This Moment In The ‘Bridgerton’ Season 3 Finale Could Solve 2024

The finale of Bridgerton Season 3 had a different sort of coming out story. Sure, we got the queerness that we – well, some of us – had been pining for. That came in the form of Benedict and, possibly, Francesca, if the Bridger-ton is to be believed. However, those moments were fleeting, and involved neither Eloise nor Cressida, causing me to put my foot in my mouth. Instead, the biggest coming out moment arose during Penelope’s speech before the ton, in which she not only revealed herself as Whistledown, but repented for lacing her past writing with acid. Demonstrating wit, humility, savvy, grace, and, most of all, bravery, she laid her soul bare for England’s most judgmental town while coming out as the most imperfect sort of writer: a disenfranchised upstart.

Throughout the show, we’ve seen Penelope struggle with feelings of inadequacy and rejection as she navigated a society which constantly overlooked her. Her writing skills, as she so elegantly described in her big speech, allowed her to reclaim some power and earn a place in society, even if without formal recognition. She could finally turn a mirror on society, catch the sun’s illuminating light, and aim its searing rays at the ton’s hypocrisy. However, Penelope’s immaturity and arrogance got the best of her: She often exacted vengeance, casting pitch black ink on her subjects’ reputations. In her speech, she admitted to seeing the fault in this, demonstrating her growth as a writer and woman. 

Penelope’s arc doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Her most venomous barbs recall gossip writers of not only Regency England but of the past two decades. Moreover, her status as a shunned outsider artist makes her relatable to a whole host of contemporary commentators who hurl cleverly phrased daggers at their enemies from behind unadorned Twitter eggs. I’m talking about Queer Twitter – or, rather, queer writers everywhere, especially those who have outgrown their hurt and realized that they can use their writing for good. Having a talent for wordsmithery and an online platform, whether official or self-appointed, can lead a bullied queer person to lash out at the world through their writing. I did it, once, when I got my first job writing for Out Magazine. I constantly wove criticism and cynicism into my writing, casting judgment on queer people and straight people alike, unaware that I was castigating the very society that had underestimated me and ostracized me throughout my adolescence. These days, I’m much tamer: I see writing as a bridge, not a battle-ax – a tool for connecting with readers via my expressed thoughts. But can I say the same for other writer-outsiders?

Gossip pamphlets, like the ones Penelope distributed throughout Mayfair, were very popular in the Regency era. They continued to run blind items about politicians and the upper class, focusing on love affairs, throughout the 19th century. Town and Country, America’s oldest general interest magazine, got its start during this gossip writing craze and remains alive and kicking today. The Daily Mail also rode this gossip writing wave, coasting all the way to the rocky shores of 2024. And while the famed Page Six of the New York Post didn’t arise until much later, it still owes its success to these early iterations of Regency gossip papers. Thus, it’s safe to say that the Penelopes of yesteryear never faced reckoning; in fact, they spawned two whole centuries of saucy, invasive, judgemental quasi-journalism. 

And what about the Penelopes of the Internet age – the Just Jareds and Perez Hiltons of the world? Actually, it’s almost insulting to Regency writers to compare them to Perez or Jared, who couldn’t write their way out of a “u up” text. And yet, the impetus of Perez’s empire – the outcast’s need to crucify those in the sun, who radiate joy – is the same. You could even draw a link between Penelope and the former staff writers of Gawker, may it rest in pieces, who spewed ire (albeit hilarious ire) at the doofuses of New York’s and L.A.’s media elite. That’s not to say that some of them haven’t deserved it, but let’s just say that if you ever had the pleasure of dating a Gawker writer circa the mid 2010s, then you’re probably in therapy now. So, have any of these bitter scribes owned up to their hurtful words? Well, Gawker is practically scrubbed from the Internet as of November 2023, so the site has encountered some sort of divine justice. As for the writers, however – and I’ll include Perez in here – I don’t think any of the Internet’s most prominent gossip writers have ever humbled themselves as powerfully as Penelope did. 

All that being said, is it safe to say that the bitter Bettys of the Internet deserve a reckoning? That’s not for me to say. What is apparent, though, is that there’s power in recognizing one’s bitterness, and that a writer can spin that hurt into something greater. Penelope, for instance, has entered a new era – one in which she can delight the masses without judging, wounding, or moralizing. She’s more responsible for her words and actions now. She’s out to create, not dissect. She’s seeing the world through a clearer, more objective lens, and making unadulterated art. And Mayfair is all the better for it.

About the author

Evan E. Lambert

Evan E. Lambert is a journalist, travel writer, and short fiction writer with bylines at Business Insider, BuzzFeed, Going, Mic, The Discoverer, Queerty, and many more. He splits his time between the U.S. and Peru and speaks fluent Spanglish.