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Opinion: How much of 'Bridgerton' is forgivable?

January 13, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 21.5%. 2 min read.

Kate Maltby breaks down why "Bridgerton" is perfect escapist TV for the 2021 that's unfolding. Its sex appeal and rich Regency period universe evoke a Jane Austen-esque fantasy land -- with some pretty major differences. The fairy tale the series serves up dresses up social conservatism in progressive breeches, Maltby writes.

(For some Brits of my acquaintance, that eight hours constituted their sole Christmas Day activity. ) The story of Daphne, a beautiful debutante in Regency London, this is milquetoast Jane Austen fan fiction.

Like the heroine of a fairy tale, Daphne is introduced from the opener as the fairest in the land, singled out by the Queen "of 200 young ladies" as the winner of the debutante beauty pageant, and declared "the incomparable" by the anonymous gossip columnist Lady Whistledown.

When the theorists Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer coined the term "culture industry", they were writing about the ways that big corporates shape our imagination: the Walt Disney Company sold the song "Some Day My Prince Will Come" to millions of young working class women struggling for a better life.

Like "Snow White," "Bridgerton" finds British and American viewers at our most despairing.

But the happy-ever-after "Bridgerton" sells to its female viewers still consists of marriage and men.

Sex scenes are shot to appeal to women who date men; they focus almost exclusively on the heaving torsos of Regé-Jean Page, who plays Daphne's love interest Simon, and Jonathan Bailey, who pursues his own panting storylines as Daphne's promiscuous brother Andrew.

Women tend to identify with Austen's heroines, and thus it's an easy step to find themselves loving Austen's men.

For Austen's women, marriage is an economic prospect, and often the only economic prospect which allows an escape from poverty -- or at best, lifelong financial dependence on a reluctant relative.

"Bridgerton," as a cultural phenomenon encompassing both novels and TV series, seizes on women's great affection for Austen's books and shamelessly targets her fan base.

But while the landscape of Austen is peppered with tragic figures of women who've lost out in life, in "Bridgerton," no one we like ever makes a long-term mistake.

Meanwhile Daphne is a more fiscally naive heroine than any in Austen.

We will all need to find love one day. " In two sentences, this script has rejected every observation Austen ever made about Regency social norms.

For Austen, marriage is an economic bargain in which love has little to do with worldly success; for Daphne it is a popularity contest in which worldly success and love will naturally come together.

Some "Bridgerton" fans are hopeful that Daphne's rebellious sister Eloise may turn out to be a lesbian in later series -- if so, it will be a departure from the novel series.

Like the Quinn novels, the dialogue of TV adaptation is peppered with references to popular myths about the Regency era -- in the opening lines, one character suggests the use of lead and arsenic as effective makeup.

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