Note: Here are Bridgerton spoilers and the discussion of multiple traumas. Read carefully.

After suddenly observing Bridgerton in its entirety on Christmas Day, I sat on my mind for a long, long time. I picked up part of the discourse, both before and after watching it, and thought long and hard about what, as a black person, as a black woman, I might say after looking at something that was soapy at its best should be, but in the end wild yo-yoing ended with my emotions, thoughts and even certainties.

I remember how intrigued this election was when it was first announced. I remembered the controversy when Bridgerton writer Julia Quinn said aloud that she didn’t write more diverse because she wrote happy endings, and that wouldn’t be historically plausible. At the thought of being involved in a Shondaland project, I wondered if she had received a kind of Come-To-Jesus lecture from the woman herself, which many people – of different races, genders and sexualities – would then give. their own HEAs. And I was at odds from the moment the cast was announced. It was a beautiful collection of people, perfect for what I thought was a “color blind” cast like Still Star-Crossed, Shonda Rhimes’ previous historical project. I expected it to be a fantasy world, similar to Brandy Cinderella or a good Shakespeare production (* cough * MuchAdo * cough *).

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And I sat down to enjoy the pretty, if nothing else.

About halfway through the viewing, the audience’s attention was drawn to the fact that the characters portrayed by black actors were actually supposed to be blacks in a Britain that had tried to correct its mistakes much earlier than in real life (when wanted to) argue that it went to great lengths to even do so). And in that moment the people chosen to be portrayed as black characters became something else. Another element of black pain and trauma in another common historical fantasy.

One can’t help but notice – even before it is vaguely acknowledged that the black British are indeed black – that the black characters have one thing in common between them: trauma.

There is of course Simon, the main love interest of the first season. It can be argued that not only as the first love interest introduced, but also as the goddamn duke, a title in the British aristocracy closer to royalty than anything else, he is one of the main black characters to be introduced. But his Rakish ways aren’t the only thing stopping him from being the ideal (and idealized) romantic hero. As the second (?) Duke of Hastings, he already has a lot on his plate, but he also has a traumatized upbringing to overcome that has led to the great conflict of his own romance: he has vowed not to marry or to marry children into the Bring the world. What if he tries to keep that (misguided but incredibly sincere) promise to his young white wife instead of maybe asking a question or two? Takes matters into his own hands by forcing him to vaginally ejaculate instead of his usual handkerchief. This is a non-consensual act. This is sexual assault.

(As an aside, there seem to have been some online conversations about it not being rape because Daphne is very short and a tall man who could have done something about it. I wonder what she says about little white slaves and their big black prisoners would have said.)

Simon’s terribly dead father, whose only love in Simon’s life was the continuation of the ducal line, is the person who inspired this vow. And not only do we observe how the (black) father emotionally abuses and neglects his son from childhood to adulthood, but we also have a clear understanding of why he does not have a loving, motherly hand until Lady Danbury enters his life occurs. Right on the screen. At the beginning of the second episode, we experience a difficult, traumatic birth and death of a black woman – the nameless First Duchess of Hastings.

This comes exactly to the bottom of the great revelation about another black character: Marina, a young black woman who, thanks to a gambling guilt that is not at all her fault, was blindly sent into a white, hostile household. She was sent away from home because she became pregnant. Lady Featherington, with three daughters all out in need of worthy husbands, has already resented Marina’s looks since the suitors are all in love with her (because she is beautiful or because she is exotic? You never know). But she locks Marina, a prisoner in her only refuge, in her room when it turns out that she is pregnant. And when she believes that there is no happy place for her and her child, we experience the trauma of trying to end her pregnancy the plant-based way. (And if that doesn’t work, who’s the only woman in the entire season trying to manipulate someone she doesn’t love into marriage? Right.) She’s essentially selling to the highest bidder who has her body on this one Wise inspected calls the block.

Why is she the only young, single black woman in this tale?

And then we have the older black women, the matriarchal types who like to clap, interfere and prevail. They are fearful women who people are afraid to get angry with and who can no longer live happily either. While Lady Danbury’s on-screen presence is relatively trauma-free, we are forced to watch Queen Charlotte endure insults yelled by her husband several times. And unless she’s cursed and slandered by the King of England and the Empire, she’s shallow and just wants to be entertained.

The only black working class family we see includes a black man who is not just an athlete, but whose whole role is to stage a spectacle of violence for a predominantly white betting crowd. (And teach Simon to fight so he can beat up toads of course). His wife is a delight, she thinks about her family’s needs and isn’t afraid to speak up … you might be the most adapted couple on the whole damn show. But that doesn’t change the fact that the poor black man is one whose role in life can easily be influenced by a possible high payday. He does it for his family, yes. But he does it because he cannot say no without consequences.

If one wrote a play-by-play list for every traumatic moment a black character experiences in just one season of Bridgerton, they would read much longer than this particular article. There are so many little things that add up quickly. So many tiny cuts that every black viewer has to endure when watching the melodrama unfold.

There is a lot going on in Bridgerton, which doesn’t highlight the trauma and pain the black characters are experiencing, but that might make their trauma and pain even more apparent. The problems the white characters deal with are – while still noteworthy – minor problems. The fear of not finding a husband. The fear of finding a husband who might not love her. I don’t know how babies are made. Lose the family fortune. Being embarrassed by family members. Can’t support your loved one. Not meeting expectations. These are troubling but not trauma.

If the rumors are true and Netflix signs up to produce one season per book of the eight-book series, everyone involved will need to think about what their casting decisions are saying. If every tragic character is a beautiful black person and the white characters are offered the only unique HEAs, then it has failed. If they stop offering recurring roles to people of color who aren’t black, then they won’t succeed (and don’t we make them tragic characters, either, do we?). If they expand the cast to cater to friends, love interests, extended family members, good and bad suitors, and continue to cast only happy blacks on the periphery, they will fail. We can only see and see how much DEI’s actionable concepts play out in the fantasy world the Bridgertons live in and their little part of the real world that the rest of us live in.

Bridgerton is essentially not an adaptation of a single romance novel or series, but a soap opera based on the idea of ​​one. A saga that, instead of centering on the wildly flawed romance and possibly building on that story to make its HEA one we can all put down roots for, features several new characters whose faulty and traumatized lives take away the joy we have could have (even with the incessant melodrama!) from start to finish.