Bridgerton. (L to R) James Bryan as Nicky Mondrich, Martins Imhangbe as Will Mondrich, Ariella Warburton as Daisy Mondrich, Emma Naomi as Alice Mondrich, Elias Amos as John Mondrich in episode 301 of Bridgerton. Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2024

Bridgerton Season 3 is in full swing, and while there is a lot to be said over the discourse surrounding Penelope’s turn as a heroine in a “bodice-ripper” story, I want to shine a quick spotlight on the Mondrich family.

Introduced in the first season through friendship with the Duke of Hastings, Simon Bassett (Regé-Jean Page), boxer-turned-gentleman’s club owner Will Mondrich (Martins Imhangbe) and his family–wife Alice (Emma Naomi) and children Nicky (James Bryan), Daisy (Ariella Warburton) and John (Elias Amos)–have been on the perpetual outskirts of upper society. At first, Will Mondrich seemed to exist purely as entertainment for the elite, and his sports stardom paved his way into the higher echelon. Now, in Season 3, after working for a living in his club and brushing elbows with his guests, including the Bridgerton boys, the Mondriches are now elite in their own right via their young son, who has all of a sudden become the heir to his great-great aunt’s fortune.

As I perused Threads to see what folks thought about the new season, a theme kept coming up. Several viewers were asking what the Mondriches added to the Bridgerton conversation. Why were they there, especially when it seemed like the show didn’t know what to do with them? What purpose did they serve when they weren’t born into society, nor were they part of the marriage mart drama?

Post by @susan_headtotoe
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Here’s what I think about why the Mondriches are still here: They are Shonda Rhimes’ attempt to let Black fans know that she does care about Black love.

Shondaland’s lack of Black nuclear families

Bridgerton. (L to R) Emma Naomi as Alice Mondrich, Martins Imhangbe as Will Mondrich in episode 301 of Bridgerton. Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2024
Bridgerton. (L to R) Emma Naomi as Alice Mondrich, Martins Imhangbe as Will Mondrich in episode 301 of Bridgerton. Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2024

Without the Mondriches, there would be no Black nuclear family on Bridgerton. I believe Shonda Rhimes is highly aware of the criticisms she has received over the years about her shows not prioritizing Black love or Black nuclear families.

From my knowledge of Rhimes’ programming, Grey’s Anatomy is the only show under the Shondaland banner that has a Black couple who is still going strong, Dr. Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson) and Dr. Richard Webber (James Pickens Jr.). Contrast that to Scandal, in which the main character, Kerry Washington’s Olivia Pope, was described by her own father Rowan (Joe Morton) as being “Sally Hemings” to a married white president, President Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn). This comparison was said to demean Olivia, but the fact that she was perceived as a “bedwench” seemed to become a perverse reason to root for the already problematic couple. Correct me if I’m wrong, but when I was on Twitter during the height of Olitz, it seemed like some fans were saying, “I know she’s being called Sally Hemings, but they are so good together!” I also think some fans genuinely misunderstood how awful Thomas Jefferson was as a man, and that the lore of Jefferson and Hemings’ relationship being “love against all odds” is patently false. He was a sexual predator, full stop.

Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story. (L to R) Cyril Nri as Lord Danbury, Arsema Thomas as Young Agatha Danbury in episode 103 of Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story. Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2023
Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story. (L to R) Cyril Nri as Lord Danbury, Arsema Thomas as Young Agatha Danbury in episode 103 of Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story. Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2023

Scandal is not the only Shondaland title with a problematic interracial couple; How to Get Away with Murder‘s storyline kicked off due to the deadly issues cropping up in Annalise Keating (Viola Davis) and Sam Keating’s (Tom Verica) marriage. Not to mention that Annalise first met her husband when she was a college student being taught by him (if I have my HTGAWM lore correct). If you couple all of this with how much Bridgerton is dead set on showcasing a post-racial London without any of the racial and social upheavals and riots that would result in the real world, then you have a recipe for Rhimes to get totally lambasted for not taking Black couples seriously. Keep in mind that the one other time she did, when she showed a young Lady Danbury (Arsema Thomas) and her husband, Lord Danbury (Cyril Nri) in Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story, he was made to wear darker, old age makeup, making him look like a racist caricature of the Crypt Keeper. Furthermore, his portrayal was that of a dirty old man with simple wants. Their marriage seemed to reinforce the idea that Rhimes has something against showing a positive Black couple for the sake of romanticizing problematic, toxic interracial couples featuring a white man and Black woman.

