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Bridgerton: Is this really as far as we can go in conceiving racial integration?

Once upon a time, in an alternate reality, lived a duke, the Duke of Hastings. His name was Simon Basset. Right now, in a lived reality, lives a duchess, the Duchess of Sussex. Her name is Meghan Markle. Between Netflix’s record-breaking hit series Bridgerton , which reached number one in 76 different countries, and Oprah Winfrey’s tell-all interview with Harry and Meghan, by last spring at least 150 million people had witnessed one of two royal dramas.

Even as Bridgerton returned to screens this spring for another season with historic viewership, the duke and duchess, both on-screen and off, from last season continue to dominate the conversation. Yet few have drawn the connection between the two stories of race and royalty – or dwelt on the wider import of the debates that they’ve ignited on racial politics for our everyday lives and systems of thought.

Bridgerton’s fictional Duke of Hastings, the blinding star of Season One – and judging by the reviews, the series as a whole so far – played by heartthrob Rege-Jean Page of Zimbabwean and English ancestry, is notable for his rakish good looks but, beyond his brown skin tone, he has conformed entirely to British high society – complete with the snotty southern English accent and sartorial standards that make one wonder how he makes time for anything else. The show, produced by TV mogul Shonda Rimes of Grey’s Anatomy fame, and based on the novels by Julia Quinn, is premised on the conceit that it is set in a parallel “racially integrated” universe – a type of alternate colourblind history of Regency England – and has been praised in the media for its racial diversity ie, that the non-white characters have proper roles rather than exclusively as servants or slaves.


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