Did Netflix & ‘Bridgerton’ Queer Bait Us?

image via YouTube @Netflix

Well, it looks like the trailer fooled us. Bridgerton is not as gay-inclusive as Shonda Rhimes’ other work.

Back in November, the trailer for Bridgerton released. The trailer hinted at several promises often delivered in Rhimes’ work: sex, scandal, and gay characters. And with the show appearing on a streaming platform, Netflix, instead of network television, there was the hope of some more salacious sex scenes. In some ways, the show, which premiered on December 25, has delivered all of that and more. But in one way, the show is more than lacking.

Bridgerton is a mix of Gossip Girl and Downton Abbey or Pride & Prejudice. Viewers find themselves watching a sort of speculative fiction where there is no racial divide. Within that world, and a Victorian-like England, there is a family of nobles called the Bridgertons. This family under the Viscount’s title is trying to find a suitable fiance for the eldest daughter Daphne (played by Phoebe Dynevor). But due to her older brother Anthony’s (played by gay actor Jonathan Bailey) forceful hand, all her suitors have fled. That then leads to Daphne striking up a deal with the mysterious Duke Hastings (Regé-Jean Page).

Warning: Spoilers for Netflix’s Bridgerton below.

But what’s the problem here? The show is receiving accusations from journalists and Netflix fans that it performed queer bait in the marketing. While that initial trailer included a shot of a gay couple hugging in the midst of passion, implying the inclusion of gay romance and/or sex scenes, the show failed to deliver. In fact, that very shot is THE ONLY gay scene in the entire first season. And those two men aren’t even main characters.

You see, one episode follows Daphne’s brother Benedict Bridgerton (Luke Thompson) going to a sex party. Throughout the episode, Benedict exudes sexual tension with his artistic mentor. That then is marked by Benedict witnessing the gay scene in question. The scene doesn’t last long, however, as Bridgerton closes the door to give the men privacy. He then goes on to have a threesome with two women. In one way, it appears the show could be setting the groundwork for exploring Benedict Bridgerton’s sexuality in a later season. But many fans see this scene and its appearance in the show’s trailer as an act of queer baiting.

“Quite happily binged Bridgerton, which is great btw but (spoilers) whoever edited the trailer should be exiled from polite society for queerbaiting,” wrote one Twitter user. “Like, I was going to watch it anyway, no need to mislead me into thinking there’d be a decent gay storyline if there isn’t.”

“bridgerton literally has such little gay content boring i feel deceived-“ wrote another.

https://twitter.com/sstanmiyeon/status/1342518378334978048

With the calls of queer baiting in its marketing and the romanticism of rape in one scene, there’s a lot of controversy currently swirling around the new show. Netflix has yet to renew Bridgerton for a second season. But with several novels left in the series’ source material, there’s plenty of material to draw from in future episodes (though, not much gay material notably). That then leaves us wondering… will Netflix see promise in the show? And if so, will the show correct its mistakes?

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