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Bridgerton‘s toxic couple drama

Bridgerton (L to R) Regé-Jean Page as Simon Basset and Phoebe Dynevor as Daphne Bridgerton in episode 102 of Bridgerton Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix  © 2020
Bridgerton (L to R) Regé-Jean Page as Simon Basset and Phoebe Dynevor as Daphne Bridgerton in episode 102 of Bridgerton Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2020

If we address the couples who are Black men and white women, there still seems to be something off there as well. The main couple of the first season of Bridgerton are Simon and Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor), the eldest of the Bridgerton girls. The two go through the tropey enemies-to-friends-to-lovers cycle before getting married, but it’s during their honeymoon that Daphne does the unthinkable and sexually assaults her husband.

We can say that she didn’t know what she was doing because she was never taught about sex, and therefore was probably also never taught about sexual morals, values and ettiquette. But regardless of this, we do know that she premediated her attack solely because she wanted to be pregnant and have kids, and she realized he was blocking her from that by using her lack of sexual education against her. Some might say, “Daphne’s actions are in the book! The show was only doing what the book said to do!” Sure. But the show has changed so much other stuff from the books, chief of which being the presence of a multiracial society. Kate in the books is not Kathani “Kate” Sharma. Simon is not Rege-Jean Page in the books. For all intents and purposes, the Bridgerton characters were originally written as white. Even the queen isn’t described to be the historical Queen Charlotte in the books–that was a series choice. So if the series is fine changing people’s races, why isn’t the series fine with changing what happens to Simon? I don’t know what the writers were thinking, but someone with their eye out for Rhimes’ not-to-veiled disdain for Black men could easily surmise that the writers–or Rhimes herself–felt more sympathy for Daphne’s emotions regarding wanting to be a mom at all costs over Simon’s emotional state after being taken advantage of.

With these critiques out there in the ether, it probably forced Rhimes and the writers to keep the Mondriches in play. Even though Bridgerton is a show that has legions of fans, it’s also a show not without criticism, one of those critiques being how the show handles race in a fantastical post-racial setting. No one’s asking for outright realism, but the show’s insistence on uncomfortably straddling the line between historical accuracy and deep discussions (Queen Charlotte’s presence, Simon and Lady Danbury’s Season 1 talk about how Queen Charlotte gave POC members of the Ton rights and access) and a fanciful “I don’t see race” airiness makes it easy for viewers to nitpick other aspects of Rhimes and her teams’ writing, such as how the writers handle Black characters.

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The Mondriches as Shonda Rhimes’ protection

Bridgerton. (L to R) Emma Naomi as Alice Mondrich, Martins Imhangbe as Will Mondrich in episode 301 of Bridgerton. Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2024
Bridgerton. (L to R) Emma Naomi as Alice Mondrich, Martins Imhangbe as Will Mondrich in episode 301 of Bridgerton. Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2024

With the Mondriches as the Ton’s symbol of Black love, the show can lightly touch on issues such as classism and racism. The Mondriches can also be the audience’s avatar; like us, the Mondriches are on the outskirts of this world. They come off as normal people who don’t understand the rules of the Ton, much like us. The Mondriches use common sense to make sense of things, like we as the audience do. We could have a conversation with the Mondriches about how ridiculous everything in the Ton is and they would agree with us and pour us a lovely drink to keep the conversation going.

But most importantly of all, the Mondriches can be Rhimes’ shield against the critiques she’s gotten for how she handles Black characters and, in particular, Black men. Will is an upstanding man who loves his family, friends, and wants to do the right thing by everyone. He is fiercely independent and is self-made, and doesn’t want to forget where he came from. He is a character sorely lacking in Rhimes’ small group of Black male characters in her TV universe. Will is not a tyrant like Olivia’s father, nor is he a freak like Lord Danbury. He’s probably the closest thing to Nate Lahey (Billy Brown), the detective character in How to Get Away with Murder, that Bridgerton has. Both men were decent, kind, and wanted to do what was right, even when they were at risk of being towed away from their morals.

I think it is true that the Bridgerton writing team might not know what to do with the Mondriches. To me, the characters seem to be plucked from a different show that, in some ways, seems way more interesting than any Bridgerton storyline. But if Rhimes and the writers got rid of the Mondriches, they would be opening themselves up to a level of criticism that I think Rhimes is adamant about tamping down. She might not say it, but I believe the criticism she has received over how she portrays Blackness bothers her. If she can use the Mondriches to quell that sentiment, then they will stay in the Ton, no matter what.

This is just my opinion, though. What do you think? Let me know below or on my latest social media post.

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