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Bridgerton's Downfall of Compromise For Diverse Characters

This isn't a love story about Shonda Rhimes' Bridgerton, the production adapted from The "Duke and I" by Julia Quinn to the screen via Netflix. In fact, I may be one of the few people who was extremely disappointed in such a wasted opportunity for black characters to be elevated in their society.

For a long time I couldn't go a day on social media without seeing rave reviews about how compelling and diverse the show was. Perhaps the scenery was a bit beautiful but I had a hard time getting through it and an even harder time rooting for Daphne and Simon.

The problem for me is that so many people think the show transcends issues of race and is primarily focused on class; however, due to the casting, every black character in the show becomes subservient or must compromise their own honor or personal choice to provide either happiness or stability to their white counterparts.

The writers and producers of the Netflix version of Bridgerton seem to think that as long as the black characters can have titles such as "Duke"or "Queen" and have key "affiliations" that it makes it okay for them to still be dependent upon the acceptance of the white characters in order for them to be validated.

*Warning: Beyond this point contains specific spoilers*

Let's start with Marina Thompson. Actress Ruby Barker was cast to play a black distant cousin to the aristocratic Featherington family. Unfortunately her character is a bit typecast as a jezebel who gets knocked up by a white man who isn't there for her.

Her character has to depend on attending social events with the Featheringtons just to have hope of finding a suitable husband, and even then, when she sets her sights on someone, she is reduced to having to be a liar, too.

Photo: Netflix

Furthermore, her jealous cousin Penelope pretends to be supportive until she discovers that the guy she wants for herself wants to marry Marina. No way does this black, "unworthy" girl get the man she cares for because Penelope makes sure of it.

Even when Marina receives a generous offer of marriage from her dead lover's brother to ensure that she will be taken care of, it is Lady Featherington who insists that she take the offer because it would help to ensure that her white cousins would benefit by the connection to Sir Phillip.

In the end, Marina's character was not "saved" by another black actor's character who was well to-do. Instead, her new husband to be was another white man that she now has to depend on and doesn't even care for.

Moving on to Simon's friend Will Mondrich, portrayed by actor Martin Imhangbe. Will's character is a family man who is talented and provides for them by fighting in boxing matches. He often spars with Simon since they are best friends and they navigate life challenges together.

The character Will was one of the characters specifically created for the show, so it bothers me even more that he is written to agree to sell his honor and throw a match in order to support the family of Lord Featherington (and make more money for his own).

While I think it is powerful to demonstrate that Will loved his family so much that he was willing to not give his best effort and to fool everyone who bet against him in order to adequately provide, it truly sucks to write a character who values his dignity only to have him be easily bought by the offer of a struggling white aristocrat. Why should this be the only option that Will has?

Photo: Netflix

I believe the writers could have created a more clever way for him to have gained additional sponsors or utilized another skill to handle his responsibilities instead of turning him into another black man that resorts to criminal activity. I think his character deserved better.

Even if he did not borrow money from the Duke, as Simon suggested he would have offered, it would have been more rewarding to depict someone who was both physically dominate and more mentally savvy.... but instead, we get this.

Queen Charlotte and Lady Danbury almost came close to not being utilized for the gains of white society in Bridgerton, but even they fall into the trap. While I certainly do applaud and appreciate the acting contributions of powerhouses Golda Rosheuvel and Anjoa Andoh, even they existed to benefit the Bridgertons and the other white characters.

In the first episode of the show "Diamond of the First Water', we viewers don't even get to see one presentation of a non-white debutante to the Queen without a quick rush to the approval of Daphne as the best option. Why then, in the scenes leading up to it, are there so many nonwhite extras in the courtyard when the Bridgertons arrive to the castle?

In addition, we've seen several black guests at the many parties that Daphne and the Duke attend, yet none of them ever have a moment of significance.

Lady Danbury concludes that Simon should be with Daphne in order to solve his problems when there were likely other options for him? Not one mention of attempts with a person of color or any scenes where they even caught his eye.