In an effort to build a space for queer people like myself, every Sunday I’ll be posting interviews, opinion pieces, listicles, reviews, and more focused on the LGBT community (and occasionally about the Latinx community since I am Latinx.) Welcome to Queerly Not Straight! Enjoy and leave a comment below if you have a suggestion for what I should cover next.
For a show that prides itself on pushing the boundaries of representation, Bridgerton is severely lacking when it comes to LGBTQ character representation in particular. And honestly, they have absolutely no excuse. This is especially true when they keep using the word “adaptation” left and right when talking about changes from the book to the show, but then balk at some changes while others are okay. And with season 2 just landing on Netflix, it seems like this series has no intention of giving us queer characters going through their own woes in the search for love.
Season 1, in particular, queerbaited us with the possibility of Benedict Bridgerton (Luke Thompson) being a bisexual man. And this isn’t something that I, a queer bisexual woman, imagined. The writing was clear that Benedict was interested in another man who was engaging in gay relationships. That was written, performed, and filmed. And if you need a reminder, go back and watch season 1 if you have to. Plus, I’ve lived through many queerbaiting experiences in my life and still stumble in shock when a show actually follows through on the LGBTQ teasing they’ve been doing.
The idea of Benedict being anything but straight infuriates some people. From my observations, this primarily comes from book purists who willingly ignore that this is an adaptation and changes can and will be made to reach a wider audience. They feel threatened by Benedict being a part of the LGBTQ community and scoff at the idea of Sophie (his love interest in his book) being with a bisexual man. You do know what being bisexual means, right? And you do know that even if you end up with someone from the opposite gender, you aren’t suddenly straight? You’re still bisexual and part of the LGBTQ community.
Then there’s Eloise Bridgerton, played by Claudia Jessie. Now, this is another one that gets people grrr because they can’t fathom the thought of Eloise being with anyone but the man she ends up with in her book as if we don’t have enough heterosexual representation on Bridgerton. It feels like those who protest so much about the mere thought of Eloise being a lesbian, or her being queer coded, are frightened to push the boundaries of their minds and realize that people in the LGBTQ community deserve to see themselves in the content they consume.
The truth of the matter is that there are all sorts of people watching Bridgerton, from all walks of life. And some of them happen to be queer. So, explain to me dear viewers, why shouldn’t we see changes in the book to TV adaptation that makes Eloise part of the LGBTQ community? Because believe it or not, there are people who look at Eloise and see their queer selves in her or ship her with Penelope because they see their own relationships reflected there. And if there’s anyone who would push the boundaries of this show, it’s the radical feminist character who wants to live her life on her own terms without anyone else’s say.
Bridgerton‘s lack of LGBTQ characters is especially disheartening as a viewer when you take into consideration that Bailey and Golda Rosheuvel, who plays the Queen, are out and proud members of the queer community. Don’t they deserve to see their life experiences being reflected on Bridgerton, especially during a season where Bailey plays the romantic lead opposite the wonderful Kate Sharma (Simone Ashley)? Because I know I deserve it. I know LGBTQ viewers deserve it. And Bailey and Rosheuvel deserve it as well. We all do.
The more that I think about this Shondaland and Netflix production and its failings when it comes to LGBTQ character representation, the more I want to clear up one thing in particular. It’s not enough to have a side character come in and BOOM there’s queer representation on Bridgerton. (Shows like to do that when we use our voices to ask for more.) We deserve character leads that are part of our communities. And bringing in a secondary character to get us to “quiet down,” before the show not so surprisingly ends their storyline in one season, is not enough. It never will be.
Ultimately, Bridgerton is a show about different forms of love, be it familial or romantic. And if we’re going to tell these stories about love, then we have to show all the different facets of it including across the LGBTQ spectrum. It can’t just be heterosexual couples left, right, and front and center. It has to go further than that because this show is consumed by a wide variety of people. And as a community, we shouldn’t ever stop asking for more from the networks that take our money, month after month, and pride themselves as being a beacon of change and representation.
It’s time to prove it, Bridgerton and those in power.
Put our money, where your mouth is and give us LGBTQ character representation.
Queerly Not Straight posts every Sunday with opinion pieces, listicals, reviews, and more focused on the LGBT community (and occasionally about the Latinx community since I am Latinx.)