Alas, colour still matters  

In objecting to people of colour being cast in roles meant for whites only, we are once again raising the flag of colour bias and prejudice

Published: 31st January 2021 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 30th January 2021 07:33 PM   |  A+A-

colorism, colourism

For representational purposes

Bridgerton, that period drama which became a blockbuster hit, is all set for a second season. For all its slender bodice-ripper plot and silly errors of omission and commission, it was an entertaining watch. 
The one way it stood out—in a most laudable fashion—was in its colour-blind casting. We saw the regulation black footmen, carriage outriders and sundry servants, but we also saw people of colour (POC) playing earls and countesses; why, we  even saw a black queen, playing on the real Queen Charlotte’s long speculated-on African bloodline.  

There was one young woman of much beauty and tragic mystery who was black. The titled lady who brought up the motherless Duke of Hastings, Lady Danbury, was a POC. The dashing feather in this flamboyant cap was the hero of Bridgerton, the Duke of Hastings, played by a handsome black man, Rege-Jean Page. His love interest? Ah, she was as white and virginal as they come.

But what caught my attention was the slew of uncomprehending/horrified/dismayed comments on various social media threads. Historical inaccuracy, some screamed, giving instances of how England in the 1800s did not have, could not have had, POCs as part of the country’s vaunted nobility. Elsewhere, one frank set frankly stated that it offended them to see such subversion of history. For some, it was ‘unimaginable’, thus revealing their own paucity of imagination. 

What was interesting was that these comments were all made by Indians on various Bridgerton review posts. So, while I was amused that we the colonised were now insisting on racial purity in serials, I was in equal parts horrified. Because there’s no getting away from one fact that in objecting to people of colour being cast in roles meant for whites only, ye olde Indian is once again raising the flag of colour bias and prejudice. Diversity is all very well when it comes to casting POC as the below-stairs servitors.

But when it comes to wealthy British nobility, no siree! This reverse snobbery is downright ridiculous, shows us up for the colourist biases we hold on to, and reveals our less-than-accepting attitudes of dark and dusky skin colour. Never mind that that is precisely the skin colour of most Indians. Never mind that what happened on the Sydney cricket ground in Australia recently had us all hot under the collar.

The people who produced Bridgeton with its interesting multiracial cast, don’t need to put out any kind of justification or explanation for the BIPOC (black, indigenous and people of colour) casting. It’s a pity that many Indian watchers just didn’t get that the blind casting was deliberate casting, a celebratory casting.  

Bridgerton’s catchwords are inclusivity, diversity... and fiction, see?

Sheila Kumar


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