I Read The “Bridgerton” Book And It’S… Problematic (Racism, Sexism, Consent, And Bad Writing)

Read Time:22 Minute, 7 Second

Hello there! So, unless your name is Patrick Star and you have been living under a rock, you will have heard of the hit Netflix  series Bridgerton. The series is set in Regency   era London. It's kind of like if Pride and  Prejudice met Gossip Girl and it's all based on   the Bridgerton series of books by Julia Quinn. These are romance novels — i think there's eight   in the series, which is CRAZY! I don't think I will ever have that much to say about anything…   This particular book is the first in the  series and this has been topping the New   York Times bestseller list for the last three weeks and so i bought myself a copy.

For   today's article i thought i would read it and let you know my thoughts, whether it's worth your money, whether it is more "The Duke and I" or "I want to puke and die" … so let's get going   [Intro music] On tonight's program ladies and gentlemen we have something that's going to make you sick So, firstly let's put that to one side for a  moment and talk about the series. It is the London   courting season where debutants are trying to find husbands. A debutante is an upperclass woman   who is making her first appearance in fashionable society so they go to a lot of balls and parties   and try and find…. some balls. And Daphne Bridgerton is the kind of 'it' girl of this season and she   meets the Duke of Hastings who is a rake and we are not talking about gardening… this man is not Alan Titchmarsh. A rake is actually a wealthy man who has immoral or promiscuous habits, so think   drinking, gambling, prostitutes… and this show is essentially the Great British Rake Off So, in order to avoid their rich people problems Simon, who is the Duke of Hastings, and Daphne follow the 'fake   romance' trope and, as a surprise to absolutely no one, fall in love.

However, there's a twist! Simon has really bad daddy issues and no therapist Basically, he has sworn to his abusive father before his father died that he would never ever have children and the family line would therefore   end with him… because sometimes you do have to be that petty. Then Simon and Daphne just have A LOT of sex, like they're bonking constantly. And Simon  becomes the king of the pull-out game. There's also an anonymous gossip column written by Lady Whistledown and lots of other romances going on   in the sidelines… and i'm just saying if i  had a nickel for every time someone had sex   on the stairs in Bridgerton, i'd have two nickels… which isn't a lot, but it's weird that it happened twice, right? Ultimately the Netflix show is a real mix of old and new. They have kind of   an old-fashioned orchestra but they're playing classical remixes of pop songs.

The fashion and   the costumes take a lot of inspiration from the Regency period but also have modern kind of twists,   also I just wanted to add here that when we think of the Regency period in retrospect we think of   it as being quite like dulled down. We think of it in sepia tones because obviously all the artefacts   we have of that period are old [and faded] but i think what Bridgerton captures so well is the vibrancy of   the period ,like all the colors are so bright, it's so opulent and it just looks a lot of fun.   So i think that's one thing that they capture really well rather than making it quite, like,   vintage looking. BUT, there's a few plot holes which i'm hoping the book is going to clear up   for me! For example, at one point Daphne is given this beautiful, expensive, boujee necklace from a   literal prince… and it's a big deal like everyone makes such a song and dance out of this necklace   that they could form their own orchestra. And then at the party where she's wearing this incredible   necklace Daphne storms out and just takes it off and ditches it, leaves it on a bridge. And it's   just never mentioned ever again.

As if the prince might not even be a little bit annoyed that this   random woman has just ditched his family heirloom on a bridge so she can have her back cracked like a glow stick by the Duke. You did this for what Daphne? You did this for what? Anyway, i think it's   about time that i started reading this book and so i will let you know what i think. One thing i completely forgot about (but absolutely love) is the fact that the Bridgerton siblings are named   in alphabetical order, like the Kardashians could NEVER. So, we have Anthony, Benedict, Colin, Daphne,   Eloise, Francesca, Gregory — oh my god i forgot about Gregory! He's like Frankie Jonas, like remember the   Jonas Brothers?

