What the Duke Has Done for Representation

By now, you’ve probably heard about Shondaland’s Netflix period piece Bridgerton. If you’re a sucker for 19th century costume and Regency-era romance like us, it’s more than likely you’ve already binged all eight episodes and are impatiently waiting for the second season. Though it’s been announced that breakout star Regé-Jean Page will not be making a return next year as Simon, the Duke of Hastings, we’d be remiss if we didn’t celebrate what his role has done for representation. 

Inspired by the Julia Quinn novels, Bridgerton follows “eight close-knit siblings of the Bridgerton family look for love and happiness in London high society.” The visually-stunning period drama is surprisingly modern, with orchestral covers of pop songs, people of color presented as British royalty, and a plethora of steamy scenes (maybe rethink this show for family time!). Though the show may be set in the 1800s, the commentary on toxic masculinity resonates today. 

The Duke of Hastings, played by Regé-Jean Page, is one of the most sought after bachelors in the show. With women courting him left and right in pursuit of the royal member with status and dashing good looks, it can be easy to overlook his closed-off and emotionally unavailable tendencies. The actor was critical of his character’s brand of traditional masculinity, pointing out that “much of what the Regency is about is presenting this front of status and power and lack of vulnerability, which is also a lot of what masculinity is about.”

Page’s character evolves in his masculinity over the course of the show. While he initially puts on a mask of cold callousness, the Duke eventually come to grips with his emotions and opens up to the people he cares about. In an interview with Esquire, Page comments on this evolution, saying, “We’re asking what masculinity is, and a lot of it is letting go of this constant projection of dominance. Simon holds an utterly self-destructive grudge, and the only way to defeat that is to release vulnerability.” 

Bridgerton is giving us a 19th century romance replete with period costumes, fantastic settings, and steamy sex scenes centering women’s sexual pleasure; depictions of Black people in positions of power; and a very with modern critique of toxic masculinity.

Take action! Stream season one of Bridgerton on Netflix now. 

Disclaimer: Please be informed that Bridgerton has garnered controversy around scenes regarding reproduction, consent, and sexual assault. Learn more here. While we celebrate the complex, healthy evolution of masculinity depicted in the series, we do not endorse content that in any way celebrates, downplays, normalizes, or dismisses sexual violence.