In 2020, Netflix released the serial drama Bridgerton, headed by Shonda Rhimes and adapted from a book series by Julia Quinn. This Jane Austen-inspired show applied Rhimes’ color-blind casting approach—not electing a character’s race before choosing the actor to play the role—to Regency-era London. The approach resulted in a colorful ensemble and various multiracial relationships, including between two main characters, Daphne (white) and Simon (Black). In the world of Bridgerton, the deviation from historical accuracy is explained twofold: one, that this King George III fell in love with a Black woman, and her ascendency as Queen Charlotte erased racism; and two, that the real Queen Charlotte is fabled to have had African ancestry. In “the ton,” therefore, lords and ladies comingle with only one mention of race, save for Lady Danbury (Simon’s godmother, of sorts), who says: “We were two separate societies divided by color until a king fell in love with one of us… Love, your grace, conquers all.”
One of the colorblind roles went to mixed race actress Ruby Barker, who plays Marina Thompson. Barker said in a video interview with Daily Mail that, before being cast in Bridgerton, she thought: “I’m probably not gonna be in a period drama, simply because of my race.” While colorblind casting increases opportunities for diverse casts, continued colorblindness after casting can result in the perpetuation of stereotypes, however unintended. In the case of Marina Thompson, her storyline closely mirrors the stereotyped role of the “tragic mulatta,” a popular trope in abolitionist fiction.
The mixed race, often light-skinned tragic mulatta figure was used by white abolitionists such as Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, to garner sympathy from white readers. The tragic mulatta—as the name implies—always maintained a suffered existence at the hands of a white master and usually died at a young age. After the abolition of slavery, the trope endured as a way to foster the perceived natural division of the races. In “The Tragic Mulatta Plays the Tragic Muse,” author Kimberly Snyder Manganelli states:
By the late 1850s there was an explosion of abolitionist sensation fiction in which British authors attempted to capitalize on the popularity of Stowe’s novel with their own versions of the Tragic Mulatta narrative. However, in England, the motif shifted more towards sensation fiction as the crucial dynamic became courtship rather than seduction.
Bridgerton, set in 1813, ascribes to Marina a sensationally tragic courtship season, used as a counter to Daphne’s chastity and innocence and as a cautionary tale to the other young debutantes.
Marina Thompson is described as a distant cousin of white Lord and Lady Featherington who comes to stay just as the social season begins. It is implied—though never outright stated—that Mr. Featherington houses Marina in exchange for debts owed to Marina’s father. Thus, the commodification of Marina begins when she first arrives in London. Much like slave women bought on the auction block, nothing is known of Marina’s parentage, except that she grew up on a farm. At the outset, her debut outshines that of Daphne Bridgerton, the eligible daughter of a viscountess. The “ton’s” anonymous gossip columnist, Lady Whistledown, writes: “An even rarer jewel of only the most remarkable brilliance, fire, and luster has been unearthed. Her name, unknown to most, yet soon known to all, is Miss Marina Thompson.”
However, shortly after catching the eye of Daphne’s brother, Marina’s tragic fate is sealed: she has not bled in a month, since before her arrival in London. It is revealed that she had a lover, Sir George Crane, who is now at the frontlines of the war in Spain. As the scholar Heidi M. Hanrahan writes in a 2005 article in The New England Quarterly: “Despite her attempt to be a model woman, the mulatta can never fully succeed.” Marina is removed from society and locked away in a bare bedroom in the Featherington home. One of the Featherington daughters asks, “Why is Miss Thompson to be kept away?” Lady Featherington answers, “Because her condition is catching.”
When Sir George’s love letters cease, Lady Featherington forges a breakup letter. “He pretends there was nothing between us,” a sobbing Marina tells one of Lady Featherington’s daughters, Penelope. “He says he desires nothing more to do with me or our… my situation.” Marina’s love affair with Sir George, who had planned to marry her and run away to the country, seems now to be over. Dashed are her chances at a “love match,” which is the pinnacle of success in Bridgerton.
Hanrahan writes of Harriet Jacobs’ book Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl:
Jacobs invites white female readers to share the mulatta’s pain by invoking the idea of the universal dream of “girlhood”—finding happiness with one’s true love. The mulatta, she wants her audience to know, can never attain that dream.