This is them now. They actually did very well with the casting of Anthony, Benedict and   Colin because they really said copy and paste with these three. I don't know if anyone else had this   but during the season i had to like give them nicknames in my head so i could work out which   was which. So we have Sideburns Bridgerton, Art Hoe Bridgeton and Kevin Jonas Bridgerton. I'm getting   the vibe that each of the Bridgerton books is based on a different one of the Bridgerton siblings but   like i cannot root for a character called Hyacinth…. I'm sorry. i've now read more than just the first   page so i have some updates so far!

The main difference between the book and the series is   that the sequence of events is so different, like the way that the Duke and Daphne meets is a lot   less romantic. Nigel Berbrooke is this like minging old man who is pursuing Daphne and wants to marry   her and she punches him. In fact, this is the third person that Daphne has punched so far. I don't know why this girl thinks she's Anthony Joshua but, like, i'm kind of living for it.  And the Duke spots her for the very first time when she's just knocked someone out, which is sexy apparently. But   the funniest thing to me so far is i was expecting it to be quite romantic when they were having   their first sort of interaction but actually the Duke just spends the whole time looking at her  ……… hakuna ma-tit-as… if you will.

The book mentions on multiple occasions that while Daphne's speaking   directly to him he is paying no attention and just …… eyes on the prize, you know? Objectification is not   necessarily what i anticipated here from the Duke. The narrative style, though, is very interesting   because this book is written in free indirect discourse and free indirect discourse is basically   when you have an omniscient third person narrator but you also get an insight into what each   different character is thinking, so the narrative voice essentially flows freely between characters.   So we don't just get the perspective of Daphne we also know what the Duke is thinking at the same   time, which is interesting because free indirect discourse was made famous by Jane Austen in books   like Pride and Prejudice and Emma which are also set in the same kind of time period and deal with   a lot of the same themes, Like, the London mating season …. MATING SEASON? Courting season! Geez, this   isn't a David Attenborough documentary.

Although, it does turn into a bit of a mating season later on….   So, who knows? We have reached the 100 page mark and this is a slow burner. This book is LONG.    So, i thought now would be a good time to talk about the characters that have been introduced so far.   My main issue is that Simon is just a teeny tiny… massive bit sexist. He is constantly making   quite disparaging comments about women, and "all women this", "all women that", he talks about women   being hysterical and it's just-… it's not very nice.

  Especially considering he is surrounded by strong   matriarchal figures like Violet Bridgerton and Lady Danbury, like dude show some respect. This actor did   a very good job of making the Duke likeable in the Netflix series because he just comes   across as a bit of a dick. Then we come to Daphne Bridgeton, DB, Daffers, Daph-t Punk… I have to say, in   the series i thought she was just a bit of a wet wipe, but in this book she's actually… she's pretty cool. The actress who plays Daphne definitely read this book because it mentions a lot of times how   she kind of knits her brow together when she's concerned, or thinking, or doing anything… and in the   series Daphne is constantly swanning about all these parties like looking like a puppy who   just ate a chocolate cake off the side. Also, at the beginning of chapter two, it says "later that   week Daphne found herself standing on the fringes of Lady Danbury's ballroom"… and she really said   FRINGES.

The hairdressing team said "how outrageous do you want to be with this fringe" and she said   YES. Ms daphne said "it's a good thing the Edinburgh fringe was cancelled in 2020 because this fringe,   tis fringe would put them out of business". Eloise hasn't spoken yet and that's heartbreaking because   she is our feminist icon. And Penelope has had a really small role. You know what is kind of awful?   Julia Quinn is constantly characterising Penelope as ugly and podgy and i just feel bad for the   actress who plays her, like when you get that call from the casting team that says "we think you're   perfect for the role" — is that a compliment for your acting or an insult for your face?

And everyone is   saying how great the casting is and how the cast looks exactly how they imagined the characters…. like   that's rude! At the same time, kind of relatable though. Tag yourself, i'm the ugly friend. Anyways,   i'm gonna need this book to pick up the pace because i'm getting bored! i have now reached the   200 page mark and what i wanted to speak about now is race in the Bridgerton universe. And that   is because there's been a lot of conversation around Netflix and its "colourblind" casting for   this show. There's a lot more representation and diversity than most Regency era period dramas   tend to have, and at one point Lady Danbury and the Duke have a really quick conversation   that kind of acknowledges their race but doesn't go very far. How racial diversity is handled by   the Netflix show is a separate conversation.

