Bridgerton divides viewers and sparks controversy over male rape scene

‘It’s just a historical Gossip Girl’: Netflix’s Bridgerton frustrates viewers with its ‘lacklustre’ plot, ‘wooden’ acting and controversial male rape scene (but some fans ‘can’t wait’ for season two)

  • Shonda Rhimes’ latest show, Bridgerton, aired on Netflix on Christmas Day 
  • The raunchy eight-part series, set in Regency London, has left fans ‘addicted’ 
  • However, others have slammed the show’s thin plot, saying it doesn’t compare to BBC period dramas of the 90s such as Pride and Prejudice 
  • On social media, others have accused the show of ‘ignoring’ issue of male rape 
  • A scene in episode six of the show sees Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor) refusing to stop having sex with the Duke of Hastings (Regé-Jean Page)

The most talked about show of the Twixmas season, Netflix’s Regency drama Bridgerton, is evoking both adoration, derision and accusations of ‘glossing over’ the issue of male rape on social media.

Just four days after all eight episodes were unleashed on Christmas Day, many viewers have fawned over its easy-on-the-eye cast and eagerly await a second season – while others have branded it a ‘historical Gossip Girl’, criticising ‘wooden’ acting and a ‘boring’ plot. 

And a controversial sex scene in the sixth episode has seen accusations by some that the show ignores male rape. 

The scene sees central character Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor) refusing to stop having sex with the Duke of Hastings (Regé-Jean Page) despite his request to. 

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 The raunchy eight-part series, set in Regency London, has left fans ‘addicted’ but others have slammed the thin plot and ‘wooden acting’ branding it a ‘historical Gossip Girl’

Controversy: In the sixth episode, central character Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor) is seen refusing to stop having sex with the Duke of Hastings (Regé-Jean Page)- pictured – despite his request for her to

One viewer criticised the inclusion of the scene in episode six, saying: ‘This is not romantic, this is spousal/marital rape’

The plot follows central protagonist Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor) on London’s matchmaking scene; Daphne pictured with the Duke of Hastings (Regé-Jean Page)

The scene has sparked a deluge of comments on social media, with many saying that the issue of male rape is simply ‘glossed over’.

The series is made by US TV producer Shonda Rhimes’ Shondaland, which produced Grey’s Anatomy and How To Get Away with Murder, and follows Daphne Bridgerton, the eldest daughter of the powerful Bridgerton family, as she makes her debut onto London’s competitive marriage market. 

The show boasts a star-studded cast, including Julie Andrews’ as a narrator.

Some viewers have expressed their exasperation at the storyline though, saying a lacklustre plot is masked by lavish costumes and a score that includes pop songs re-worked in a classical way. 

@secretfilmpod wrote: ‘Bridgerton is such a let down, which is a shame because the casting is superb. But they really couldn’t think of a better plot than (spoilers) the age old let’s-pretend-we’re-in-love-oops-we’ve fallen-in-love? #Bridgerton’  

@WinniesSoul said the show simply didn’t match up to 90s BBC period dramas including Pride and Prejudice. Posting a photo of their BBC DVDs, they wrote: ‘Okay, I finished #Bridgerton yesterday. It was … entertaining but I grew up with masterpieces like these soooooo … no. Just no.’ 

Fans have also compared it to 90s show Gossip Girl, which sees a New York private school hit by a scandalous gossip blog, with many suggesting it’s just a period drama take on exactly the same story. 

Daphne Bridgerton locks her body onto the Duke’s in episode six, despite his protestations

Shonda Rhimes’ Netflix debut has set pulses racing with a mixture of sultry moments, scandal and shock. And while some loved the series – set in Regency London – others were left with awkward viewing after tuning in to watch with their parents thinking they were expecting a family friendly festive show. Sex scene from the show is pictured

There has been strong reaction to the depiction of Daphne refusing to stop having sex with the Duke despite his protestations.  

@christophicates wrote: ‘Holding a partner down to force sexual completion and conception while they object is rape. Rape as a quirky plot device is unacceptable.’  

