It’s been about six months since Shondaland’s Bridgerton blew up on Netflix and found a home on its top 10 list, but a lot has been happening in the world of Lady Whistledown since. Season 2 is in the works, and it was scandalously revealed (very on brand for the series) that the main heartthrob of Season 1 will not be returning in Season 2, his love story having come to a happy end. Regé-Jean Page seems to be hungrily looking back on his role as the Duke of Hastings, because he weirdly just compared his time in Season 1 to a Happy Meal, and it’s not because he was such a snack to viewers.
Regé-Jean Page may be done (at least for now) with Netflix's Bridgerton, but that’s not stopping him from continuing to talk about the modernized period drama. In an interview with Variety, Page compares the show to a “happy meal, but with secret vitamins” when explaining how he wanted to portray his character as one that is appealing to women but also holds value for the men watching. Here’s what Page says exactly in his weirdly accurate analogy:
We talk a lot with Bridgerton about it being female-centric, but also, what are men looking up to? What am I doing with this icon of masculinity? What’s making this meal actually worth eating? I think of Bridgerton as a Happy Meal, but with secret vitamins put in there. It’s like a secretly healthy, organic burger.
While it’s interesting to think of Bridgerton as a fast food meal, I can kind of see where Regé-Jean Page is coming from here. Period Romances are not a new thing, and some of our most famous contributions to the Romance genre are period pieces, like Pride and Prejudice and Wuthering Heights. The love stories in these examples can get a little problematic though, especially when new generations are making an effort to break generational toxicity by focusing on accountability and mental health.
It appears as if Regé-Jean Page agrees, as in the same interview, Page expresses how these “secret vitamins” he speaks of are really his attempts to make his character of The Duke of Hastings eliminate some of the toxic masculinity we can see in some of his character’s predecessors. Here it is in the actor’s own words:
And so, in carrying the torch, we need to make some ground with it, because Simon’s an archetype that already exists. He’s Darcy. He’s Heathcliff. He’s a tall, dark, brooding, emotionally stunted man.
The Duke of Hastings certainly starts out similar to the likes of Mr. Darcy, but we do see a distinct change in Regé-Jean Page’s character. The amount of growth we see in the Duke of Hastings does seem to eliminate some of the more toxic elements of his masculinity we see in the beginning of the series, and that can sometimes crop up in the romance genre.
While Bridgerton is, of course, just a show, I can’t help but think this direct and deliberate portrayal of The Duke by Regé-Jean Page is a solid step forward in the generational shift of softening the male persona. I'm seeing more and more humanizing traits of previously emotionally stunted portrayals of men, which is really awesome, even if these traits get compared to a Happy Meal every once in a while.