What i wanted to speak about is the book, and i wanted   to basically warn you that this book by Julia Quinn should not be painted by the same brush   that the Netflix show is painted by, because every character in this book is white. Do not be fooled   by the actor who has been printed on the front of this book because the original versions of this   book had a white man, and actually there are scenes in this book which are quite problematic and have   really racist undertones. The Duke has recently returned from his travels around the globe but the   one place they specifically mentioned is Africa. Not a specific country in Africa, just Africa in   general. And Africa is only ever referred to when they are comparing feral or savage behaviour to   people who live in Africa… as if these white men in England aren't literally dueling because one of   them kissed the other one's sister! The caucacity, honestly i'm embarrassed. i also read some reports   that Julia Quinn had previously stated that she didn't write minority characters into her   romance novels because she felt like the white people in the novels would be mean to them. And   i just think "you had the imagination to make this an eight-part series and you couldn't imagine one   minority in any of the books?" But, i guess i just wanted to make it clear that if you have readed   the Bridgerton Netflix series and you thought "wow that's slightly more diversity than normal"…   this book will disappoint you.

And i'm really disappointed by the racist undertones of this book.   Okay, so it is now the next day because last night I just had to give up because i was sick of Julia   Quinn's s[ __ ]t. So, i've been back to reading this morning and i just reached the most controversial   moment in the whole book, so i just wanted to add a trigger warning here and the time that you can   skip to on the screen, so if sexual assault is a sensitive subject for you then i would definitely   recommend skipping ahead because basically this is a scene where after Daphne figured out what   sex was about five minutes ago she realizes that because the Duke is….. reversing…. he's not sowing his   seed, shall we say? She basically realises that the problem isn't that he can't have kids, it's that he   refuses to have kids, and is making quite an effort not to have kids. So, then one night when he comes   home drunk from the pub and let me just tell you … he is so hammered that Bob the Builder's toolkit   is jealous. In fact, you know what mi'm just gonna read you the extracts because it is outrageous.   And, i can't believe that Julia Quinn ever thought this was okay.

So it says "he shifted restlessly and   Daphne felt the strangest most intoxicating surge of power. He was in her control, she realized he was   asleep and probably still more than a little bit drunk and she could do whatever she wanted   with him, she could HAVE whatever she wanted." As he realises what's happening to him and he   tries to resist it says "Daphne bore down on him with all her might … she had done this on purpose,   she had planned this. Daphne had aroused him in his sleep, taken advantage of him while he was   still slightly intoxicated and held him to her while he poured his seed into her. She wasn't   ashamed of her actions, she supposed she should be but she wasn't." This is disgusting and that is   assault! They then don't speak for a bit because the Duke is literally so upset and then his   stammer comes back… but then one day after enough gas-lighting from Daphne he just gets over it   and they live happily ever after… and that's the plot of this book. And that is problematic! First   and foremost i'm horrified at this book and Julia Quinn but secondly i'm shocked that 20 years later   when Netflix turned this into a series they didn't remove the scene.

I'm surprised they didn't turn   it into a lesson or a discussion about consent because there's layers to this s[ __ ]t. Firstly we   have the point that men can be victims of sexual and emotional abuse. Secondly we have the fact that   abuse and assault does happen within marriages and thirdly the point that consent can be withdrawn by   either party at any time. I'm sure lots of people have heard of the "tea analogy" when it comes to   consent but i thought it was appropriate to use here the idea is that if you ask someone "would   you like a cup of tea?" and they say no then you don't make them a cup of tea! If you ask them   if they'd like a cup of tea and initially they say yes and maybe they even take a few sips of   the tea and enjoy it, it is their decision at any point to decide they don't want the tea anymore,   and put the tea away and not drink the tea. You accept that, you don't force it down their throat!   You let them stop drinking the tea, Daphne! i don't know, i just think this is a really horrific scene   and one that should have never been included in this book or the Netflix series because Daphne   faces no consequences from this aside from the fact that eventually she gets what she wants.

