My take on the timeless adages we can take away from Netflix’s popular period drama series, Bridgerton.
1. Love hasn’t changed, but the way we court has.
Love is love, and no matter the era, we still love the same. From physical touch to affectionate compliments and wanting to spend all our time together when we’re in love we all fall into the same behaviours and have done so for centuries.
What has changed is how we obtain it. While in the Bridgerton days courting was a formal, impersonal, transactional process, we now court, and ‘hook up’ with, hundreds of potential love interests with the swipe of an app. We’ve swapped handwritten love letters for non-stop texting (often with more than one option’ on the go). We leave our options open and our emotions closed – playing hard to get is now a way to flirt, and in the modern competition for love, attention is the prime commodity, rather than regal status.
Yet simultaneously, we face different challenges. While Daphne was a virgin before marriage and a sexual past considered dishonourable, fewer modern relationships follow the same tradition of abstinence. And while sleeping with women out of wedlock was acceptable for men, modern times in many cases continue to cast judgement disproportionately over women who do the same.
Indeed, the fundamental feeling of love remains universal, but Bridgerton teaches us that in the 21st century its conventions are far removed from those of our ancestors.
2. We still, keep up appearances
Just as love is love, humans are humans. This means whether it’s the goings-on in the Bridgerton and Fetherington’s families, or stalking your ex’s latest fling on Instagram, we just can’t resist peeking into other people’s lives. We’ve been judging and gossiping about others since the beginning of time, while keeping up our own appearances, too. Instead of hiding behind frocks and jewellery we now outwardly express the best parts of our lives via social media profiles showcasing lavish lifestyles, holidays and filtered images. Meanwhile, the challenges and turmoil that happens behind closed doors remain just as secretive, ensuring we only show people what we want them to see. No longer waiting for the “gossip rag” reminiscent of Lady Whistledown’s publication we now have minute by minute access through digital and social media to scandals, gossip, and tragedy not forgetting reality TV in the mix, all making us more blood thirsty for the perfect disaster of other people’s lives.
And when it comes to dating, we follow suit. Not dissimilar, the Bridgerton era sees grand gestures and money as the ultimate show of status. Meanwhile in modern dating, we bring carefully curated dating profiles, large social circles, and designer threads to the table. In both centuries, it’s only natural to expect we’d want to present the best version of ourselves to a potential partner – the only difference is what that ‘best version’ looks like.
3. Vulnerability is not weakness
We all know ‘that’ honeymoon scene. Where, despite being married just hours earlier, Daphne feels Simon does not love her. She begins second-guessing worrying she pushed him into marriage, wondering why he won’t speak to her or show affection. At the same time, Simon is contemplating the same. If only they’d speak their minds.
Yet once they finally communicate and express their feelings, they both acknowledge they ‘burn’ for each other – showing the power of vulnerability. All it takes is for one person to let their guard down to allow the other to do the same. In turn, Simon and Daphne were able to comfort each other, deepen their connection, alleviate their tension and let’s not get started on the sex. This scene teaches us that no matter the social situation, being brave, stripping away the facade and opening up can take us out of ‘fight or flight’ to allow us to truly listen to and express our feelings.
4. You can’t build love with lies and betrayal
Your parents probably told you a thousand times that the truth is better than a lie, but the adage rings true to this day: honesty is the best policy. If only Marina Thompson had followed this, too.
Of course, it’s human nature to lie, especially to avoid pain and seek pleasure. Marina’s secret pregnancy triggered a string of lies, deceit, betrayal and manipulation. Capturing the heart of Colin Bridgerton, luring him into a trap motivated by self-preservation without foresight of consequences. The revelation of the pregnancy was not the cause of a broken romance. When Lady Whistledown published the truth of the unwed mother to be it was not the shame to the family that caused Colin to break the engagement. His revelation to Marina that had she been honest he would have married her regardless was evidence that the truth sets us free. Unaware she was betrayed by her trusted friend Penelope Fetheringham motivated by a secret crush it opened Pandora’s box for many viewers who’ve experienced the backfire of a lie and the sting of betrayal.
In modern courtship, the same rule applies. Even lying on a dating profile is a recipe for disaster – with many matches able to know more about you than your great aunt before the first date (thanks to the internet, of course). Embellishing your account, filtering your appearance, or telling a small white lie about your age or height, albeit seemingly trivial, means you could break the trust from the start. This makes it far harder to begin a healthy relationship and, as we learnt in Marina’s case, means you risk ruining it from the get go with the right person altogether.
5. Resolve past issues
Whether it’s the petticoat she wears or the way he’s always on his phone, there will always be quirks about our partners we dislike. But issues left unspoken can quickly escalate into significant long-term problems that can destroy your happiness and your relationship with the ones you love.
For example, Simon’s bitterness towards his father and a vengeful deathbed promise nearly cost him his relationship with Daphne (and his chance to be a father himself). It proves no matter the grievance the energy, turmoil, and negativity wasted harbouring resentment toward another hurt you more than them. This teaches us how crucial it is to address past pains, work to reconcile them in your own life and forgive the past rather than hold onto it.
6. Loves knows no boundaries
They’ve got it all… right?
From how close they are to the throne to the number of friends on Facebook, we’re all still drawn to particular social, vocational and materialistic traits (both in present and past times). But these surface-level attractions are not the foundation for a long-lasting relationship, as Daphne Bridgerton proved.
Prince Friederich may have had it all on paper, but Daphne knew her heart belonged to Simon, even sacrificing her desire to have children believing he couldn’t. True love looks beyond the romanticised idea of the person and into true compatibilities like core values, emotional connection and life goals. Simon and Daphne’s story teaches us that in a modern world where we judge love interests based on a 150-word profile, taking the time to get to know someone beyond their photos can open us up to new opportunities with people we would’ve initially never even considered!
7. Love is a decision
Every person, no matter when they were born, is given the power to choose who they give their love to. Even today people marry for reasons beyond love or learn to love someone they never intended to. When Daphne was disclosing to her mother her plans to separate from Simon due to their poor communication and his dishonesty, Lady Violet reminded her of this by sharing the reason her late husband (Daphne’s father), made the marriage work was because of their decision to love each other every day, despite the trials they faced.
From the 19th century to the 21st, every relationship will face challenges, and it, therefore, becomes a choice to commit to riding the tough times (and embracing the good times). Ultimately, we decide who we do and don’t give our love to and in turn accept that the people we choose to love won’t always make us happy or live up to our expectations. It becomes a choice to look beyond the negatives, put effort and value into the relationship every day and commit to the good, and the bad.
From the over-the-top costumes, diversity of characters and the awareness of old-fashioned courtship, Bridgerton has taken a timeless topic and stolen the hearts of a modern generation of single women, single men, and couples alike. Among the lessons it teaches us. Are how love fundamentally remains the same centuries later but has evolved with modern challenges, social expectations, and innovations.
Through it all, the biggest takeaway is that we will all bear the scars, and relish the highs and lows, of love, lust and attachment. No matter the year on the calendar, the fashion of the time, or the family you come from, we are all party to the challenges and triumphs of love. And that is the true beauty of life.
The only question that remains is: What will love look like in the next century, or even decade, to come?