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Bridgerton’s DEI vs. Historicity

They sacrifice true historicity,
So DEI trumps authenticity.
But Bridgerton and Netflix, they don’t care,
Because those ethopaths with neon hair
Give fat cats in their boardrooms such a scare.

Black aristocracy in England, when?
I know a Frenchman with a skillful pen:
Dumas was truly aristocracy;
His grandad had real generosity,
And made his black slave son nobility

That wasn’t the worst though, not by far indeed:
Black royalty in Europe? They mislead.
Peruse the facts, through royal family trees,
And not one single African you’ll see.
Suspend my disbelief? That cannot be!

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Poet’s Note:

This poem is about Netflix’s Bridgerton series and its spin-off, Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story. The Bridgerton series features characters of African descent being members of the Regency era English aristocracy, which is a historical falsehood. Furthermore, the series also features European royalty of African descent, primarily, Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. The show’s creator, Chris Van Dusen, asserts the queen’s ancestry as a fact, yet most scholars have largely denounced these claims. Because of these series, there are now sizable portions of people who believe these mistruths are facts and continue to assert them as indubitable truth. This poem makes clear the true historicity of the English Regency era and gives examples of real European aristocrats with African descent during that same time period, which could have been used as the basis for a historically accurate series.

The writer Alexandre Dumas’ father, Thomas-Alexandre Dumas Davy de la Pailleterie was born into slavery because of his slave mother but his father and the writer’s grandfather, Marquess Alexandre Davy de la Pailleterie freed his son and gave him a noble upbringing, thus making a nobleman of the former slave. This meant Alexandre Dumas was born into the French nobility as a black man.

Ethopath is a neologism of Joseph S. Salemi. In his own words, “It refers to a deep psychological urge to do or believe something bizarre, stupid, pointless, and even harmful; and to cling to it in spite of all common sense, evidence, and untoward consequences.”

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Drilon Bajrami is a nascent poet who lives in the United Kingdom and is currently finishing up a dystopian novel he has been working on for a few years.


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20 Responses

  1. Brian A. Yapko

    Drilon, this poem is both very well-crafted and tackles a very brave subject: the racial retcon of history — something you will never see done on the right because conservatives actually take history seriously. But, as you observe, leftists are so invested in their DEI ideology that they revel in rewriting history to support their social-justice goals. It is insulting to people who value history and it is dangerous because it creates a history which never was. And if this history is fictional, how does one build upon what is essentially a foundation of sand and fantasy? Where are we led next? Transgender Mozart? African Einstein? The absurd becomes not only possible but desired. And who actually benefits from this except DEI people drooling to rewrite history to fit their sick ideologies?

    Historical retconning is also hypocritical. Leftists are the ones who actually inject race into everything while claiming it’s people who actually value our differences that they claim are “racist.” It’s similar to the way Bolsheviks injected “class” into everything — every conversation and writing. Race stories matter. Well, yes. Of course they do. That’s why one cares about movies about Martin Luther King or Rosa Parks. Or the African-American women scientists in “Hidden Figures.” That’s why Roots was so moving. These are great stories. But what has this to do with Regency aristocracy? And why are blacks being told that to have meaning in today’s society, they have to appropriate European history? Isn’t their own history valuable? What kind of message to ethnic groups is it that leftists actually send? They seem to be telling them that only white people stories matter so they better appropriate them while they can. Who is the racist here?

    This retconning of history is a very popular thing to do in liberal circles along with color-blind casting, which in some contexts is perfectly fine. But when it comes to history this is not only jarring but promotes a warped reality. We see a “Hamilton” in which Alexander Hamilton is latino and Thomas Jefferson is black. Isn’t that nice. Except it completely nullifies the historical issues that actually arose from race, whitewashing everything we must actually learn from so that we have an “inclusive” view of history. It treats race as if it were eye color, but when it comes to history that is simply not so. And it’s “inclusive” until we actually deal with white people, who are apparently not allowed to have their own stories because they’re all soulless colonialists so screw ’em.

