When series star Nicola Coughlan confirmed that Bridgerton season 3 would focus on the budding romance between her character, Penelope Featherington (a.k.a. gossip girl Lady Whistledown), and Colin Bridgerton, Julia Quinn diehards were left confused.
After all seasons one and two have lifted pretty faithfully from the pages of Quinn's Bridgerton book series (okay, so there are some differences from story to screen), on which the Netflix hit series is based, with each season of the show centered on one of the Bridgerton siblings.
Like the first book, The Duke and I, the first edition of the show followed eldest daughter Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor) and her tumultuous entanglement with Simon Basset, the Duke of Hastings (Regé-Jean Page). Adapted from The Viscount Who Loved Me, the sophomore season focused on the eldest Bridgerton son Anthony (Jonathan Bailey) and his love triangle with the Sharma sisters, Kate (Simone Ashley) and Edwina (Charithra Chandran).
So it's only logical to presume that the third season would take after Quinn's third Bridgerton book, An Offer from a Gentleman, which is centered on the most freewheeling brother, Benedict Bridgerton, a character who has in previous seasons been seen flirting with men, namely his artist friend Henry Granville, though on-page he marries and has children with a woman.
In a recent interview with Variety (opens in new tab), showrunner Jess Brownell was asked about the decision to skip straight—emphasis on straight—past Benedict's story to Penelope and Colin's.
"I’m sure when adapting a book, there’s a certain amount of pressure that goes into keeping the endgame the same, especially with romances, but we’ve seen that result in a lack of LGBTQ+ representation. Is that something you’ll be tackling?" journalist Emily Longeretta asks Brownell.
"Right now, I really am so focused on Pen and Colin and how we’re rolling them out that my head’s really in that in the day-to-day, but maybe at a later date that’s something we can talk about," the showrunner responds.
It's a disheartening response, especially from a show that has otherwise displayed sex positivity and progressiveness in both its storylines and casting. Similarly opulent though culturally stuffier period pieces like Downtown Abbey and The Gilded Age have outright LGBT characters and storylines, so why doesn't Bridgerton?
"Benedict, who is book three, he will be a vital part of Season 3," Brownwell assures, but by skipping the show's closest thing to a canonically queer character, we're left asking ourselves: will we ever see an LGBT lead character on Bridgerton?
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It's not that the Bridgerton cast itself is devoid of LGBT representation: season two lead Jonathan Bailey is proudly gay, as is Golda Rosheuvel—portraying the fabulous Queen Charlotte on the series—who told Page Six (opens in new tab): "There’s not a lot of us around who are gay, female, Black and I’m very privileged and blessed to be one of them." Creator Chris Van Dusen is also gay, moving both his husband Bryan and their daughters to England during the filming of Bridgerton, per Out (opens in new tab). But both Bailey and Rosheuvel play straight in the series, and Van Dusen is no longer the showrunner in charge of the day-to-day creative direction.
Interestingly, Van Dusen told that outlet in March 2022: "Part of the fun of Bridgerton is being able to do things and explore stories and create characters that you haven't necessarily seen before in this particular space...I think if you look at the period genre, it is white, it is straight. It is a little conservative and traditional…. We wanted to take the genre and turn it on its head."
So far, that "turning it on its head" enthusiasm has been directed toward graciously equitable sex scenes, modernizing the Bridgerton soundtrack (we do love those Ariana Grande string quarter moments) and its post-racial casting of aristocratic characters, from Page's Duke to Rosheuvel's Queen.
The series famously diverged from its source material with its portrayal of the Sharma family, changing the book's canonically white Sheffields to Bombay-raised sisters and offering up some much-welcome South Asian representation in the process. If the showrunners can seamlessly and successfully change a character's race from page to screen, why can't they do the same with a Bridgerton sibling's sexuality?
“Benedict is very much someone who is trying to figure out where he fits in with this huge family as a second son,” Van Dusen told TVLine (opens in new tab). “He’s been afforded some privileges because of that, and he doesn’t have to carry on the family mantle. Being the second son allows him more freedom to do the things that he loves as a creative pursuit.”
So why not allow him more freedom in who he loves, as well? Or, as one Twitter user (opens in new tab) so succinctly put it: "omfg just let benedict bridgerton kiss a dude."
Christina Izzo is the Deputy Editor of My Imperfect Life.
More generally, she is a writer-editor covering food and drink, travel, lifestyle and culture in New York City. She was previously the Features Editor at Rachael Ray In Season and Reveal, as well as the Food & Drink Editor and chief restaurant critic at Time Out New York.
When she’s not doing all that, she can probably be found eating cheese somewhere.