Although the mighty British Empire on which the sun never set has been reduced to the status of a lonely nation exiled to the periphery of Europe following Brexit in 2020, there is something admirable about the tenacity with which Brits are hanging in there by drawing on their indisputably momentous history and soft power. The BBC is still very much in the reckoning and gamely claims to be the world’s most widely watched television news channel; Wimbledon continues to be the most glamorous global tennis tournament and test cricket at Lords is unmatched in grandeur although in tennis and cricket, Britain’s glory days are over. And to this list, one could also add ingenious television serials such as Downton Abbey and Bridgerton which have monetised the windswept island’s enduring upper class pretensions and snobbery into reel dramas which have hooked global audiences.
The international success of Bridgerton owes much to the strategy that its multi-racial storyline and casting is in effect a clever apology for pernicious racial prejudice and discrimination that imperial Britain’s upper classes practised in the heyday of Empire. The plain truth is that racial and colour prejudice was deeply embedded in this ugly tribe given to covering their plainness with extravagant uniforms and braid. Even East End cockneys fortified by Lord Macaulay’s infamous dismissal of all literature of the subcontinent produced over five millennia not being equal to the domestic library of an English pastor, were persuaded of their racial and intellectual superiority over highly-educated Indians and subcontinentals.
In essence, colour-blind Bridgerton with its multi-racial cast and inter-racial romance is a belated apology for blatant race and colour prejudice that Brits practised for more than two centuries in India and around the world. Hence its global acceptance and success.