Dearest gentle reader, with each new courting season, it seems there is yet another young man setting the Ton abuzz with his need for reputational repair. In today’s humble Lady Whistledown Society Paper, if you should find it in your heart to do so, I beg you to cast your kindest eye upon Anthony Bridgerton. We do it not for his own sake, for he is a rich white man, and a fictional character from a Regency-era romance-novel-cum-sex-show on Netflix, and therefore shall be absolutely fine for the remainder of history. One needn’t worry about Lord Bridgerton himself—no, it is you, dear reader, with whom this author’s concern lies in the coming season.
You see, as we head into our second Bridgerton promenade, now Duke-less but still in a global pandemic that keeps our finest gowns in the closet and our dance cards gathering dust, it’s possible that you may remember Anthony Bridgerton as nothing more than a capital-R rake. Which is to say, in slightly more modern terms: a fuckboy of the greatest order; a lover and leaver of opera singers; a scoundrel; a wet sideburn in need of a women’s rights course at the local gazebo and a quick rap over the head with a pall-mall mallet.
And you would not be wrong! Our first blush with the young Lord Bridgerton out and about the Ton did little to cast him in the light of a leading man beyond allowing him to flaunt a wee bit of ass. But dear reader, as a most beloved heroine of the Bridgerton book series, one Miss Kate Sharma (née Sheffield in the novels), approaches, it is imperative that we open our minds to the most secret, rake-riddled desires of Miss Sharma’s fair and formidable heart. Far be it from me, a blogger impersonating a 19th-century fictional paragon of gossip, to come on Lady Blue Ivy’s internet and defend a man ... but I do it not for Anthony. I do it in the name of that all-powerful defeater of logic Ton-wide; I defend the Viscount in the name of love.
For it has come to this author’s attention that as Queen Shonda asks her loyal public to shift their romantic allegiances from one Bridgerton to another, far pricklier Bridgerton, it may be difficult to recall just what Anthony has to offer in the way of gentlemanly appeal. After all, we have watched as the eldest Bridgerton nearly sabotaged his sister’s only chance at love, repeatedly misled and misunderstood London’s loveliest soprano, and complained of the Duke’s improprieties while comporting himself far worse. But today, this author humbly and hornily picks up her quill to set the story straight on Anthony Bridgerton. Because anyone who knows Lord Bridgerton well knows that he may indeed be a fuckboy—but freed of the grief, trauma, and sideburns holding him back last season, he may be well on his way to becoming a fuck-man.
The Source Material Defense
OK, consider me now de-possessed of the voice of Julie Andrews, but still fully possessed by the need to tell you that Anthony Bridgerton is actually an alright guy who’s maybe just in need of a good friend to talk to, or a doctor who won’t just tell him to, like, leech out the PTSD from losing his father at such a young age. In Season 1 of Bridgerton, we saw Anthony interfere with every reasonable match for his sister Daphne, only to then try to strong-arm her into an engagement with perhaps the least eligible hobgoblin in all of London, Nigel Berbrooke, and then force her one true love into a duel that could have absolutely ruined everyone’s lives just because he saw them frenching a little. Not exactly swoon-worthy stuff …
But what if I told you that we know from Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton book series that Anthony’s father died suddenly and tragically when Anthony was just 18, unexpectedly thrusting him into the position of provider and protector, and that maybe there’s just a steep learning curve to becoming responsible for the well-being of your nine-person family (and probably a handful of towns in the country—I’m extremely unclear on what a viscount is, and Bridgerton never asks us to understand much beyond a string quartet playing Maroon 5)? And what if I told you that factoring happiness into that responsibility equation is especially difficult for a young man who hasn’t felt such a feeling in quite some time because he has a crippling fear of dying young and submitting everyone he loves to the grief that he himself felt after losing his father? Could you imagine watching that man attempt to navigate the marriage market while trying his hardest to avoid catching any feelings beyond mutual respect, only to accidentally stumble into an all-consuming love for the most unsuspecting of spinsters? COULD YOU IMAGINE IT?!
The Mr. Darcy Defense
This leads us to the most obvious argument in favor of Anthony as Bridgerton’s Season 2 romantic lead: as a slightly obnoxious know-it-all eldest child with a simultaneous superiority and victim complex, our guy is in prime position to fall into an enemies-to-lovers trope so romantic, so passionate, so central to the romance genre that 15 years from now, Jonathan Bailey might just find himself doing a perfect midwestern American accent on a hit HBO series.
I am, of course, referring to the similarities between Anthony Bridgerton and Matthew MacFadyen as Mr. Darcy in the iconique 2005 adaptation of Pride & Prejudice. Though Anthony is a smidge less socially awkward than Mr. Darcy, he’s every bit as surly, prideful, and loyal to a fault—and there’s no doubt that his leading lady Kate Sharma is the heir apparent to Miss Elizabeth Bennett.
With enemies-to-lovers comes the promise of gasp-inducing hand brushes, angry ballroom dancing, and the eventual melting of Anthony Bridgerton’s ice-cold heart until he is nothing but a warm puddle in front of Miss Sharma’s slippered feet. Now doesn’t that sound just as potentially compelling as the Season 1 romantic conflict that hinged almost entirely upon a different Bridgerton’s evolving understanding of semen?
The Jonathan Bailey Is Hot and Charming IRL Defense
For argument’s sake, let’s say that you’re a Jane Austen purist who doesn’t buy into character comparisons of the more fantastical Bridgerton series. In that case might I escort you to my most modern defense yet …
Jonathan Bailey’s Instagram, from which it is impossible to choose the perfect photo proving his indomitable hotness and charm because they are all so hot and charming. From my extensive internet research, Bailey seems to have chemistry with every person he encounters, and is maybe the most adorable man on earth to have once been burdened with Wolverine’s sideburns by a wildly popular Netflix series. I firmly believe that if they just decided to switch Anthony’s personality with golden retriever Colin’s this season, Bailey could pull it off. But he doesn’t need to! Because Bailey can also pull off a smoldering stare. Anthony doesn’t have to arrive with perfectly formed emotional intelligence—just the promise that he might eventually brood his way into successfully conveying at least one (1) honest thought to a woman one day.
The Glow-up Defense
Anthony Bridgerton and water are actually one of the show's best pairings. pic.twitter.com/5vZt7ZxG7l— Netflix (@netflix) March 15, 2022
And hey, maybe starting from the bottom was Netflix’s goal all along with Anthony. Because now we’re here: the sideburns have been shaved, the hair has been coiffed, and the only time Anthony isn’t wearing a perfectly tailored waistcoat is when he is wearing nothing at all (while brooding in a bathtub). While I resented Anthony having so few redeeming qualities in Season 1, it leaves plenty of runway in Season 2 to explore what’s lurking under that cantankerous disposition. After all, if the Season 2 romance should have anything in common with Daphne and the Duke’s, it may just be this: Reformed rakes make the best leading men.