Topline

Fans of the original series that inspired the breakout hit “Bridgerton” TV show on Netflix were shocked in the final minutes of the season 3 finale when the character Michael Stirling was introduced by another name—Michaela—and played by a female actress, a change that sets the show up to include a lesbian love story down the line and pushed the series author to step up and defend the swap. (Spoilers below.)

Key Facts

The third season of “Bridgerton,” the second half of which was released last week, followed the relationship of Francesca Bridgerton and Earl of Kilmartin John Stirling, who introduces his new wife to his cousin in the final moments of the season.

That cousin, in the books named Michael, was instead introduced as Michaela Stirling and is played by actress Masali Baduza.

The swap likely went unnoticed—and seemed inconsequential—by those who have only watched the show, but fans of the books know that Michael Stirling and Francesca go on to fall in love after John Stirling’s early death.

With the swap, “Bridgerton” is setting itself up to tell the now-lesbian love story of Francesca and Michaela, a change that sparked such furious online discussion it prompted “Bridgerton” author Julia Quinn to issue a statement Monday.

Quinn said she is “deeply committed to the ‘Bridgerton’ world becoming more diverse and inclusive as the stories move from book to screen,” and said that, despite some fan “disappointment,” she is confident the season featuring the pair will be the “most emotional and heart-wrenching story of the show.”

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Crucial Quote

“Thank you to readers and fans for your feedback. I am grateful for your understanding and touched by your deep commitment to the characters of the Bridgerton world,” Quinn wrote in her statement. “I ask that you grant me and the Shondaland team some faith as we move forward.”

Key Background

The “Bridgerton” TV show, which has broken records for Netflix and streaming since its first season released in 2021, is known for its inclusivity. The show heavily features characters of color despite its regency-era setting and focus on London’s wealthiest families (the queen of England is played by Black actress Golda Rosheuvel) and has included LGBTQ+ love interests before. Most notably, older Bridgerton family sibling Benedict explores his sexuality in the third season and shares several steamy scenes with a man named Paul Suarez. Male characters Brimsley and Reynolds, the queen and king’s secretaries, respectively, share an explicit romance in the spin-off series “Queen Charlotte” and a queer artist named Henry Granville features briefly in the first season of “Bridgerton.”

Big Number

5.5 billion. That’s how many minutes fans spent streaming “Bridgerton” on Netflix in May, Nielsen data shows, making it the most-watched show across any streaming platform that month. That number includes streams of season 3 part 1, which released May 16, plus the binge-watching of older seasons.

What To Watch For

Season 4. Netflix back in 2021 confirmed a fourth season of “Bridgerton,” but when it will be released and which character will serve as the romantic lead is still unknown.

Tangent

The debut of the “Bridgerton” series on Netflix sent sales of Quinn’s original eight-book series soaring. In 2020, the year before the show’s release, Quinn sold 77,541 books, according to data from Circana Bookscan. The next year, that number shot to 1.6 million and remained high with 1.16 million in 2022. The series sold an additional 495,435 books last year and, so far in 2024, has sold 357,493.

Further Reading

Forbes‘Bridgerton’ Dominates Streaming Ratings In May-But ‘Young Sheldon’ Captures More Viewers OverallForbesOld ‘Bridgerton’ Seasons Dominate Netflix Ahead Of Season 3 Premiere TomorrowForbes‘House Of The Dragon’ Season 2 Debuts To 7.8 Million Viewers-Down 22% From Show’s Premiere



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