We all love period dramas, particularly the English ones, right? Keira Knightley has practically become our ultimate choice for the prima donna in all British period dramas.

But as much as we are crazy about the costumes, the accent, the movie sets, and the actors, we are equally ignorant about the lack of representation in these movies or TV shows.

A film critic may find several inconsistent or even problematic elements in these movies anyway. But when seen against the backdrop of a centuries-old struggle against racial prejudice, the matter of lack of representation seems to be a rather pressing one.

And it is disheartening to see British period dramas denying the existence of people of colour at all. Or even better, restricting them to the storylines related to slavery and colonialism. 

Netflix’s Bridgerton Is Just The Right Medicine 

The recent Netflix release, Bridgerton, with its colour-conscious casting, is just the answer that creative heads like Julian Fellowes need, who have every excuse to justify an all-white cast in their shows.  

Bridgerton is an answer to many of the stereotypes and racial assumptions

On the surface, the show is no different owing to its same old plot and typecast characters. However, what does stand out is how beautifully they have internalized the diversity instead of establishing the subject of race at the forefront of the storyline.

The tone and attire of the show also remind us of the fact that we may have left behind the enduring whiteness of authors like Jane Austen. Call it a recreation of history or escapist fantasy, the show does represent change and also opens a lot of avenues for other similar possible dramas in the future. 

How Important Is Historical Accuracy? 

The most common argument thrown at shows that try to be a tad bit inclusive is the extent of their historical accuracy. But what you see under the garb of accuracy and precision is plain racism. 

Shows like The Crown and Downton Abbey have internalized such stereotypes by lending a sympathetic eye to the white aristocrats, who got rich through oppressing the weaker section and brushing all other colours under the carpet with a single stroke of ignorance and prejudice. 

The whiteness of the period dramas

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Despite the white supremacy in the West, one cannot just eschew to acknowledge the black lives that thrived through these centuries and that too in positions of authority. Therefore, historical inaccuracy would be to reduce the entire race to slavery and oppression and not the other way round. 

Why Black Representation Is Essential

Movies or television shows play a larger role in our lives. There are times when they inspire or motivate us and we go back to them to feel good about ourselves. 

Moreover, the idea of representation is a powerful one in itself. The impact of casting a black person or a person of colour and that too in dominant roles is important for POC viewers. A person who has to bear the brunt of racial discrimination daily would not like to see the same thing repeated on television for entertainment.

A Very Welcome Change

Finally, the efforts towards a more inclusive space are bearing fruits, and the watershed division between ‘us and them’ has actually started fading, even for period dramas.

Producers and showrunners have approached this problem in mainly two ways. First is blind casting or racebending, where black people or POC are cast in roles that are traditionally white or written for white people. 

Second is Own Voices, where the plot is written from the vantage of a minority race. Moreover, black and POC writers share their stories, unlike the plots which the writers pick up from existing plotlines.

Increasing inclusivity in period dramas

One of the most redefining works in this area is that of Hamilton. The show created such a huge impact that it remodelled numerous other period dramas, starting from Grantchester to BBC’s Les Miserables and now, Bridgerton. 

The main idea behind period drama representation should revolve around diverse stories covering a whole range of human emotions, with black and POC creative executives taking the lead. And Bridgerton is a sure step towards it. 


Image Credits: Google Images

Sources: BBC Culture, British Vogue, Den of Geek

Find The Blogger: @soumyaseema

The post is tagged under: black, POC, period dramas, British, White supremacy, romance, historical accuracy, racebending, blindcasting, Own Voices, Bridgerton, Hamilton, Shonda Rhimes, Downtown Abbey, racial discrimation, slavery, colonialism, oppression, weaker race, minority


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17 COMMENTS

  1. What is next? If the “garb of accuracy and precision is plain-racism” should we expect the black actors playing KKK members too???

  2. Slavery was reality. Accuracy is not a politically correct cast. I’m watching the series with satisfaction, it’s really well done and interesting. But this many black noble english people … I don’t know, if I forget history, then I can enjoy it.
    Next series will be on an SS jewish killing germans or christians hugging muslims during crusades.

