This week, Phoenix and I binge-watched the first (and only thus far) season of the Netflix original series, Bridgerton. With the exception of some unnecessarily graphic and extended sex scenes in the last couple episodes, I absolutely loved it. I even found my new TV boyfriend, The Duke of Hastings. Hubba hubba.
Rege-Jean Page, the studly Duke of Hastings
The story is set in early 1800’s London, in the time of tight corsets, bustles and petticoats, propriety, peasants, royalty, extreme excess, and unwarranted want. A male-dominated society where women were treated like precious property. An oxymorom? Maybe. Maybe not.
Women could not own land, and unless they married, they were nothing and faced a grim future. The goal of any young lady should be that of securing a respectable husband, producing an heir, and managing a household. Always being prim and proper and dressing in her best was a must. Playing a pleasing piano forte and creating beautiful needlepoint amongst the highest of priorities.
In Bridgerton, most of the characters were pursuing the status quo. But on the fringes were characters that struggled against the societal norms. A sister that wanted nothing to do with marriage. A brother with status, in love with an opera singer, below his class. A young unmarried neighbor girl found herself pregnant and in love with a deployed soldier. A highly sought artist was gay, but lived under the guise of a married man.
Thank goodness I was born in the 20th century. A time when I could be whatever I wanted, at least that’s how I’ve always felt. I played basketball. I wore pants. I don’t have any stories of being oppressed or discriminated against. I owned a car and voted when I was 18. I went to college. I could’ve pursued any career I wanted. I had babies while still searching for that respectable husband, and I wasn’t shunned or sent away to a home for unwed mothers.
The ’80’s ushered in the first woman nominated to the supreme court. Equality has continued to be a huge topic in the country’s lawmaking and society conversations. Congress is full of women. Female CEO’s are running the likes of PepsiCo, Ebay, IBM. Germany has seen its first female Chancellor. And the US has welcomed in its first female Vice President.
It’s so easy to see the bad of the 19th Century and the good of the 21st Century. To see oppression back in the day, and to see freedom in the current era. But there is more beneath the surface. This blog could easily become a rant about inequality, both real and perceived. About feminism. About victimization and playing the victim. There is enough substance on all of this to fill the Library of Congress ten times over. And much of it lights a spark. A spark that need not be lit right now. This blog (and the Duke) are meant only to spark feelings of euphoria and the push for a more ideal society. I think we need another picture of the Duke…
The 21st Century is far from perfect. And the 19th Century was not all bad.
I not only fell in love with the characters of Bridgerton, I also fell in love with some of the customs. The men courted the women. They all dressed their best. The men brought flowers and spoke of how they could be a good provider. A man and woman married, and stayed married.. through easy times and hard times; when there was love and when that love ran out.
Fast forward to today. Divorce is at an all-time high. The value of sex and marriage is nil. Parents leaving their offspring has caused single-parent households to be the dominating family structure in some cities. Self- respect at an all-time low. So many men are following in the footsteps of Uncle Eddie… waiting for a management position. Get a job!!!
As a society, are we better off because women feel ‘confident’ enough to go to Walmart with bedhead and pajamas on? Has humanity made progress because men joke about their giant beer bellies as they protrude out of their stained t-shirts that are at least two-sizes too small?
Are we happy exchanging herpes, chlamydia, and HIV for the acceptability of unlimited sex partners?
As humans, are we more satisfied in our relationships because it’s acceptable to jump from one to another as often as we change our undergarments? Have quick , and easy divorce based on ‘irreconcilable differences’ helped us to grow in our individuality or caused us to ignore our own issues until we find someone else that can ignore them just as well. (Irreconcilable Differences. What a joke. You know how many incompatible thoughts, habits, or wants Jesse and I have? That’s part of marriage if you ask me.)
My final point… Was it necessary to get rid of the good in order to improve the bad? To take the stance of a staunch idealist… how nice to live in a world where people shower and wear clothes not meant for sleeping in while in public; Where people have self-respect and treat others as if they are valuable; Where men open doors for women and bring them flowers, and the women appreciate the courtesy versus being offended; Where sex is something you share with someone you love; Where women own land and pursue the career they desire without being judged (Whether that be an attorney, a waitress, or a stay-at-home mom); Where man work to provide for their families, whether on their own, or beside their wives; Where a lifetime commitment means promises kept; Where men can be men, and women can be women, without being accused of being sexist; Where the sexes can co-exist, with equal rights, equal value, and still respect the inherent and DNA-driven differences. Where women can be considered precious, just not someone’s property.
As time goes on, and society ‘improves’… must we throw the baby out with the bath water?