@KarolinaVega agreed, saying: ‘So Daphne held Simon down while having sex forcing him to give her a baby (very Handmaid’s Tale style)… This is not romantic, this is spousal/marital r*pe, had the roles been reversed woke twitter would be boycotting this trash saying how it glamorizes rape culture. #Bridgerton’ 

@CMSutton wrote: ‘If the roles were reversed and she wanted him to stop and he ignored her wishes and finished, we’d call that rape. It’s a rape scene. It’s all about consent and power. Read the book or interviews with the author. It used to be very common in the genre, but we hoped for more here.’  

While some viewers have loved the series others branded the constant sex scenes awkward, especially for family viewing. 

Taking to Twitter, one person wrote: ‘These sexy scenes are not holding back! Happy to see that part of the book is being lived up to!’

While another added: ‘Wish I knew how many sex scenes there were in Bridgerton before I agreed to watch it with my parents.’

The show follows Daphne, hoping to follow in her parent’s footsteps and find a match sparked by true love, and her prospects initially seem to be unrivalled. 

But as her older brother begins to rule out her potential suitors, the high society scandal sheet written by the mysterious Lady Whistledown (voiced by Julie Andrews) casts aspersions on Daphne. 

Pictured is Golda Rosheuval as Queen Charlotte sitting in the throne room in the new sex-filled show

Starring in the show as the highly desirable and rebellious Simon Basset, the Duke of Hastings is British-Zimbabwean actor Regé-Jean Page, who plays a committed bachelor and the catch of the season for the debutantes’ mothers. 

Despite proclaiming that they want nothing the other has to offer, the attraction between Simon and Daphne is undeniable and sparks fly as they find themselves engaged in an increasing battle of wits while navigating society’s expectations for their future.

Fans have already compared it to both hit noughties show Gossip Girl. which sees a New York private school hit by a scandalous gossip blog, as well as ITV drama Downton Abbey which ran for six seasons and saw worldwide success.

Netflix say the show ‘is a romantic, scandalous, and quick-witted series that celebrates the timelessness of enduring friendships, families finding their way, and the search for a love that conquers all’.

Within the first twenty minutes of the eight hour long series, Anthony Bridgerton – brother of protagonist Daphne – romps with a beautiful opera singer Siena against a tree.

Speaking to Decider about his role, Jonathan Bailey who plays the nobleman said: ‘When you see his face, he’s looking at his father’s watch — an heirloom — and he’s rutting [Siena] against the family tree. He’s not even looking at her in the eye.’

Starring in the show as the highly desirable and rebellious Simon Basset, the Duke of Hastings is British-Zimbabwean actor Regé-Jean Page, who plays a committed bachelor and the catch of the season for the debutantes’ mothers. 

The Long Gallery at Lancaster House, pictured, serves as one of the rooms in Queen Charlotte’s palace (pictured)

A grand ball is held in Bridgerton, where the two central characters meet. Pictured, actors twirl across the dance floor in Regency costume

Bridgerton creator Chris Van Dusen added that he dubbed the first season the  ‘The Education of Daphne Bridgerton’ due to the protagonist starting off knowing nothing about sex, but later is taught to masturbate. 

‘She starts out as this picture perfect, wide-eyed, innocent debutante. She grows into a woman who sheds all the constraints society has held her to, and she finally figures out who she really is and what she’s capable of,’ he said.

Taking to Twitter, fans have shared their shock at the series sexual content, with many accidentally tuning in with their parents on Christmas Day.  

‘Just got scolded for not warning my friend against watching Bridgerton with her parents for family time. Definitely my bad,’ said one.

Dashing protagonist the Duke of Hastings (Regé-Jean Page), left, meets his friend Anthony Bridgerton (Johnathan Bridgerton), right, for a drink in Bridgerton

‘Nearly finished Bridgerton, it’s a gorgeous piece of period fluff but don’t watch it with your parents.

‘Do not be fooled by the Regency setting. Do not watch with the parents,’ added another. 

Others praised the show for its portrayal of consent on screen.

Bridgerton showing that the removal of a glove, the touch of a hand the, fastening of a button, AND that consent can be SEXY AF,’ said one.

‘ Julie Andrews as the Gossip Girl in a sexy fake-dating / enemies-to-lovers Regency costume drama filled with string versions of anachronistic pop hits…..2020 is good now, actually,’ said another.

‘#Bridgerton is even better than I hoped it would be. Funny and sexy and pulls you along in the story. I’m ALL in,’ said another.

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