Bridgerton, Netflix’s answer to a Regency-era Gossip Girl created by Shonda Rhimes, is officially the streaming giant’s most popular show ever. Today, it revealed that 82 million users around the world watched the period drama in its 28 days online, becoming the number one show in 83 countries, including the US, UK, India, France and Brazil.
Bridgerton has been praised for its “color-blind,” inclusive casting, resulting in commoners and high society alike cast diversely, as well as its soundtrack – including classical covers of songs by the likes of Billie Eilish and Ariana Grande. But it quietly did something else right, too: it filmed sex and intimate scenes through the female gaze.
In a recent profile for Glamour, the show’s lead actress, Phoebe Dynevor, spoke about its “modern approach” to filming meant that she was able to portray certain aspects of womanhood that often aren’t included in period dramas, including sexual desire.
“In a lot of the Regency stuff we’ve seen in the past, we see a very composed woman,” the 25-year-old explained. “There’s not much sexuality there. It’s very much the male gaze. I wanted to make [Daphne] feel modern and have sexual desires, as women do, and have a lot going on that isn’t surface level.”
Dynevor went on to explain that her masturbation scene was the hardest to shoot, but that it would have been impossible had she been having to deal directly with the men on set, rather than having intimacy coordinator, Lizzy Talbot, on hand.
“That was the hardest scene to shoot. That’s saying something, because there were a lot of difficult scenes to shoot,” she said. “You feel very vulnerable in those scenes.”
“We did the intimate scenes like stunts — we blocked them out, so you have yoga balls in between you and all sorts of things that never make you feel exposed in any way,” she went on. “You always feel safe. I’d rehearse with Regé[-Jean Page] so much that we both knew what we were doing. It felt very practical.”
“But on my own, it’s a different thing,” Dynevor continued. “The stage directions are very specific: You have to have an orgasm. It’s a difficult thing to rehearse, which means you don’t. You just do it.”
“If we didn’t have an intimacy coordinator, it would be our director, who was a male, coming up to me and telling me what to do,” she explained, saying, “That would have been awkward.”
“I think it would have been a very difficult experience if Lizzy hadn’t been on set protecting me and looking after me,” Dynevor added. “No one wants to be told how to orgasm by a man.”
Earlier this week, Kiera Knightley opened up about her own sex scenes, saying that she now refuses to perform for the male gaze on set and now won’t do any nudity in films, unless they’re directed by women. I spy a trend here, and it’s a good one.