One of the things I do love about Shonda Rhimes is her refusal to entertain any backlash for the presence of black characters in her productions. From Scandal to Grey’s Anatomy, from Private Practice to How To Get Away With Murder, and now Bridgerton. Perhaps the expectation for Bridgerton was an all white cast due to this being a period drama, but I think Shonda has just revealed a piece of history that wasn’t taught in school.
History is vast, and the reality is we are taught from a one dimensional perspective. What we were taught has stayed in our minds hence the backlash and refusal to accept any other representations.
Black and Asian people have had presence in the UK for centuries. Dido Belle, the daughter of Royal Naval Officer Sir John Lindsay and enslaved person, Maria Bell, lived in Kenwood House, Hampstead. Her photo alongside her sister is one of the first in history to display a black person on the same level as a white person, as normally black people would be positioned lower than their white counterparts. Amma Asante documents her life in the film Belle, which she directed.
Queen Victoria was taught Hindustani by Abdul Karim who assisted her with her correspondence and was a member of her royal staff, and one of her favourites.
Just two examples – and I know there are many more – of Black and Asian presence in the UK before the arrival of SS Windrush in 1948. History stretches way back further than the arrival of that ship.
So I don’t think Shonda is doing anything out of the ordinary, she’s been brave enough to change the narrative and tell a side of history that hasn’t been widely taught. And let’s face it, Bridgerton is great entertainment on all levels!
Queen Charlotte : A Bridgerton Story is streaming now on Netflix and stars Golda Rosheuvel and India Amarteifio