Last year, we saw a teaser for Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story, a Bridgerton spin-off centered on the younger version of Golda Rosheuvel’s royal character. That teaser focused on the meet-cute between then-Princess Charlotte and young King George III. Now we have a second, “official” teaser that gives us a broader look at the limited series, coming to Netflix in May.
It looks like Bridgerton, but in the Rococo era, which means pastels and lace and big, elaborate hairdos. I never have a problem with the aesthetics of Bridgerton, and I love the Rococo era’s gaudy maximalism, so I am here for all of that. What I don’t love is Bridgerton’s insistence on explaining the colorblind casting.
It started in season one, with Lady Danbury’s weird speech to Simon about how the queen’s marriage opened doors for them in society. Bridgerton is a half-hearted alternate history that fully assumes Queen Charlotte is Black (history is less decisive), and that this changed the face, literally, of Regency society in England, admitting people of color into the upper echelons of society (there were certainly people of color in the aristocracy of Regency England, they were not, however, dukes). I call this a “half-hearted” alternate history because Bridgerton never really wrangles with the reality of a race-conscious 19th century society. For instance, is England still engaged in the slave trade? Season two posits that they are still very much in the business of subjugating the Indian subcontinent through violent imperialism. The treatment of race in Bridgerton has always felt more about rationalizing the colorblind casting than imagining a truly alternate history in which British imperialism undergoes a radical reckoning.
So it’s a little bit of a bummer that thread pops up in this teaser. This show has never done a good job handling race, but it IS good at delivering spicy romance. Just let it be that! You’ve cast hot people with good chemistry, you don’t need explain anything else. With its ahistorical music, fashions, and dialogue, Bridgerton is not engaged with the real Regency. It’s a cupcake fantasy version born from the covers of countless bodice rippers. And that’s fine! It’s especially fine because even in these short teasers, the Queen Charlotte leads, India Amarteifio and Corey Mylchreest, demonstrate GREAT chemistry.
I’m not saying historic romances can’t address socio-political issues—Masterpiece Theater’s Sanditon takes on historical issues of race, class, and queerness using characters created by Jane Austen as a response to her own changing world—just that THIS show is bad at it, and half-assed about it, and I wish they would focus on the stuff they are whole-assed good at, which is chiefly sexy romantic drama with outrageously good production design. Like, know your strengths. I feel like Queen Charlotte herself would give this advice.