Hanrahan also writes that “the mulatta herself is rarely granted voice or agency; she is acted upon rather than acting.” Devoid of personal agency, Marina finds she must follow Lady Featherington’s demands against her “revolting recklessness” to secure a husband before she starts to show.
Because Marina’s new chance at marriage must be swift and she must conceal her pregnancy, Lady Featherington pushes her to accept the proposal of Lord Rutledge, a senior man whose countenance and demands resemble that of a slave owner. At a visit to the Featherington home, he says to Marina, “Show me a smile, girl… Your teeth, I want to see them.” To Lady Featherington, he says, “I shall try her out in company, see how she acquits herself.” While this exchange is likely meant to explore the commodification of women during the Regency era, Marina’s olive skin, her lack of agency in London, and the race of those attempting to prescribe her future in “trade” are reminiscent of the slave and master dynamic.
Marina attempts to control her life by securing a proposal from the young Colin Bridgerton, who expressed interest when she first arrived in London. However, Lady Featherington demands: “That boy is barely out of leading strings. He has two older brothers still running from the yoke. You are to cut Colin Bridgerton immediately, or I will lock you in this very room till the day Lord Rutledge makes you his wife.” In order to secure Colin, she must trick him into marrying early and perhaps seduce him before the wedding night. “You will seduce him?” Lady Featherington asks. Marina answers, “I will do as I must.” Marina thus moves from a sexual yet committed woman to a seductress, bringing about the judgment of her confidant, Penelope. Likewise, Manganelli writes that in Charles Kingsley’s novel Two Years Ago, the mixed race, runaway slave Marie’s “mixed inheritance comes to figure a ‘strange double nature…’ Marie is not merely a passive victim.”
Penelope warns, “You can choose anyone but him. He is my friend, Marina. I have known him forever. And I do not want him to be tricked and deceived into a lifelong commitment. You must not do this to a good man.” Marina answers, “Well, should I perhaps entrap a bad man, then? Perhaps you would find it acceptable for me to live my life with a man who treats me like a mere beast?”
In a 1996 article in the journal Legacy, the scholar Kristina Brooks writes:
Not only is the individual woman (more) radically split between a subject-self and an object-self, but this division allows for the possibility of masquerade, or the manipulation of that object-self that meets the public gaze, while it simultaneously circumscribes her agency once her reputation is defined.
Marina thus straddles two selves—the victim who must marry without love, and the seductress who is better able to pursue Colin over Lord Rutledge. Her two selves also merge on more than one occasion; for example, her entreaty to Colin closely mirrors the tragic mulatta’s experience when she says:
I cannot stand it, Colin. My own father does not want me. Even the Featheringtons cannot wait to be rid of me. Fool that I am, I truly thought that with your family, I might finally find acceptance. But it is no use… I wish we could be married this very minute.
However, just as Brooks warns, when Marina’s schemes are revealed through the gossip columnist Lady Whistledown, her victimhood is overshadowed by her masquerade:
The bond between man and bride is private, sacred. But I must tell you, I have learned that a grave fraud is afoot… Miss Marina Thompson is with child… and she has been from the very first day she arrived in our fair city. Desperate times may call for desperate measures, but I would wager many will think her actions beyond the pale. Perhaps she thought it her only option, or perhaps she knows no shame. But I ask you, can the ends ever justify such wretched means?
In traditional tragic mulatta tales, this outage would likely result in Marina’s suicide; in Bridgerton, she attempts to abort her baby with an herbal concoction, and Penelope finds her prostrate on the bedroom floor. Daphne, out of anger at Simon’s deception, comes to Marina’s aid in what can be deemed the role of a white savior:
Why should he [George] be the one to choose your future when he clearly cares not for the outcome? He is at fault here. Perhaps I can make him come back and take responsibility for you and his child. Why should you be left all alone to bear the punishment for his crime?
Through her new status as a Duchess, Daphne is able to send an inquiry through the general, who is currently in London. Marina finds that George has died in battle holding a love letter to her, and his brother desires to marry her out of a sense of duty to George. When she finds her abortion has not been successful, Marina reluctantly agrees. Lady Featherington tells Marina, “You are strong, Miss Thompson. Perhaps even more so than me. You will do well.”