    In your Netflix show, it’s perfectly permissible to have a black person inserted into European history where he/she does not belong. But heaven help you if you were to cast a white person in The Lion King or The Color Purple because then that would be racial/ethnic appropriation. It’s a one-way street which trivializes the actual experiences of ethnic groups. Black people, Latinos. Asians… Everyone has their own stories. Why are we as a society trying to pretend that this is not the case? It infantilizes groups rather than actually supports them.

    I saw a meme recently on Disney. The gist of it was an image of a very beautiful young black actress who was being cast in the title role of… Greta Thunberg. Well, I’m sure Greta would approve.

    Reply
    • Drilon Bajrami

      Nice to hear from you, Brian, and I appreciate the compliment from a skilled poet such as yourself. I agree with most of what you’ve said and while this invariably is political to a point, for me the historicity is the most important factor. After all, I’m not shy to admit I’m a centrist and probably lean more left than right but I cannot shy away from speaking up about the twisting of history and its hypocritical goals. Especially when the show asserts itself as a “historical” fiction, where the history itself is also a fiction. I think your comments about black people appreciating and celebrating their own history are very thoughtful.

      And to that point, I also thought about using the example of Russia’s greatest poet, Alexander Pushkin, as he decended from a black Russian nobleman who was freed by the Russian Emperor and raised in the palace as his godson.

      There are countless examples like that of Pushkin and Dumas where noblemen of African descent were present and not only that but they have absolutely incredible stories of how they became nobles (as it still was a rarity back in those days), yet, instead of making an authentic historical series, they choose to crowbar characters in settings they were never in to signal how virtuous they are. I don’t think manipulating history is a virtue.

      Reply
    • David Whippman

      Well said Brian, and thanks for your perceptive comments on Drilon’s clever poem. I’ve had this debate with people who say the race of the actor playing any role is – or should be – irrelevant. I always ask them if they would have a problem with a white actor playing Muhammad Ali, or Nelson Mandela. It’s amusing to see the mental contortions that ensue!

      Reply
  2. Margaret Coats

    Drilon, your poem rightly centers on ignored history, such as that of the Dumas family. They are ignored while fictional creations are, as your note says, misleading public opinion and causing many to believe in historical falsehoods. You inspire much greater attention to the truth of history, along with celebration of virtue such as that of the French aristocrat who acknowledged and ennobled his black slave son. That is one excellent example of looking reality in the face, and acting so as to benefit all who are willing to do the same.

    Reply
    • Drilon Bajrami

      Thank you for your comments, Margaret, I wholeheartedly agree with you on the ignored histories of many great black people, which should be celebrated and, more importantly, taught, as these are authentic examples with more interesting stories than Bridgerton itself.

      I also think your final comment on looking reality in the face when it comes to history. History is usually never pretty but trying to “wash” it so to speak is not the right way of dealing with it. Bridgerton could have even made the point of how England had no nobles of African descent, while other European countries did during that time period.

      Reply
  3. Roy Eugene Peterson

    Fantasy and fallacy have undermined true history. Thank you for shedding light on this dark subject!

    Reply
    • Mary Gardner

      Roy, I caught the meter and rhyme your comment and just had to run with it:

      Fantasy and fallacy have undermined true history.
      Thank you for shedding light on this dark subject!
      But with fine poets such as you, this harmful trend we can undo,
      And lies about our history we’ll correct.
      Thanks to good Joseph Salemi who coined the word “ethopathy”
      And you, dear Drilon, for your knowledge wide,
      And Brian Y and Margaret, for making sure we don’t forget
      The truth of history. May it abide!

      Reply
      • Drilon Bajrami

        Thank you for that off the cuff poetry, it gave me a good smile, Mary. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  4. ABB

    I actually watched an episode of this once with my now ex-wife. I was most offended not by the DEI content (which was absurd), but because there was a scene where a character started talking about Byron and how his verse was terrible. Then the character recites his own free-verse poem as a superior alternative, which was horrendous and nothing like anyone in that era would have written. An atrocious show.

    It is also curious how none of the enlightened, diverse characters ever discuss the source of their wealth rooted in “privilege,” and the show portrays no working-class people.

    Nice ethopath plug.

    Reply
    • Drilon Bajrami

      Andrew, your comments on the denigration of Byron and celebration of the free verse dross have me a good chuckle. I haven’t read much of Byron, but from what I have read, I can see why he is considered one of the greatest English poets.

