It’s not from today that people have an attachment to the century and everything he brought to romanticism. Its aesthetics is something very acclaimed, despite not being a fashion trend used by people these days. After all, how far does nineteenth-century romanticization go?
In this article, we will discuss Bridgerton, one of the most-watched series on Netflix. The Bridgerton family saga takes place between 1813 and 1827. The series is an adaptation of a series of books by author Julia Quinn and won the audience’s hearts with its aesthetic and classic romanticism. Keep reading!
Bridgerton: The Nineteenth-century Romanticization
The series won the hearts of the public. The classic romantic era is already beloved among young people, but the 1800s aesthetic has been lauded and vaunted. Even the series had a greater investment in clothes due to the great success.
But firstly, we need to understand how far the admiration of this century goes and how worrying this fanaticism can be. It is good to remember that the history of women’s clothing comes from a whole sexist context. The classic and vintage corsets adored by many today were once made to shape women, overcoming physical pain.
So why do people seem to claim so much about this era? Is it just because it is beautiful? Is it wrong to romanticize nineteenth-century romance?
The Nineteenth-century Fashion
Fashion is capable of intensifying and modifying the customs of different cultures. Since the 19th century, women have fought for their rights and against patriarchal society. That moment was when the 1st Feminism Wave began. Of course, fashion has never been about just clothes, and it has always symbolized a lot.
We have written about how the industrial age of the late 19th century benefited the textile sphere. By the way, you can learn more about this by reading our article How the Industrial Revolution Changed Fashion.
In the 19th century, women began to demand the right to vote and fight for independence in the labor market. They fought against submission and silence at a time when corsets were designed to shape their bodies and compose a pattern before the male gaze.
Despite all the romanticism behind the clothes and aesthetics, this time was marked by several feminist political movements. On the other hand, corsets dominated the industry and compressed women’s ribs.
Don’t forget to check out the article Subversive Clothing & Feminism: the Political Fights Behind the Fashion History.
19th Century: The Series & The Real Life
We have to applaud Bridgerton for being a diverse and non-white-centric series. We know that reality was not exactly like that. But despite this, the series showed that being an old times series is not a reason to avoid a commitment to diversity in the cast. After all, it is a fictional product.
In reality, in the 19th century, slavery served to erase the entire history of black people in the world. Countries were still slaveholders or had recently abolished slavery.
The whitening of the story is so significant that some information much rescued in recent years is that the real-life Queen Charlotte (1744-1818) was of African descent. Something that was little debated before the arrival of Meghan Markle to the British royal family.
And as much as Bridgerton uses the English Regency period as his primary historical source, the series takes place in a slightly different world than what actually happened. An example is that Bridgerton portrays London’s high society families as progressive and ultra-modern beings.
Therefore, the series portrays a select group of English society in which money and privilege were the norms. Even with the whole glamor, maybe it’s not a very faithful representation of reality. Which is not a problem, right?
Then is Romance… Dead?
Of course, we are not condemning this classic aesthetic and the romanticism of the 19th century. The problem that we point out is that it is a very conservative and outdated idea of romance and lifestyle. It’s much loved by fans of the series, and it’s good that the show highlights diversity. However, this era carries several nuances to deconstruct, as we showed earlier.
Could this mean that the classic romance might be dead? Maybe it just needed a modification to its structure to embrace more bodies and include those who were excluded in the context of real life. In addition, when talking about classic romance, little is remembered of LGBTQIA+ relationships. This is one more point to consider.
Some series that take place at an older time in history but don’t commit to excluding other people are essential for this particular aesthetic to evolve. In this way, it is possible to understand why loving this age – without carefully watching it with a critical eye – can be problematic.
To sum up, we cannot say that the series was wrong in terms of diversity. Bridgerton portrays black people with titles of nobility and being part of London’s high society in the 19th century. Examples are the Duke of Hastings, one of the protagonists, and Queen Charlotte.
But the critical point is that this period portrayed in the series was not a perfect, imaginary world where romance tangibly floated in the air. We are not trying to problematize everything but show that life is not always a bed of roses.
Faithfully portraying reality may not have been executive producer Shonda Rhimes’ goal. But it is interesting to bring the points that permeate the series and what was, in fact, in our history.
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