As Hanrahan writes of Jacobs’ book: “In choosing a strategic but loveless relationship, Linda rejects the romantic idealism that often leads to the mulatta’s downfall.” While Hanrahan argues that such endings relieve the mulatta of tragedy, Marina is not afforded the same happy ending as Daphne, who has secured a love match just like her mother before her. By contrast Marina asks Lady Featherington: “How did you do it? How did you endure two and twenty years of marriage without love?” Marina’s story is thus tempered in relation to the white protagonist.
In the Bridgerton book series by Julia Quinn, Marina does not appear until book six, To Sir Phillip, With Love, and then only in the first few pages. Her husband, Phillip, the narrator, describes her thus: “Marina had spent her entire life, or at least the entire life he’d known, melancholy. He wouldn’t remember the sound of her laughter, and in truth, he wasn’t sure that he’d ever known it.” With no dialogue of her own, Marina tries to drown herself in the lake and subsequently dies of a fever. Hanrahan says of the mulatta figure: “Most often, death (frequently by suicide) is the only escape offered.” In the book, Marina is a distant cousin of the Bridgertons, and Marina’s demise sets up the love story between Phillip and Eloise Bridgerton. The series could easily use Marina’s anecdotal tragedy in the second season; however, in doing so, the writers would further entrench Marina in the tragic mulatta trope.
Hanrahan writes that “we cannot ignore the damaging effects of portraying the mulatta as powerless and passive.” Shonda Rhimes’ colorblind casting largely works, but for characters like Marina, as well as the Duke, who has his own tragic mulatto story, reliance on historic tropes diminish their capacity to engage the audience empathically rather than merely sympathetically. Just as fair-skinned Daphne wins the hand of the Duke and secures her “love match,” Marina deserves love too—or at least a role beyond tragedy in the shadows.
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Is anything in Bridgerton historically accurate? ›
Despite its Regency-era setting, "Bridgerton" is far from historically accurate. Although many period dramas have cultural experts on hand during production to ensure historical authenticity, "Bridgerton" took an entirely different approach, opting for a diverse reimagining of London's high society.Who is the father of Marina Thompson's baby in Bridgerton? ›
To recap: In the show, Marina is sent to live with her cousins the Featheringtons after coming down with a scandalous "condition"—a.k.a. pregnancy out of wedlock with a soldier named George Crane, who has stopped responding to her letters by the time she arrives in Mayfair.What happened between Colin and Marina? ›
Marina was going to marry Colin Bridgerton to secure a future for herself and her child, but everyone found out about her pregnancy and Colin realized that he was being used. He visited her the following year in her new home with her children, and they made peace.Is Lord Featherington Marina's father? ›
Marina, a distant cousin of Lord Featherington, comes to live with the Featheringtons in London at the beginning of the series.Were Bridgerton intimate scenes real? ›
In a recent interview with Radio Times, Bailey had explained that an intimacy coordinator was present on set, and a half-inflated netball was used to ensure sex scenes were filmed in a safe way. "It's amazing how that whole industry has just come on, even in a year.What do they call periods in Bridgerton? ›
Courses is an older, fancier way of saying “menses,” or a period. In the Bridgerton time period, the presence or absence of someone's period was essentially the only way of determining whether or not she could bear children or was pregnant, so much is made of courses by the women on the show.Does Eloise bridgerton have a baby? ›
Amanda, Phillip's daughter from his first marriage, later marries Charles Farraday. Eloise and Phillip have three children: Penelope, Georgiana, and Frederick.Does Eloise marry Marina's husband? ›
Does Eloise marry Marina's husband? In the book, Eloise actually ends up marrying Sir Phillip Crane. Yes, the same Phillip who was married to Marina Thompson (Ruby Barker) in Bridgerton Season 2!Who did Hyacinth Bridgerton marry? ›
In the book, Hyacinth falls for Lady Danbury's grandson, Gareth St. Clair, after they work together on translating his old family diary written in Italian. Through their partnership, they develop feelings for each other and end up getting married.Does Eloise marry Theo in the books? ›
According to the novels Eloise and Theo do not end up together. In fact, Theo doesn't feature in the books at all. Theo is a brand new character made for the TV show and probably to give Eloise more of a storyline this season.
