What ‘Bridgerton’ Teaches Us About Constitutional Law

Kelly Marages
5 min readJan 31, 2021

It makes more sense than you might think.

My, what a delicious idea. Netflix.
“If anyone shall reveal the circumstances of this match, it is I.” (Image: Netflix)

“This author finds herself compelled to share the most curious of news.” So states Lady Whistledown, in her sing-songy soprano voiceover, in the first episode of Netflix’s runaway Regency romp, Bridgerton.

The non de plume-protected author is reading from her own astoundingly popular Lady Whistledown’s Society Papers, a self-published gossip rag that’s feared and revered in equal measure by the aristocratic set as they undergo mating season, or social season, or whatever it is they call it. In the ton, each lord and lady hangs on Whistledown’s every word, eagerly awaiting the paper’s morning delivery, which really makes me miss newsstand sales.

To call the period drama popular is a vast understatement. Bridgerton is the streaming platform’s biggest original series ever. Four weeks after the show premiered on December 25, it was watched by a record 82 million households, a Netflix VP announced on the site’s blog. It hit the top 10 in every country except Japan, and it hit no. 1 in 83 countries. Yes, 83 countries. (To save you the google, there are 195 of those.)

I first saw these numbers in Adweek’s Morning Media Newsfeed, which I read most days. The story just below the Bridgerton post had this headline: “Pew: 78% of Republicans Disagree with Social Platforms Banning Donald Trump.”

The newsletter’s bullet points are technically unconnected stories. But in this case, it struck me how well Bridgerton’s domination and the Pew Research Center survey seemed to go together, and how much one can inform the other. Your grace?

Curiously, the early 19th century inhabitants of Shonda Rhimes’ English alternate universe seem to understand the principles of the 1st amendment better than many modern day Americans. Never mind the fact that the English are not governed by the U.S. Constitution and are kind of indirectly responsible for the creation of it, which was basically against them. How is this possible?

We all know the 1st amendment is the “freedom of speech” one (and the freedom-of-a-bunch-of-other-things one, too). Specifically: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or…

Kelly Marages

Magazine Publishing Veteran and Fiction Writer | Bylines with WaPo, WSJ, Marie Claire, Us Weekly | Founder of Shirley Books https://shirleybooks.substack.com