  3. So you’re saying that it is racist to disagree with portraying one of the most racist elites in Europe’s history as a multiracial group? I mean, its the 1813 British Aristocracy, the same that fought Napoleon and condemned both American and French Revolutions. The same that at the time had not abolished slavery on the British realms and colonies yet. The same that endured and evolved to become one of the gratest colonial empires on Earth. You cant just say that POCs were between their opressors just like that. I mean, this might be a fiction but it is still set on a very important period where people were fighting for their rights, not when everyone had what we still long to have.

  4. It is as historically accurate as Monty Python and the Holy Grail. But Netflix is Netflix right? History can be rewritten and books burned by their rules.

    The missus liked it though. But she is American so yanno.

  5. What adds to the sheer ridiculousness is that while the black nobility is just assumed, there’s complete taboo over a gay character who makes an impassioned speech to one of the Bridgertons about having to hide his love away following a massive orgy he put on. I’m still scratching my head at the blatant preachiness of the show which is also so inconsistent. Maybe they’ll get it right one day where it’s not obviously being thrown in our face that we’re getting a lecture on inclusiveness in addition to watching a made up story. Not yet, though.

  6. In contemporary fictional shows, cast who you like when you like. As long as it works both ways and straight actors can play gay parts as much as gay actors can play straight parts
    But I do have trouble accepting this rewriting of history. The new Anne Boleyn is played by a black actress? What if we had white actors playing black historical figures?
    We need to learn from history and one of the things we learn is that blacks were badly treated and not represented in these places. By putting black actors there don’t you diminish this lesson?

  7. As a Eastern European, 100% by birth, whos history involved invasion by Moors, rape, slavery, tribute, and subjugation, i gotta laugh a the bias stint of this article and comments. so i will stray from your group think.
    This is cultural appropriation of the culture of the indigenous peoples of Europe. If you guys get to make that argument, so do we. That’s how hypocrisy works. If we cant whitewash, you can’t blackwash. Period pieces are startlingly white… .well because…. everyone was white back then. Laughable that people think a noblewoman of German royal ancestry has moor ancestry 6 generations back and twice removed of some moore harlot belonging to King Alfonso III of spain, and that any of those alleged genetic features would show 10 to 15 generations later. You guys are bending over backwards on this one so far that your brains are falling out. It racist against white people and white culture to blackwash. that’s true equality. Making excuses by invoking history to practice casually accepted racism, goes against the concept of equality. why should i subscribe to equality when its used as revenge against me? Next my culture will be attacked, Romanian Vlad Tepes will be secretly from Camaroon. First England, Deutschland, France, and western Europe. Then Poland, Hungary, Romania and Russia. I’m waiting for the diminishment of European people having no historical relationship to colonization or slavery, have their culture diminished by the likes of woke social justice warriors wanting to diminish my people because we are too white. There will be no end until all whites are diminished fully. And liberal whites gaze in the warm and fuzzies at this prospect.

  8. Definitely cannot classify this as a remotely accurate period piece. Another one of Hollywood’s trumped up justifications to show how “politically correct” they are. Another piece of Hollywood garbage.

  9. It’s amazing how far ethnocentric racists will go to hate white people, calling them gammons and inbred, to justify their hatred.
    Blaming them for institutions long banned – by white people – that’s still practised by most of Planet Earth.
    Eat detritus Phillip!

  10. Phillip, do you know about companies in Leicester paying their staff less than minimum wage (or just food and shelter) occurring today, and not being perpetrated by ‘indigenous’ Brits’?
    Put your money where your mouth is Phillip and protest the Slavery still very much present globally, or just be another puritanical liberal racist mouthpiece with no substance.

  11. Or the slavery taking place by County Lines drug gangs ruining peoples lives (whitey’s involved too, so that should give you some incentive; Phil).
    Do you ACTUALLY care Phil, you massive racist?

  12. Why are there no disabled actors in wheelchairs in the cast. Why no Chinese or Pakistani actors, why cannot the fat girl be the female lead. Why cannot Siamese twins be playing the lead male. I demand that all these changes be made in the next series. Let’s have true equality!

  13. Im lost in the anti-racist fight. So it’s racist to have a full white cast for period dramas happening in the white society. But at the same time, we are beeing told that beeing colour-blind and ignoring the reality of the experience of people of colour is also racist. I really don’t know where to stand…

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