Who married Prudence Featherington? ›
Prudence is now married to Robert Huxley, a rather rowdy & obnoxious gentleman who still possesses a decent fortune. It took her five seasons to finally marry.Is Colin in love with Penelope? ›
There Wasn't an Instant Connection. As we have witnessed, Penelope developed a crush on Colin long ago, but remained platonic with him due to her low self-esteem and image in society as a "wallflower." Even though Penelope had a developed love interest in Colin, he didn't feel the same way.Who inherits the Featherington estate in the books? ›
Following the death of Archibald Featherington, Jack inherited his estate, as Jack's own father had died, leaving him as the closest male relative.Who does Eloise marry in the Bridgerton books? ›
Eloise Bridgerton and Sir Phillip Cane
The printer's assistant with a passion for feminism seems like an ideal mate for Eloise, but it's actually Sir Phillip Crane — the elder brother of Marina Thompson's true love, Sir George — who wins her heart in the books.
Philippa and Albion Finch were married in a very small intimate ceremony at the Featherington house with only their most immediate relatives to witness the union.Does Daphne touch herself in Bridgerton? ›
Season 1, Episode 3 Where Daphne touches herself
Although this scene isn't a lovemaking scene, it portrays Daphne touching herself and knowing the idea of pleasure in sex for the first time. After a conversation about sexual pleasure with Simon, Daphne touches herself and embraces a discovery about her body.
While Simon consented to sex with Daphne, he did not consent to ejaculating inside of her, thus making it assault. There is the added racial factor in the Netflix series, Simon is played by a black actor, Rege-Jean Page, whereas Daphne is played by a white actor, Phoebe Dynevor.Which Bridgerton sleeps around? ›
For Jonathan Bailey's Anthony, the moonlight love-making offered a different character wrinkle. In Julia Quinn's books, Anthony is the only Bridgerton boy to wait until the wedding night to sleep with his intended.Why does Kate call her sister Bon? ›
Kate calls Edwina bon while Edwina calls her didi. While these might be perceived as cute nicknames, they're Bengali phrases for “younger sister” and “sister,” respectively.Why did the baby's name have to start with an A in Bridgerton? ›
The duke also jokes, after the birth of their first child in the season's final (and very affecting) scene, that he “believes” the child's name “must begin with the letter A,” as a nod to the first names of the eight Bridgerton children following alphabetic symmetry.
What does 6 and 20 mean in Bridgerton? ›
Six and twenty is an archaic way of saying 26 — which is how old Kate is in the season when we meet her. It's a unique way of saying one's age; however, the method was a common way of saying one's age during the regency era.What do Daphne and Simon name the baby? ›
Meanwhile, in Julia Quinn's "The Duke and I," the first book that inspired the Netflix series, Simon and Daphne's first child is a girl they name Amelia. They then have two more daughters, Belinda and Caroline, before welcoming two sons, David and Edward.Is Eloise in love with Penelope? ›
Fiona Brideoake, Ph. D, whose research focuses on British literature and queer historiography, said that a love story between Eloise and Penelope actually makes quite a bit of sense for that time period. She points to Jane Austen, and how her novels are in many ways about the relationships between women.Why does Eloise marry Sir Phillip? ›
The more time she spends with Phillip and his children, the more Eloise starts to care for them. However, her brothers eventually discover that she's been spending time with a man unchaperoned and demand that she marry Phillip to retain her honour.How old is Eloise Phillip with love? ›
But, come the fifth book (that's To Sir Phillip, With Love, for anyone who's interested), Eloise has seemingly settled into her solitary life as a spinster at the ripe old age of 28.Who did Edwina Sharma marry in the books? ›
In the books, Edwina ends up marrying Mr. Bagwell, a scholar and second son in his family. He doesn't come from as much money as the Bridgertons, but Edwina quite enjoys Mr. Bagwell's company.Will Daphne be in season 3? ›
Phoebe Dynevor has confirmed that Daphne Bridgerton will not appear in Season 3 of Netflix's “Bridgerton.”Who was Violet pregnant with Bridgerton? ›
Violet married the Viscount Edmund Bridgerton, with whom she was very much in love, and they had eight children together. In 1803, while Violet was pregnant, Edmund was stung by a bee and died as a result. His death devastated Violet.Does Eloise end up with Theo? ›
Who does Eloise end up with in the Bridgerton books? The answer, sadly, is not Theo Sharpe. In To Sir Phillip, With Love, the fifth Bridgerton book, Eloise is dubbed a spinster for being single at 28, and she's just fine with that.Who did Edwina Sheffield marry? ›
In the books, Edwina ends up marrying Mr. Bagwell, a scholar and second son in his family. He doesn't come from as much money as the Bridgertons, but Edwina quite enjoys Mr. Bagwell's company.
