Bridgerton showrunner on keeping that controversial bedroom moment
Warning: This article contains spoilers about Bridgerton.
In the sixth episode of Bridgerton, Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dyvenor), now the Duchess of Hastings, does something certain to polarize audiences.
After learning that Simon (Regé-Jean Page) lied about his inability to have children (he can, he just doesn't want them because of a vengeful vow he made against his father), Daphne takes matters into her own hands. Realizing what Simon has been doing after finally being told about how the marriage bed and pregnancy actually works, she takes advantage of Simon in the heat of the moment.
With Simon caught in the throes of lust, she positions herself on top of him and then clings to him, preventing him from withdrawing, in an impulsive attempt to successfully conceive the baby she longs for. It sparks a massive conflict between them, as Simon struggles with letting go of the vengeance he seeks (not to mention his complicated emotions over his wife's deliberate attempts to subvert his wishes and do something basically non-consensual).
This moment is softened from its source material. Julia Quinn's The Duke and I finds Simon getting hopelessly drunk in response to his arguments with his new bride. Daphne then takes advantage of his ardor while he is intoxicated, making this moment tantamount to rape in the eyes of some readers.
The Duke and I was first published in 2000 and conversations about consent have radically evolved in the last two decades. The romance genre too has shifted right alongside these discussions, often leading the way on modeling things like enthusiastic consent.
Particularly in the wake of the #MeToo movement, public perceptions of consent have broadened, making moments like this one controversial, if not downright problematic. That wasn't lost on showrunner Chris Van Dusen.
"We had a lot of conversations around that specific incident in the book," he tells EW. "I've always called this first season of the show, if it had a subtitle, it would be, 'The Education of Daphne Bridgerton.' That incident really goes along with that overall — that overarching theme that she starts out as this picture-perfect, wide-eyed, innocent debutante. And we watch her grow into this woman who gets to shed all of the constraints society has held her to, and she finally figures out who she really is and what she's capable of."
Ultimately, for Van Dusen, though he realizes the moment will provoke a strong and varied reaction, he felt it was an essential part of who Daphne is and her struggles to define herself as a woman. "It's a part of her journey," he reflects. "And we did discuss it a lot as far as how to approach it and how to handle it."
Bridgerton is now streaming on Netflix.