In August 2017, Shonda Rhimes (Chicago, 50 years old) sold her soul to Netflix . Which in his case means that he sold Shondaland, that peculiar territory —literally, Shonda’s World— that inaugurated the unforgettable Grey’s Anatomy , a whole pre-platform phenomenon that rediscovered the possibilities of series set in hospitals.
Since then he had done nothing but accumulate projects – it is said that he works on up to eight different productions, and that at least he has another four in mind – and ensure that the first thing he was going to sign would be Inventing Anna , a series based on the story by Anna Sorokin, a very young Russian con artist who pretended to be a wealthy German heiress in New York in the mid-2000s.
So what is The Bridgertons , the anachronistic period dramedy that bears their stamp and that seeks to quench, in a crudely sappy way, the thirst for palace misadventures that may have opened the fourth season of The Crown ?
Well, nothing less than the first of those at least 12 projects that he has been working on since he is part of the Netflix family. He has put Rhimes in charge of one of his henchmen, Chris Van Dusen.
Van Dusen was part of Grey’s Anatomy writing team for almost a decade, and was also instrumental in Scandal.. What happened was that he told her he wanted to do something different and she passed him one of the Julia Quinn novels on which The Bridgertons is based , and he, he says, fell madly in love with the story.
Why? Because it perfectly combines, he says, fantasy and historical drama. Although not a real fantasy but one about a time when the only thing that seemed to matter – at least, among those who can afford matching dresses with their ostentatious collars of gigantic diamonds – were the dances; that sort of meat market in which to expose daughters and sisters as little treasures would be exposed, eager to end up somewhere other than their home.
First, of course, you seek the approval of the queen – because there is a queen – and then you must live up to whatever they have said about you. That’s why Daphne Bridgerton (a limited Phoebe Dynevor) would rather not be Daphne Bridgerton.
And it is that the queen has seemed the girl with the best chance of finding a good game of the season, but her brother none of her suitors seems good enough for her, returning at times to television at a time in the that only that class of personages existed, the class of masculine personages who restrict any feminine freedom.
So Daphne not only has to endure the loss of all control over her own life, but also the idea of disappointing the queen herself and with her, the entire – enormously cynical – community that surrounds her, which serves her in a Immaculately forced tray an imposted romance with a desired duke who least wants to marry.
Thus, lines of dialogue are signed that are not at all ironic, lines that pray anachronisms of unexplored fairy tales such as “when you are a woman, your life is reduced to an instant”, or the even more savagely crystalline “if I can’t find husband, I will be worth nothing ”, reducing any critical intention to a minimum.
It is, in that sense, a product of another era, and not only because it is narrated by Julie Andrews. Precisely, the most interesting character is the one he gives voice to: that of the mysterious writer, a certain Lady Whistledown, who recounts what happens in such a small community of harpies.
He does it in a kind of primitive magazine of the heart, leaflets full of gossip that leave no puppet with a head.
The simplicity with which the characters are drawn, who do not even aspire to the archetype, nullifies the cast’s chances of shining in any way.
There, among them, is, without going any further, Nicola Coughlan, who debuted with a very powerful role (that of the clumsy and naive Clare) in Derry Girls and who here goes as splendidly unnoticed as the rest, because there are hardly any differences between , in their case, the Featherington sisters.
What we know, from the ferocity with which the mother of the girls squints, is that they are very bad, because that is how things work in the Van Dusen-Rhimes universe, with no more nuance than he is with me or against me for a while past (without nuances) that fortunately happened.
That the Bridgertons were set in the Regency period, that is, the beginning of the 19th century, does not justify such an inconceivably corseted point of view –in every sense, and especially in that of gender– in the XXI century.
A point of view surrendered to a prefabricated plot –the most likely love story that none of the protagonists is looking for but which will be inevitable –which may believe to be curling some kind of curl– that of the true fake –which perhaps was in a Parallel universe in which everything was still black or white, but not in this one.
Seen like this, perhaps it was Netflix that had unknowingly sold Rhimes his soul.