Does Eloise get pregnant? ›
Eloise does not become pregnant in Quinn's second book, but she does become a stepmum in the fifth book titled To Sir Phillip, With Love, where she is considered a “spinster” because she is unmarried at the age of 28.Do Penny and Colin get together? ›
Colin is the lead Bridgerton on book four
The pair marry, but have to deal with Cressida Cowper's threats to expose Penelope as Lady Whistledown. Instead, Colin proudly announces the revelation himself, leading to praise from the ton, while saving her reputation, and the pair live happily ever after in wedded bliss.
The heightened emotions get to both of them, and they wind up making out in the carriage. Colin promptly proposes to Penelope and, after some miscommunications with her mother, they're engaged.Why is Francesca Bridgerton missing? ›
During season two, showrunner Chris Van Dusen had hoped she would be in more of the season, but it wasn't possible. "I love Francesca, but we lost her midway through season two," Van Dusen told TVLine. "After exhausting all other options, she unfortunately had to come out due to reasons beyond our control.Who married Bennett Bridgerton? ›
In An Offer From a Gentleman, Benedict falls for Sophie Beckett, a woman he meets at a masked ball. Sophie, the illegitimate daughter of an Earl, becomes a servant for her stepmother and stepsisters after he dies. (Think Cinderella.) Two years after the masked ball (spoilers!), Benedict and Sophie reconnect and marry.Who does Florence Bridgerton marry? ›
Who does Francesca Bridgerton marry in the books? Although Francesca Bridgerton is on the younger end when we first meet her in the Bridgerton series, in the sixth of the Bridgerton books she finally takes center stage and finds love. In When He Was Wicked, Francesca marries John Sterling, the Earl of Kilmartin.Why does Penelope only wear yellow? ›
Season one costume designer Ellen Mirojnick originally chose yellow for Penelope - whose alter ego is gossip columnist Lady Whistledown - because it represents her deceitful nature and also ties back to the Regency era, when yellow was one of the more fashionable colors.Do Daphne and Simon stay together in the books? ›
Do Simon and Daphne end up together in the Bridgerton books? Yes, although there are some small differences. While their reunion in the show shares the same spirit as the book, the circumstances are quite different: The book involves Daphne falling off a horse rather than dancing in the rain.Does Penelope sleep with Colin? ›
Colin and Penelope's first time having sex happens during their engagement party at Bridgerton House in their book. This happens after Penelope's last Lady Whistledown column is delivered and Colin is pretty upset that she couldn't let Cressida take her credit.
Does Prudence marry Jack Featherington? Her mother even resorted to having her daughter be caught alone with Jack in order for them to have no choice but to marry. Their engagement ended up breaking off as Jack Featherington was planning on going to America being exposed as a grifter.
Is Jack Featherington in the books? ›
Another newcomer is Jack Featherington (Rupert Young) whose ups and downs with Lady Featherington were depicted in the novels.Does Colin Pay Lord Featherington? ›
Despite initial interest, Colin does not invest in Lord Featherington's business in the end. However, Colin's change of heart only came after a tip-off from Will Mondrich who is now the proprietor of a gentleman's club and suspected Jack of being a fraud.Who is the F child in Bridgerton? ›
Everything to Know About “The First Lady”
Ruby Stokes's Francesca, the sixth Bridgerton child, was referenced throughout season one but remained off-screen until the very last episode. That finale appearance was intended to tee up a much bigger role for Francesca in season two.
