Bridgerton sparks discussion about ‘mixed weight’ couples on screen – and not everyone is happy about it

The fictional romance between Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan) and Colin Bridgerton (Luke Newton) on Netflix‘s Bridgerton continues to be the talk of TV, but not all of the discussion has pleased viewers.

A recent Forbes piece about the series, penned by author and activist Virgie Tovar, has caused a stir for referring to the pairing as “mixed-weight,” putting focus on the characters’ different body types in a way some have found sexist.

Known by fans as ‘Polin,’ the duo’s romance this season has been eagerly awaited since the show first premiered in 2020, given that fans of the series (and the Julia Quinn novels that inspired the hit Netflix franchise) know that Penelope has secretly yearned to catch Colin’s eye from the beginning.

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Luke Newton and Nicola Coughlan

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As celebrated as the pair is, Tovar’s article acknowledges the problematic discussion the characters’ romantic relationship has spurred.

“For some, this romance is unsettling because it forces them to consider that humans are simply not governed by tidy, predictable rules,” Tovar writes.

“If this romance upsets you, it says more about how deeply you’ve internalised fatphobia than it says about the bodies of the actors playing Penelope and Colin.”

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The article has drawn mixed reaction, with some celebrating the discussion and others decrying terminology used therein.

Writer and critic Zoë Rose Bryant shared on X, “I find it interesting how there are countless fictional couples in film and television where the man weighs more than the woman but people didn’t start writing articles about whatever the f–k a ‘mixed-weight romance’ is until it was the other way around.”

Tovar said to CNN in a statement, “I think this conversation is really important, as difficult as it might be.”

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 Luke Newton and Nicola Coughlan attend the "Bridgerton" Season 3 launch

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“As someone who’s watched Bridgerton from Season 1, I genuinely and instantly saw myself in Penelope. That isn’t an emotion that can be contrived, and I wrote the piece from that place,” she continued.

“I think there needs to be room for both the plus-size person who didn’t see themselves reflected in Penelope and those of us who did. Neither of us is wrong. I think it’s important to hear from the people who don’t agree with me.”

Coughlan has said she was aware of the conversations being had about her plus-sized body after the first two seasons and “specifically asked for certain lines and moments to be included” in the new season, which features racy sex scenes between her character and Newton’s.

“There’s one scene where I’m very naked on camera, and that was my idea, my choice,” Coughlan added at the time. “It just felt like the biggest ‘f–k you’ to all the conversation surrounding my body; it was amazingly empowering.”

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