What’s on everyone’s lips at the moment. Well of course the new Netflix smash hit Bridgerton alongside the never-ending excitement of lockdown!
Jealous of the social interactions taking place in groups bigger than six, viewers of Bridgerton live vicariously through the promenades and parties, royals and rakes, marriages and modistes that fuel the social season of the Regency era.
Much of the action revolves around scandals within the aristocracy. Lady Whistledown, (voiced by Julie Andrews) is the omniscient unidentified hub of all gossip within high society. By using the weekly column in the society papers, she provides a salacious commentary centred around individuals in the Ton, usually airing their dirty laundry to wreak havoc.
This is not far from the reality of the Regency period when the public’s hunger for scandal was insatiable. Gossip was one of the key features that drove society, and was aided and abetted by the arrival of the steam press which enabled gossip to be churned out ten times faster than previously, resulting in mass circulation within the upper class.
Bridgerton’s creator Chris Van Dusen wanted the show to reflect modern society so that a contemporary audience could relate to it
Although Lady Whistledown’s column did not exist, it mirrored the infamous Tête-à-Tête gossip column, a satirical insight into the sex lives of the celebrity upper class, which contained as much juice and spice as a Bloody Mary. Lord Byron, whom Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan) references in the show, was a prevalent aristocrat that the column focused on. However, unlike Lady Whistledown who named and shamed, names in Tête-à-Tête were replaced with pseudonyms and initials (although these were purposely easy to identify).
Bridgerton’s creator Chris Van Dusen wanted the show to reflect modern society so that a contemporary audience could relate to it, and as a result Lady Whistledown resembles a Georgian version of Gossip Girl. Gossip plays an important role in COVID society both on and off screen as it is in fact just as crucial in society now as it was during the Regency Period. To many it acts as a glue, holding the social fabric together, and keeping us entertained especially during such a time of detachment and disconnection.
online gossip has grown in popularity since lockdown
Robbed of daily encounters with friends other than daily walks, we are confined to our homes, so gossip becomes one of the more prevalent forms of escapism from the bleak reality of our lockdown lives. Drawing attention to even the smallest of antics concerning friends and peers, we have become obsessed with lockdown haircuts, lockdown babies, lockdown puppies, online dating and even gossip about individual’s zoom backgrounds.
As physical interaction becomes a thing of the past, online networking has become the primary way to communicate. Instead of the gossip columns that run rampant in Bridgerton, online gossip has grown in popularity since lockdown. Gossip app Nextdoor has eight times the amount of users since March 2020. The app operates as a rumour mill about the way neighbours are living during lockdown, rendering it both unneighbourly and invasive.
Similarly, DeuxMoi is a gossip Instagram account for big names that took off in March. This account shares information in the form of insta stories about different celebrities ranging from Claire Danes’ dress sense to Leonardo DiCaprio’s bedroom behaviour – and just like Lady Whistledown the writer of the account remains anonymous. While DeuxMoi does not disclose whether the “information” received from followers is evidence based, over 660,000 keep up with the gossip on the account as an entertaining distraction, despite the fact it could all be fake news.
Pope Francis condemned gossip as ‘a plague worse than COVID’, but his works seem to be ignored by the swathes of people looking for a distraction during the pandemic.
Dating has become a virtual world as continued national lockdowns have made it impossible to meet
Much of the gossip within Bridgerton stems from the relationships and courtships that characterise the lavish balls, so much so that they became glittering, dating exhibitions. These social events were an opportunity for match-making between young ladies desiring a love match and gentlemen thirsty for wives. Outside of these events, standard day to day interactions between genders were disapproved of, particularly in public settings. Lady Whistledown as well as exhibiting the romantic dalliances in regards to the social scene, would also attempt to expose these illicit liaisons.
Whilst courtship in the Regency period was displayed by the exchanges at extravagant events, blossoming romances during lockdown can only take place in an atmosphere devoid of social interaction. Dating has become a virtual world as continued national lockdowns have made it impossible to meet, other than going for the occasional walk and coffee. If the conversation doesn’t freeze, then the individuals on the date certainly do as a result of the winter weather.
lockdown has encouraged social media and dating apps to keep gossip and dating alive, revealing how important connections and interactions are
Virtual dates have soared by 36% in lockdown, with dating apps such as Tinder and Hinge implementing a video chat feature to facilitate ‘meeting’ others from the safety of people’s homes. Much of this new form of dating uses photos to present the “best” version of users, not far-off from the superficiality of the dating world in the Regency period, in which the 7500 costume pieces used in Bridgerton represented the wealth and status of individuals.
The heterosexual matches in apps such as Bumble even instigate women making the first move, which is a departure from the traditional male courting female typical of the Regency period. Although online dating does not compare to dating in person, six in ten single people admit they enjoy “the new dating normal” and 64% also see dating apps as a huge support to people living by themselves, highlighting the positives to come out of the new dating scene.
Whilst Bridgerton is based on social interaction and newspapers which incite rumours and romance, lockdown has encouraged social media and dating apps to keep gossip and dating alive, revealing how important connections and interactions are, whether physical or virtual.
In article images courtesy of bridgertonnetflix via Instagram. No changes made to these images.
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