On March 25th, 2022, the popular Netflix show Bridgerton released its second season which came with a lot of expectations and excitement from the masses as it showcased two dark-skinned Indian women as leads. As an Indian girl, I was looking forward to seeing this season since it was announced, however, I couldn’t help but feel apprehensive and nervous because of Desi representation, especially in terms of how Desi women in western media have always missed the mark.
Bridgerton is an American streaming television period drama that is set in the Regency Era of England and focuses on the Bridgerton family. The Bridgerton family is comprised of eight siblings. The first season focused on the eldest sister of the family Daphne and her journey navigating the social seasons, debuting, and getting married.
Bridgerton exists in an alternate history where London is racially integrated. This aspect of the show has caused a lot of debate, however, I think it’s one of the coolest and most fun parts of the viewing experience. As people of color, period dramas may entice us, but it’s hard for us to ever picture ourselves in that world because of our knowledge of history. Bridgerton doesn’t claim to be “color-blind,” but however, chooses to explore a different historical experience. Creators of the shows Shonda Rimes and Chris Van Dusen make sure that color and race are a part of the show, but still allow audiences to imagine a different type of history.
Season two of Bridgerton focuses on the eldest son and viscount, Anthony, and his quest in finding a wife. Anthony begins the season by wanting to get married to a woman who would best fit the role of viscountess and has no hopes of getting a “love match.” This, however, changes when he meets Kate Sharma, who challenges his idea of a “perfect woman” and is immediately enamored by her. Misunderstandings occur between the two during the initial attraction. The main conflict of the story begins when the diamond of the season is announced who happens to be Kate’s little sister, Edwina. Anthony, being the viscount, deems it is his responsibility and duty to marry Edwina while denying his feelings for Kate.
This season is essentially a classic enemies to lovers story, which are some of my favorites to watch. It was a slow burn and had just the right amount of tension to make me binge it all in a day.
While the plot was definitely a factor in why I enjoyed the show so much, so was the way Kate and Edwina were portrayed in the show. The creators did their best in meshing Regency Era fashion with classic Indian elements. I loved seeing Kate and Edwina wearing classic jhumkas with their ball gowns and I especially loved their disdain for English tea. My favorite part of the show, though, was how Edwina and Kate’s beauty was never boiled down to exoticism. Oftentimes in western media, shows just can’t believe that Indian women can be beautiful without having some type of explanation attached to it. It’s disappointing when I see this trope in shows created by Desis(cough cough Mindy Kaling).
Kate and Edwina’s beauty was never debated. Their skin color was also never brought up which was a breath of fresh air. The entire time I was watching I couldn’t understand why Indian cinema couldn’t do the same. It’s embarrassing knowing that dark-skinned Indian women almost never get the chance to be movie leads in their own country of origin. All the Indian movies I grew up watching were filled with women who were fair and almost never looked like the majority of the population.
I also want to recognize that making a show with Desi leads will be hard no matter what as the Desi experience is extremely diverse. The term Desi is an umbrella term and we are not a monolithic group. Because of this, some Desis will always feel upset by shows in western media and their feelings are also valid. It just means that we need more shows that feature more experiences with Desis. Personally for me, I loved Bridgerton season 2, but I also know that actresses Kate and Edwina are both Tamilian-British women, and as a Punjabi-American girl, their experiences could be more different than mine. However, I think the creators of the show did a fantastic job in incorporating enough of Indian culture into the show, without overstepping their bounds.
I really hope that more shows follow suit and do the same when it comes to Desi representation or POC representation in general. I would love to see shows that have POC leads and let their stories be about something other than their race or their trauma. It’s unfair that POC audiences have to experience racial discrimination and then when trying to find escape through television have to view characters with identities doing the same. Please let us breathe and have fun! Because of Bridgerton, the idea of me going to a ball and dressing up in an opulent gown and doing the waltz is not entirely unimaginable and that’s so fun. I only wish representation like this to continue and have more lighthearted shows with characters that look like me.