      I’ve actually submitted a poem recently with this topic as its subject and hopefully you’ll be seeing it soon on here. I wrote it for all of us formalists and serves as a light verse critique on uppity free versers who look down on millenia of tradition and skill. From the epic of Gilgamesh back in 2000 B.C. to the SCP today, keeping it alive.

      I also think it is a shame that a lot of the history of that time is flagrantly ignored. I mentioned in a comment above “Bridgerton could have even made the point of how England had no nobles of African descent, while other European countries did during that time period.”

      Reply
  5. Yael

    Great, this is how I like to get my news and history lessons delivered, thank you very much!

    Reply
    • Drilon Bajrami

      I’m glad you enjoyed the poem, Yael. As someone who actively ignores reading any form of news, I can understand where you’re coming from. There are times I read poetry here and I need to Google the context, as I’m so ignorant of current affairs.

      Reply
  6. Joseph S. Salemi

    Chris Van Dusen is an idiot, but that seems to be standard for most TV producers and screenwriters (after all, just look at Rob Reiner). Creating this kind of historically mangled and botched version of the Regency is laughable, and it would have been pilloried as surrealist nonsense only a few decades back.

    Today it is accepted and believed in. Why? Because long years of postmodernist propaganda have taught millions that truth is not the conformance of thought with objective reality, but the re-imagination of objective reality to fit the demands of an ideology. You might call it Lysenkoism applied to history.

    This a good poem, and it takes bravery for a poet to write it and publish it. And I’m grateful to Drilon for mentioning my “ethopathy – ethopath” coinage.

    Reply
    • Drilon Bajrami

      Those are some heedful comments on the re-imagination of reality by postmodernists, Joe. I can even sympathise with it to a degree because reality can be ugly, so the urge to re-imagine it in favour of an ideal is extremely appealing but also extremely dangerous — as it means that any falsehood can become as indubitable as a truth. As Margaret’s comment mentioned, we should face history, and reality in this case too, head on.

      I also thank you for your compliments, Joe, it means a lot coming from you. I don’t think being scared into silence is a wise moral choice. Yevgeny Zamyatin is a literary hero of mine and if he had the courage to publish “We” in Soviet Russia, my courage is nothing in comparison.

      Originally, the first draft didn’t use your neologism but as I was editing the piece, I thought it would perfectly encapsulate the type of people who would be supporting and pushing this type of ethopathy. I hope the term catches on and maybe this poem will inspire others to use it also.

      Reply
  7. Julian D. Woodruff

    Beethoven is frequently a candidate for this treatment. Contemporaries referred to his “swarthy complexion,” and of course it’s clearly shown in … well … at least one portrait. Not to mention, his ethnic profile is revealed in what was it?–the Eighth Symphony, the Violin Concerto?–I don’t rightly remember.
    Shall we turn the tables and spill ink concerning the white ancestry of Desmond Tutu, Pele et al.?

    Reply
    • Drilon Bajrami

      Turning the tables would outrage people — as it rightly should — but as we young folk like to say “keep the same energy”. Thank you for your comment, Julian.

      Reply
  8. C.B. Anderson

    Two thumbs up, Drilon. Also, the comments and your responses to them were very helpful in allowing me to better appreciate what I had just read. My adopted African-American granddaughter means as much to me as the grandchildren of my own flesh and blood. That’s just the way things go.

    Reply
    • Drilon Bajrami

      Thank you for your kind words, C.B., it means a great deal coming from an accomplished poet as yourself. And I’d like to also thank you for sharing your personal life about your granddaughter, I think it’s righteous of you to show them the same love as your own flesh and blood. They’re blessed to have such a loving grandfather.

      Reply
  9. Paul A. Freeman

    I must admit, I give Bridgerton a wide berth, unless we’re meant to be in an alternate universe or a re-imagined version of a play or a fairytale. Harold Perrineau’s depiction of Mercutio in ‘Romeo + Juliet’ is legendary.

    Re-imagining is not unprecedented, though. Jesus was depicted as more Middle Eastern-looking in the past, and has always been depicted as dark-skinned by Ethiopian Christians.

    Reply

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