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.
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.
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.
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.
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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