Bridgerton Season 2 Taking the Lead in South Asian Representation

LONDON%2C+ENGLAND+-+MARCH+22%3A+%28L-R%29+Charithra+Chandran%2C+Jonathan+Bailey+and+Simone+Ashley+attend+the+Bridgerton+Series+2+World+Premiere+at+Tate+Modern+on+March+22%2C+2022+in+London%2C+England.+%28Photo+by+Jeff+Spicer%2FGetty+Images%29

Jeff Spicer/Getty Images

LONDON, ENGLAND – MARCH 22: (L-R) Charithra Chandran, Jonathan Bailey and Simone Ashley attend the “Bridgerton” Series 2 World Premiere at Tate Modern on March 22, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)

Leah Tharian, News Editor

Diversity and inclusion—particularly of South Asian culture—have not always been top priorities when it comes to popular TV series and movies. While shows like Jessie and Phineas and Ferb may have included South Asian characters while claiming diversity, these characters’ cultures were misappropriated through phony accents and racist stereotypes. Time and time again, the beauty and tradition of South Asian culture have been exploited by the media to cater towards Eurocentric expectations. However, season two of Netflix’s Regency-era drama Bridgerton is making a refreshing pivot from the norm with respectful, empowering portrayals of its South Asian cast. 

While Netflix has come under fire for the lack of diversity within the company itself, the streaming platform is trying to change perceptions with Bridgerton. The original series has a unique take on the Regency era, a period in the early 19th century noted for its achievements in the arts and literature, as it depicts a society of racial inclusivity, with a Black Queen of England, Indian nobility, and acoustic Ariana Grande covers. As the series delves into the intricacies of English society during this era through familial scandals, blossoming love stories, and well-kept secrets, the audience is introduced to a more tasteful and realistic representation of South Asian culture. 

Bridgerton is among the first television shows in mainstream Western media to portray South Asian women as writers of their own destiny—independent, driven, and desirable. While South Asian women are often portrayed as reliant on male figures in their lives, the main leads of this series, Kathani Sharma (played by Simone Ashley) and Edwina Sharma (played by Charithra Chandran), are women who have a mind and desires of their own, expressing what they each truly want out of their lives and showing how innately capable they are at fulfilling these goals. Additionally, Bridgerton’s creators sought to tackle colorism (discrimination against darker skin tones) and reject Eurocentric beauty standards by casting Ashley and Chandran, both of whom are darker skinned Indian women, as the protagonists.

Minute details, such as the ornate jewelry, the intricate designs on the fabrics used to create the empire-line dresses celebrate Indian culture. Customs such as Haldi Ceremonies, traditional pre-wedding events, incorporate cultural nuance into Bridgerton’s storyline. The subtle use of Indian terms of endearment complete the piece

While South Asian representation has a long way to go, breakthrough performances such as those found in Bridgerton Season 2 offer ways for society to appreciate cultures that are often neglected or stereotyped in the entertainment industry. 

Moreover, people of South Asian descent are able to see versions of themselves represented on the big screen, as opposed to the same tired stereotypes recycled again and again. Bridgerton Season 2 depicts how beauty, courage, intelligence, and desirability can be embodied in different forms, portraying South Asian culture in a new and more appropriate light.