If you watched season 1 of Bridgerton on Netflix, then you probably come to the same conclusion that most fans did regarding Benedict Bridgerton — the second oldest son of the family — and his queer status: that, at the very least, he’s bisexual.
But, after waiting for our queer Regency king to come through and disrupt the rigidly heterosexual escapades, fans were left confused when Benedict suddenly seemed to lose any sense of his queerness in season 2. So, what gives?
If you’re feeling lost, it wasn’t just you. We all noticed Benedict’s chemistry and flirtation with gay artist Henry Granville in season 1 and his general openness to things that others might deem “scandalous”. It led many of us to believe the show might adopt a progressive approach to LGBTQ+ storylines in the 18th century — similar to how they portrayed race — despite the books the show is based on sticking to the heteronormative narrative.
After all, Bridgerton essentially rewrote the 18th century by making racial diversity among the upper echelon of society not only common but also nothing to bat an eye at. There are no storylines centered around the scandal of marrying someone of a different race — in fact, I don’t think race is ever even mentioned when considering potential matches. So, can’t we also stray from the exclusively pro-hetero environment of the 18th century?
In a new interview with Entertainment Weekly, Luke Thompson, the actor who plays Benedict, finally responded to fan theories about Benedict’s sexuality. Although he couldn’t give a definitive answer, he seemed hopeful for Benedict’s future. he said,
“Benedict has such a lovely openness and fluidity about him generally, and that’s really, really fun to play because it could go anywhere. What I would say is that we’re only in season 1 and just getting into season 2… Obviously, there’s a way to go, so we’ll see what happens with Benedict, but we’re only on season 2, so there’s lots of space for him to explore all sorts of things.”
But when it comes down to it though, Luke admitted that he doesn’t actually know whether or not Benedict will ever explore a queer romance. He told Town & Country,
“I tend to think that’s a question for the writers really, because, in order to be playing a character, I sort of have to surrender that side of my brain. The writers are like God, as in I just have to play with what they give me. I think there is that openness, which is really lovely to play with, but in terms of where it goes, I don’t know.”
According to Chris Van Dusen, the showrunner for seasons 1 and 2, fans made the wrong assumption regarding Benedict’s queerness. He told TVLine,
“I’ve seen a lot of discussion about Benedict’s sexuality in Season 1… But the storyline [of him befriending] Henry was really about tolerance in a really intolerant time, and showing Benedict in that world. I love the story in Season 1 and would love to continue it into the future.”
It’s not as if the opportunities weren’t there in season 2, with Benedict heading off to art school and starting to experiment with things like opium — reinforcing his openness to try new things. But Benedict’s primary love interest was the female model from his art class and he waxed poetic about the attraction he feels to a woman’s beauty specifically. And while it doesn’t quite qualify as queerbaiting, it felt like a very real departure from the willing-to-try-anything-once Benedict of season 1 who held flirty banter with whoever caught his eye — man or woman.
In a family of eight children (and a show built around the theme of sexual discovery), is it too much to ask that one of them falls outside the binary or identifies as LGBTQ? Exploring queerness may have been punishable by death in the real 18th century, but why can’t the same progressive approach the show took to race be applied to queerness? Considering book three in the series focuses on Benedict’s love story, here’s hoping we get a slightly (or strictly!) queer storyline for him in season 3.