Why Bridgerton's Michaela Stirling Gender Swap Is The Ideal Romantic Twist From Page To Screen; READ

Michael Stirling's shift from the books to Michaela Stirling in the show has caused mass uproar on social media among the book fans. While creators have pleaded their case, here's our take on the major twist.

Published on Jun 28, 2024  |  11:03 PM IST |  62.6K
A still from Bridgerton Season 3 (Youtube / Netflix)
A still from Bridgerton Season 3 (Youtube / Netflix)

Disclaimer: This article contains spoilers from Bridgerton Season 3 Part 2

Dearest gentle readers, 

In a shocking turn of events, the showrunners of Bridgerton managed to do something incredibly unique. As part of a major unexpected twist in Season 3 Part 2, creators have swapped the gender of Lord Kilmartin’s cousin from Michael Stirling in the books to Michaela Stirling on the show. For the unversed, the very cousin is set to romance Francesca Bridgerton after her first husband Lord Kilmartin's demise.

To some fans, it feels almost like blasphemy: ‘How inaccurate is that from the books!’ several comments read on social media. Well no, not if adding an ‘a’ to the name sizzles their chemistry a bit more. And as Shakespeare said, “What’s in a name”, anyway.

Why Michael Stirling's swap to Michaela works for the show

Bridgerton is a show that commands inclusivity and representation. For the last three seasons they have done it with effective smoothness and without hesitation. Season 1 through 3 of the show saw regency-based show explore feminism, female sensual needs being celebrated, a diverse ecosystem of all races, people of color, and body-types, and more that is a far cry from the regency-era London. They even made gossip cool again.

This is precisely why queer romance must lead at least one of the future seasons and there’s plenty of scope. Some fans have criticized Michaela’s entry, calling it a ‘forced inclusion’, and few of them think it won’t work if Michael Stirling is not male. But I think they’re off about this. Francesca’s gay panic upon setting her eyes on Michaela for the first time says it all. 


While it would have been a herculean task for the showrunners and the writers to have a Bridgerton sibling seamlessly come out and bring in an additional queer character out of nowhere, Michaela’s entry fits the pages perfectly. The former would have looked more forced, if I may. Because, it’s only the gender that has been swapped, not the romance.

To recap Francesca’s love story so far, in the third season finale of Bridgerton it takes an important turn with the addition of Michaela Stirling. Starring as Francesca, Hannah Dodd comes back from Bath making her debut into society but without any attention on men. Her very nature earns her favor from the queen and a meeting with Lord Samadani.

However, John Stirling, the Earl of Kilmartin, played by Victor Alli, captures her fancy by showing his appreciation for quiet moments that are shared so dear to her, besides giving her a new interpretation to some sheet music. This leads them to quickly propose and marry. They decide to go back home soon and settle at John’s estate in Scotland.


While the Bridgertons are in support of this, Lady Bridgerton has had reservations regarding their understated romance. Meanwhile, Eloise joins them on their ride to Scotland. In the season 3 final episode, Francesca and Eloise meet Michaela Stirling (played by Masali Baduza), a cousin of John Stirling at Dankworth-Finch ball.

At once fascinated with Michaela, Francesca fumbles while introducing herself, and as per the netizens, rainbow sparks fly. This sets up a possibility for a future relationship between Francesca and Michaela, which may marks the first queer love story portrayed in Bridgerton.

Fans of the books have pointed out how pointless Fran’s story might feel if there would be no depiction of her struggle with infertility as in the book, if Michael’s gender is changed. However, instead of Michael supporting her through her longing of motherhood and the void of it, watching two women from the regency era navigating through their newfound feelings together would be more compelling.


This is because, entendres included, it would have the scope to mirror some present day issues of queer couples’ struggles as well. Moreover, inclusion of a queer couple in no way restricts the portrayal of Francesca's battle with infertility. The possibilities are endless, let’s just have faith in Shondaland.

ALSO READ: Bridgerton Author Julia Quinn Opens Up About Gender Swap Controversy Regarding Season 4 Of Netflix Show; DEETS

Julia Quinn said to trust the process in defense of Michaela Stirling

Julia Quinn, the creator of the Bridgerton universe recently addressed the discourse surrounding Michael Stirling's gender swap and said in a statement, “I ask that you grant me and the Shondaland team some faith as we move forward. I think we are going to end up with two stories, one on page and one on screen, and they will both be beautiful and moving.” 

Fans of the book rightly fear for John and Fran’s love story, since it might get easily overshadowed by a dominant presence of a queer theme. However, Quinn has mentioned, when she set out to write Michael Stirling in When He Was Wicked, she had to face similar challenges regarding depiction of love.

Quinn added in her statement, “switching the gender of a major character is a huge change, and so when Jess Brownell first approached me with the idea of turning Michael into Michaela for the show, I needed more information before conferring my agreement."


The author went to say that while she trusts Shondaland's vision for Bridgerton, she also wanted to be sure that the show remained true to the spirit of the book and of the characters. "Jess and I talked for a long time about it. More than once. I made it clear that it was extremely important to me that Francesca’s abiding love for John be shown on screen," she stated.

The showrunner Jess Brownell had expressed interest in incorporating more LGBTQ+ storylines. In Quinn’s novel When He Was Wicked, John’s cousin is Michael Stirling who eventually marries him after John dies tragically. As yet it is unclear how their friendship will play out on screen, Francesca and Michaela’s romance would be a welcome delight.

ALSO READ: Why Bridgerton Needs Queer Representation In Upcoming Seasons; Here's What We Think

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