This last weekend, I watched the Bridgerton spin-off called Queen Charlotte on Netflix. Much like Bridgerton, it is a wonderful fairy tale. It develops the character of the Queen, who sits above all in judgment of the characters who are striving for status in the era of Regency Romance. And like its namesake, Queen Charlotte manages to thread a needle of suspending disbelief while peppering us with classical renditions of modern songs like Halo (by Beyonce) and by injecting diversity into this world of stalwart white people. I can only say that Shonda Rhymes is one of the greatest entertainers alive. She does know how to put together a show (and a story) that a lot of people enjoy.
With the production of Queen Charlotte, we got our first introduction to a Bridgerton extended universe. It's filled with waistcoats and powdered wigs. But even though it only runs six episodes, it still has a lot to say about modernity, and how we are not so unlike those who came before us. In particular, I was drawn to the parallels between Lady Danbury and the Dowager Viscountess Bridgerton. One was able to find love in their life. The other was not and knew only loathing and duty. Every one of us would like to think that this is because "in those old days" people were forced into arranged marriages and one didn't have the option to choose. But this simply isn't true. In today's world where the choices available to all of us are so plentiful, there are plenty of situations which end up far worse than the arranged marriages of old. And this is mostly due to the fact that 1) people are not good at making decisions, and 2) being spoilt for choice creates its own problem, namely a thing called "choice paralysis" and the inability to commit to anything for fear of missing out.
One of the things that did take some getting used to are the two timelines in the story, and the way they transition between them. Shonda Rhymes overall does an excellent job of making those transitions appear seamless, but there was at least two occasions where it took me a moment to realize I was watching a flashback. The minor timeline is Bridgerton present in which we already know Charlotte and Ladies Agatha Danbury and Violet Bridgerton. What we didn't know in the modern timeline (or maybe it was just me that was ignorant of this fact) was that the queen had produced a horde of children who were "in effect" seedless grapes. They'd grown fat and plump on the vine of royalty but remained "heirless." Or at least childless in any sense that counted with the aristocracy, for the Queen said she had some fifty illegitimate grandchildren unsuitable for sitting upon the throne.
Another thing I liked was the commentary on loneliness that we see in this show. This comes through the lens of Lady Agatha and Lady Violet (mostly) although Charlotte is also lonely in her own right as the King (in the modern timeline) is so stricken with his mental illness (we don't know exactly what it is) that he isn't emotionally or physically available to her. Agatha and Violet realize that they are still worthy of consideration even if society is always focused on the young. This is how it should be, and I liked that commentary as all lives (while we are still living them) are untold stories, and it is up to us to remind others that this is true for there is a constant pressure to cast older folks as irrelevant. And yes...it was wonderful to be treated to lots of sex made by the pretty people of Bridgerton's unique take inspired from real history. That part is definitely a fairy tale as the people of old did not look all that attractive when I look at paintings from that time period. But, a painting is difficult to judge I think. In the end, if the story is good, why should we care too much about how real a thing is, especially when reality is basically shattering all around us in 2023 as deepfakes become more and more common.
If you haven't watched Queen Charlotte, it's worth a look. That being said, I wish it was longer than six episodes. I could have used more escapism.