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Bridgerton’s Gender Swap Controversy Explained: Why Michaela Stirling is Stirring Up Fans

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Daniella Joan
Daniella Joan
Ahimbisibwe Joan specializes in all things finance, policy, business, gender and pop culture. She’s currently a senior writer at Bizmart Africa Magazine. She’s also the author of Lady Business, a newsletter about women and business on Bizmart.


Fans of Netflix’s hit show “Bridgerton” were in for a surprise in the season 3 finale when the character Michael Stirling was introduced as Michaela Stirling, a female character. This change sets the stage for a lesbian love story, which has caused a stir among fans of the original book series, prompting the series’ author to defend the decision.

Key Points

In the second half of “Bridgerton” season 3, viewers follow the relationship between Francesca Bridgerton and John Stirling, Earl of Kilmartin. In the finale, John introduces his wife to his cousin, Michaela Stirling, played by actress Masali Baduza.

For those unfamiliar with the books, this change might seem minor. However, fans of the books know that Michael Stirling and Francesca eventually fall in love after John’s early death. With this gender swap, the show is paving the way for Francesca and Michaela’s love story, which has sparked significant online debate.

Author’s Response

Julia Quinn, the author of the “Bridgerton” series, responded to the backlash by expressing her commitment to making the “Bridgerton” world more diverse and inclusive. Despite some fans’ disappointment, she believes the story of Francesca and Michaela will be the “most emotional and heart-wrenching” in the series.

Quinn thanked fans for their feedback and asked for their faith in her and the Shondaland team as they move forward with the series.


“Bridgerton,” known for its inclusivity, has featured diverse characters since its first season in 2021. The show has included LGBTQ+ relationships, with characters like Benedict Bridgerton exploring his sexuality in season 3 and male characters Brimsley and Reynolds having a romance in the spin-off “Queen Charlotte.”

Viewing Statistics

In May, fans streamed “Bridgerton” for 5.5 billion minutes, making it the most-watched show across all streaming platforms. This includes the first part of season 3, which was released on May 16, and older seasons.

Future Seasons

Netflix confirmed a fourth season of “Bridgerton” back in 2021. However, the release date and the main romantic lead for season 4 remain unknown.

Impact on Book Sales

The release of the “Bridgerton” series on Netflix has significantly boosted sales of Julia Quinn’s original books. In 2020, Quinn sold 77,541 books. After the show’s debut, that number skyrocketed to 1.6 million in 2021, 1.16 million in 2022, and 495,435 in 2023. So far in 2024, 357,493 books have been sold.


As “Bridgerton” continues to evolve, its commitment to diversity and inclusivity remains at the forefront. While some fans may struggle with changes, the show’s creators and author believe these developments will enrich the storytelling and bring new emotional depths to the beloved series.

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