main feature the Bridgerton Effect.

What has happened on television has been occurring on stage for a while. Is that also the Bridgerton Effect? Somehow casting a black Javert on stage doesn’t fly in the face of literary sense the way it would on television or film, possibly due to the theater’s unspoken rule: audiences know they’re before in a theater with actors, living and breathing one, right on the stage in front of them, but the audience must pretend otherwise. That rule can take people only so far, and so viewers of a play learn to wink at one another when something improbable happens. (Read more.)


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