Bridgerton season 2 spoilers follow.
Welcome, dear reader, to Bridgerton. A world where racial divides have been removed and gossip reigns supreme. A world where the worst thing you can do is dare kiss someone before marriage. Well, someone of the opposite sex, at least.
Despite how inclusive Netflix's vision of the Regency era might appear, we're now two seasons in and there's barely a whisper of, dare we say it, homosexuality in Bridgerton. In fact, there's barely a whisper of anything at all that strays from the heterosexual experience.
Scandalous, we're sure you'll agree. But what's perhaps most scandalous is that season two is somehow even straighter than season one. And that was already quite a low bar indeed.
You'd be forgiven for not remembering this – one does have much TV to contemplate, after all. But back in season one, it was suggested that Benedict Bridgerton, of the renowned Bridgerton household, might be more interested in what lies underneath a man's breeches than a lady's petticoat.
This desire to explore new adventures, let's say, led Benedict to an "alternative" party where carnal desires could be explored, free of any societal constraints. There, the middle Bridgerton brother almost found himself in the middle of something rather more scandalous when he walked in on two men who just happened to be together without many clothes on.
While this "encounter" was pretty tame for a Shondaland show, or indeed, Bridgerton itself, it's worth noting that season one's sole moment of queer intimacy was at least treated with some tenderness. Benedict quickly closed the door on these two men, but out of respect for their privacy rather than disgust or prejudice. A true gentleman indeed.
Nothing else comes of this scene – insert boyish giggle here – but there's definitely some sexual tension between Benedict and the party's host, who went on to discuss his desire for men towards the season's end. Unfortunately, he's trapped in the kind of sham marriage that many queer people were forced into back then – and that many still are today around the world.
But why is Bridgerton trapping its own queer characters in the same way? LGBTQ+ people aren't treated equally in 2022, and they certainly weren't in the 1820s, but this show isn't exactly renowned for its historical accuracy. If the writers can reimagine history to make it more racially inclusive, the same could easily be done for queer storylines.
Thankfully, not a drop of precious ink is wasted on queer stereotypes or detailing homophobia of any kind, but the downside is that queer people barely exist on this show at all. And that's almost worse because it implies that LGBTQ+ love stories don't deserve to be explored in the same way that their straight counterparts do.
In the past, other Shondaland shows like Scandal, Grey's Anatomy and How To Get Away With Murder have provided queer audiences with the kind of love stories we've always longed to see on screen. And now, building on the limited representation in season one, there was a real opportunity here to improve Bridgerton's queer content in season two. But instead, things are even worse this time around.
Does one remember that queer-baiting trailer from the first season? It's somewhat concerning that there's more LGBTQ+ representation in those fleeting seconds than can be found across the entirety of season two. And it's not like these 10 new episodes are scrimping on their runtime either.
Each chapter clocks in between 50 minutes and one hour plus, yet apparently, throughout all of this, there wasn't enough time to even acknowledge queerness, let alone explore the seeds sown by Benedict's story back in season one. On a show where sex and relationships take centre stage, that omission says a great deal. It almost makes one yearn for the scandalous stereotypes of old! Almost.
When asked if Benedict's sexual fluidity will be explored in future seasons, or at least, his flirtation with it, showrunner Chris Van Dusen said the following to Digital Spy (along with other press):
"With Benedict, he gets to be a part of this whole other world, this artsy space with all these colourful characters, and I think, as a second son, he's been given a certain amount of freedom. It's been so interesting for me to see what he's been able to do with that freedom. So I hope definitely that the show will will continue in that vein."
The reason why Van Dusen qualifies this with the word "hope" is because he's now leaving the show he started, just two seasons in. So that means whoever ends up replacing him could finally switch things around and include more than a mere whisper of queerness in season three.
Remember; queer people did exist in the past, no matter how often society might try to deny it. So we say to you, dear reader, that it's high time for Bridgerton to join the ranks of other, more inclusive period dramas like Black Sails and Gentleman Jack. To do anything less would surely besmirch the honour of this show and all involved.
Bridgerton season 2 is now available to watch on Netflix. Secret Cinema with Fever Present Bridgerton is open now in Wembley. To purchase tickets, head here.