Bridgerton season three is for all the Parvatis who became Poo

It’s time for the side characters to shine

Climate change aside, what’s got my heart fluttering and temperatures soaring is the impending release of the highly-anticipated third season of Bridgerton. But the anticipation isn’t simply because, having read its literary counterpart, I have plenty of context to dive into, nor is it the possibility of some on-screen steaminess that its predecessors granted us. It’s Penelope’s character arc that has me excited. A wallflower taking centre stage and living the life she’s been dreaming of is the fairytale ending I have been waiting for all my life. Witnessing it on a popular mainstream show is giving me the validation I have been looking for since I was a teenager. The character arc of Penelope Featherington is the ultimate media representation for late bloomers like myself.

“These stills and promos aren’t cutting it anymore,” lamented a close friend, as we bonded over our obsession with the romantic leads of season three—Polin, AKA Penelope Featherington, and Colin Bridgerton. Penelope is the quintessential “spinster” by day, having received no marriage proposals since her debut in the English society. However, by night, she transforms into a secret gossip columnist, wielding her pen with prolific skill. Though she harbours a long-standing crush on Colin Bridgerton, the third son of the Bridgerton family, he views her only as a friend. Colin, meanwhile, grapples with finding his identity and purpose in the world.

Bridgerton season 3
Photo Credit: Bridgerton/ Instagram

While most girls reached their physical peak during puberty, I spent my teen years as the typically shy, nerdy kid. Reading books wasn’t ‘cool’ and, if you were bad at Math, you weren’t ‘smart’. So while others experienced first loves, aced at school and became part of popular cliques, I buried my head deep in Dan Brown and Jane Austen, stuck to the one or two friends who had known me for years, and cursed my bubble butt, short height and mid-sized body. Watching the long-limbed, gazelle-like women on screen further fuelled my insecurities. Even after I left the toxic school environment, the ghosts of my teenage past hovered over my adulthood.

But when promotions for Bridgerton season three dropped and I saw Penelope, I felt hope. Here’s a character that is the antithesis of what is considered beautiful and desirable by societal standards. She isn’t slender and tall with blow-dried hair and a chiselled face or considered smart or intelligent. And yet, in the confines of her room, she thrives as a writer and a voracious reader. She is knowledgeable, witty, funny and detached from the need for approval from others. She isn’t what anyone expects her to be.

Bridgerton season 3
Photo Credit: Bridgerton Netflix

For the first time in years, I saw myself on screen in a realistic way. I wasn’t just some weird kid on my own; there was a community of people the world over who felt the same way. Penelope’s season three glow-up, where she swaps her citrus-coloured gowns for pastel tones, and lets her hair loose in romantic waves, hit home, because I bloomed late too. There was no dramatic body transformation involved. I simply embraced my curls, developed a love for a good red lip, and tailored my wardrobe to suit my needs and body. And I agree with her on the aesthetic rehaul; changing my wardrobe did infuse me with a confidence I hadn’t known before.

And how could I possibly ignore her tryst with romance? We’ve all had our hearts set upon that one unavailable clown fish in the romance pool, wishing for the fantasy to come true. Penelope’s hopes for a romance with Colin are crushed repeatedly. But just when she lets that fantasy go, it comes true. Isn’t that what all the manifestation gurus keep telling us? Detach from the outcome, and what you desire will come to you. Perhaps I need to borrow a page from her playbook, and the universe will bless my drier-than-Thar prospects of romance.

So many of us have grown up being side characters, convinced that we’re never going to be the protagonists even in our own stories – the friend who gets ignored or called “cute” or “sweet”. We’ve seen our parents become Portia Featherington (Penelope’s mom), badgering us to get married, lose weight or behave differently. But if Penelope didn’t let the strictly corseted British society gaslight her into believing she was anything but extraordinary, why should we, in the 21st century, give anyone that agency?

Bridgerton season 3
Photo Credit: Bridgerton/ Instagram

Rather than lamenting about being a ‘supporting character,’ I’ve recognised its perks. You learn to read people, anticipate their needs, and even identify weaknesses, if you have a wicked streak. I cannot wait for this season to drop and watch Penelope embody her well-deserved main character energy, strut her stuff on the streets of Mayfair, get the love she deserves and be proud of her work as a writer. The latter is something I, as a career writer, struggle with more frequently than I’d like to admit. Also, how does she navigate writer’s block? I’d love to get some tips from her and learn not to let imposter syndrome eclipse my passion.

And last but not the least, Penelope, a curvy-bodied heroine, will be shown in the steamy sex scenes Bridgerton is known for (other steamy shows that’ll leave you gasping for breath), which is something I’m sure women who don’t have conventionally skinny bodies will celebrate.

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