Regé explained himself that he quit because it felt 'like a limited series' to him, however rumours have since emerged that he left because he didn't like what was planned for his character in future. He said after his exit was announced: “It's a one-season arc.Why was Lord Featherington killed? ›
When Lord Archibald Featherington (Ben Miller) was murdered for his bad gambling debts during the first season of Bridgerton, we were all a bit shocked with that salacious turn of events.How many children does Hyacinth Bridgerton have? ›
Teeming with eight children and presided over by a widowed viscountess, the Bridgerton family provides enough drama and intrigue to keep London's most notorious gossip columnist busy.Who does Berbrooke marry in Bridgerton? ›
6 Nigel Berbrooke
Out of all the character assassinations Bridgerton has managed to do, one of the worst was Anthony forcing Daphne to marry Sir Berbrooke, despite the apparent age difference and his creepy tendencies.
In author Julia Quinn's Bridgerton book series, Kate and Anthony welcome four children: Edmund, Miles, Charlotte and Mary. They also have a dog named Newton. Ashley confirmed in March that she'll be returning for the show's upcoming third season. "We're going to be back!Are any of the families in Bridgerton real? ›
The short answer is, no. The Bridgertons are a fictional family, with their story set during Regency era London, the time of Jane Austen. But there were many families just like them, navigating the marriage market, the London season, and of course, the scandal.Does Bridgerton follow the books closely? ›
While The Viscount Who Loved Me is the basis for the new season, the Netflix show is also padded with events from the other Bridgerton books as well as plenty of brand-new subplots.
Was there a real Lady Danbury? ›
Here's a 101 on the real Queen Charlotte: Lady Danbury and Violet Bridgerton are characters invented by author Julia Quinn, but Queen Charlotte was a real person!Are the dances in Bridgerton authentic? ›
“The dances were planned out before anyone was cast and I was thinking it was going to be a waltz or something like that, but it just so happened that the dance they had for Penelope was an Irish jig!” she told Netflix. “It was a total coincidence.Why are the Bridgertons so rich? ›
According to the Bridgerton books, the Bridgerton family makes money from investments and rental properties. The family has also amassed generational wealth, and their careful wealth planning has enabled the Bridgerton siblings to live luxurious lives without working, even though their father died.How is Georgiana bridgerton related? ›
Her latest, First Comes Scandal: A Bridgerton Sequel, is the story of Georgiana Bridgerton (sister of the doomed Edmund) and Nicholas Rokesbury. Their families are neighbors and longtime friends.What nationality is Daphne from Bridgerton? ›
Phoebe Dynevor is a British actress born in Manchester, England in 1995. She is the daughter of actress Sally Dynevor and screenwriter Tim Dynevor.Is Kate Sharma Indian in the books? ›
The Sharmas' Heritage
Kate (Simone Ashley) and Edwina Sharma (Charithra Chandran) are of Indian heritage in the series, but in the book, they are described as pale and blonde.
Meanwhile, in Julia Quinn's "The Duke and I," the first book that inspired the Netflix series, Simon and Daphne's first child is a girl they name Amelia. They then have two more daughters, Belinda and Caroline, before welcoming two sons, David and Edward.Do Colin and Penelope have a baby? ›
Colin and Penelope have four children together: Agatha, Thomas, Jane, and George.Does Lady Featherington wear a wig? ›
Not everyone wore wigs.
But characters like Lady Bridgerton (Ruth Gemmell), Marina (Ruby Barker), and Prudence Featherington (Bessie Carter) all wore their own hair with pieces woven in as necessary.
“I'm wearing two wigs,” she revealed back in January 2021. “It's a wig on top of a wig!
Why does Lady Danbury have a stick? ›
Adjoa Andoh helped create Lady Danbury's signature look
She said, “If you look at Regency men of that period, they would always have a cane and a hat. For me, the fact that she's a widow meant that I wanted her to embody some of the masculine within her feminine.”
Dance cards listed the specific dances to be performed and provided lines for ladies to fill in the names of the gentlemen with whom she intended to dance each successive dance with. Dance cards and programs were typically designed to be valuable keepsakes.Why did nobody come to the Bridgerton ball? ›
No one comes to the Bridgerton harmony ball because Eloise has dragged the family a step too far into scandal.What are the tags on the wrists in Bridgerton? ›
dance card: Tied to a young lady's wrist, this little booklet keeps track of her dance partners. After all, it's considered impolite for any woman to dance too many times with the same man.