   I am NOT impressed, in fact the book was worse. Okay i finished this awful book. The main thing   I found really annoying was the language so in the first half of the book Julia Quinn uses the most   elevated unnecessarily complicated vocabulary, so much so that most of what she's describing   completely loses its meaning. And that's because words like 'curmudgeonly' or 'histrionic' are so   obscure that they feel just really out of place in this romance novel. The word 'acerbically' is   used about 10 times in one chapter.

Then we have words like 'deucedly' and 'veriest' which   are archaic words that we don't use anymore, so what the hell are they doing in this book Julia Quinn? It's honestly like the author found the  thesaurus function on Microsoft Word and just   ran with it. But she uses these big clever words in the wrong context! Okay, just off the top of   my head one of the examples i can think of is when it uses the word 'spurn' as a synonym for   'reject' but the thing is the word spurn suggests 'rejecting something with contempt or disdain' and   that's not what this is referring to, it's talking about rejecting an invitation from someone that he   really cares about. The thing is, using really niche words and complicated vocabulary seems really   intelligent but actually you're just communicating what you want to say badly if the reader has to   use a dictionary to understand it, and that's not to say that romance novels can't use incredibly   beautiful descriptions, but that's not what this book does. It just uses stupid words that aren't   necessary, also having readed the adaptation i thought that it would be very descriptive about   the balls and the parties and the glamour and it just isn't… it's all boring dialogue.

What was the   reason? And at first i thought maybe she was using old-fashioned vocabulary intentionally because   it was trying to set the scene of the Regency era but then one sentence later it uses words like   'bugger' and 'nitwit' which have only been used in the 20th century, so it doesn't add up. And then in   the second half of the book she just completely ditches this approach and just uses the most   simple vocabulary i think i've ever read. Honestly, it's the lack of consistency for me. The one thing   i will give Julia credit for, in comparison to the Netflix series, is that she gave Simon and Daphne   way more depth. To me, the most interesting part of the whole book was the discussion about Simon's   stammer and how, even in his adult life, he has to constantly be thinking about controlling it,   and that made this, like, handsome, educated Duke so much more complex and interesting as a character.   Whereas netflix unfortunately kind of just left that in his childhood and never discussed it again.

   Literally Joe Biden, the new President of the United States, has a stammer but he controls it,   And i think that it would have been really great for young people with a stammer to be able to see   someone like Simon who is the hero, he's the Duke, so to see him having a personal battle with   it too. Overall, though, i gave this book a grand total of two stars out of five on my Goodreads   account (which is like a social media just for book nerds). Firstly it loses a star just for being   really badly written. It also loses a star for just being massively sexist, like Simon makes so   many generalizations about women and he talks about Daphne as if she has to obey him as his   wife, and despite literally being raised by strong independent women he cannot physically cope or   comprehend it when his wife tries to display any sense of autonomy. And last but not least another   star gone for having racist undertones… that's not okay.

Honestly, reading the Bridgerton book was like   reading a train wreck that you know is horrible but you can't take your eyes off it. It was also   very, very clear to me that this is a book written by an American author about what   she imagined London to be like. And there was a tragic lack of Eloise Bridgerton like she didn't   speak once, and i want my money back. Should you read this? I would say if you've readed   the series, definitely don't bother.

If you respect yourself, don't bother. Will i be reading any of the   other Bridgerton books, not if you paid me! In fact i'm going to put some recommendations on   the screen now of other books, both classic and modern, that i would recommend you read   instead. I hope you enjoyed this article more than I enjoyed that book. If you did, you can give it a   like, you can subscribe to me down below, and you can check out my Instagram account and   my Goodreads.

I'll catch you very soon for a brand new article and, in the meantime, have a lovely day! In case i don't see you good  afternoon, good evening, and good night.

About Post Author

Professor Cram

Professor Lawrence Cram is a Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University working in the Department of Applied Mathematics. His interests include astronomy, mathematics, engineering, computing, and physics. Due to his extensive expertise, professor Cram has worked as a Professor of Physics at the University of Sydney and as the Deputy Vice-Chancellor at ANU during 2004-2012. In 2013, he retired as a Master, University House and Graduate House. In January 2014, he was appointed as an acting Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Charles Darwin University. Professor Cram is also a Fellow at the Royal Astronomical Society and the Australian Institute of Physics.
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