Reel Thoughts: Fantasy and History collide in Bridgerton Season Two


Illustration by Olivia Abeyta

Bridgerton Season 2 premiered March 25 on Netflix.

Divya Bhardwaj, Reporter

This article contains spoilers. 

In the second season of the Regency-era Netflix show “Bridgerton,” the Sharma family of Bombay joins London high society. While the historical and cultural aspects leave many questions unanswered, the eight new episodes certainly deliver on the drama and romance for which the series is known.

The return of the Sharmas to London is explained by an ostensibly simple backstory: Lady Mary Sheffield Sharma (Shelley Conn) was raised in an aristocratic English family, but was disowned after moving to India to marry a working-class widower. The two raised their daughter, Edwina (Charithra Chandran), alongside Kate (Simone Ashley), the widower’s daughter from a previous marriage. 

After Mr. Sharma’s death, Mary, Kate and Edwina decide to return to London to find Edwina a suitable husband. Upon their arrival, however, it is Kate who ends up falling in love with and marrying Viscount Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey). 

 Chris Van Dusen, “Bridgerton’s” creator, said in a recent interview he wanted the show to be “as authentic as possible, especially when it came to infusing this world with specific details linked to the heritage of this family.” 

The show’s commitment to authenticity is questionable. It is true there were people of Indian descent in Regency England. At the time, the East India Company’s exploitation of India was well underway and travel between Britain and India was common. 

Yet, the likelihood of an upper-class British woman marrying an Indian man would have been very low. There would have been little opportunity for the two to cross paths, let alone develop a relationship. An Indian family joining high society and socializing with English nobility and the Royal Family also would have been virtually impossible at the time, given the colonial relationship between India and England. 

It was more common for British men to be in relationships with Indian women — and in colonial India, not England. British men were known to have relationships and children with local Indian women, but intermarriage was rare. Most commonly, men left the women they met in India and any children they had behind and returned to England to marry and raise a family.

“Bridgerton” exists in a fictional, fantastical world, and the plausibility of interracial relationships is beside the point. However, it is odd that Van Dusen claimed he strove for authenticity while ignoring the reality of colonization.

Even the use of Indian languages, which would have been easier to accurately incorporate, was inconsistent. The Sharmas are from Bombay, yet Edwina calls Kate “didi” (older sister in Hindi), Kate calls Edwina “bon” (sister in Bengali) and they both refer to their father as “appa,” a term most commonly used in South India. 

Nevertheless, the portrayal of the Sharmas’ culture — with intricately embroidered silk dresses, Indian jewelry like bangles and jhumkas (bell-shaped earrings) and masala chai — was an enjoyable aspect of “Bridgerton”’s second season. Kate’s cultural background was expertly woven into the portrayal of her debut in London’s high society and her eventual romance with Anthony — neither forgotten nor overpowering. 

Despite some historical inaccuracies (for which “Bridgerton” was well-known for before the arrival of the Sharmas), season two of the period drama delivered on what it promised: seductive, immersing escapism.  

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