HAYLEY reviews Bridget Jones's Diary of Popular Fiction
Part 1: In Awe
In the twenty-five years since Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary was released and the twenty years since the film hit the cinemas, a lot has changed in our society. Some of the most dramatic changes are perhaps as a result of the Me Too movement. The long overdue discussions on the amount of harassment and even assault that women are subject to have highlighted, thankfully, that much of the behaviour we laughed or even swooned at in the original would now be less likely to get Daniel Cleaver a date and more likely to see him swiftly enrolled on an HR course on appropriate behaviour in the workplace.
In the twenty-fifth anniversary edition of the novel, Helen Fielding says that when she went to see a screening of Bridget Jones’s Diary with her children a few years ago, she "was shocked by the casual sexism in every scene, which an unenlightened Bridget just put up with". She acknowledges that some feminists got angry about this portrayal but points out that she ‘didn’t write the novel as a sociological treatise’ and that "[i]t was reflecting a reality, not creating it." "It became widely read", she continues, "because there was recognition." But there was recognition of more than just the sexism that Bridget had to endure. In a ninety’s world, women were told they could and perhaps more accurately should have it all. However, anyone not climbing the career ladder with a baby strapped to their back was made to feel inadequate. But what if the ‘all’ we wanted included someone to rescue us from solo trips to turkey curry buffets, take us on mini-breaks and to like us very much, just as we are? Bridget made that okay too. She reassured us that we weren’t alone in feeling "like an idiot most of the time" and wanting to watch TV in our nighties instead of giving slick speeches at book launches.
The Success of Bridget Jones
Bridget Jones’s Diary did indeed become widely read and still is today. The sequels and film adaptations have been hugely successful too and there was uproar when the author killed off Mark Darcy. I personally still cling to the fact that there is no record in the book of his body being found and that therefore Fielding will bring him back in a further sequel. I cite the fact that the film of Bridget Jones’s Baby, in a deviation from the book of the same name, starts with the funeral of Daniel Cleaver who we then see in stills in the end credits - found alive and kicking. Cleaver is played by Hugh Grant who declined an offer to appear in the third film, thus necessitating a significant plot deviation from the novel, whereby Jack, a new character played by Patrick Dempsey, was brought in to play Darcy’s love rival and the other possible father of Bridget’s baby.
It is worth noting that the twenty-fifth anniversary edition is a beautiful hardback, which looks at first glance as if it has become as sophisticated, cool and aloof as Bridget longed to be. It could nestle amongst the literary fiction, with its on trend turquoise lettering on the sedate beige cover with its subtle gold embossed pattern. Then you look at it close-up and find that the gold embossed pattern is actually several large ‘mummy pants’. Bridget might have found her way from her favourite bar to the university syllabus, but she still delights in pants that make things look sleeker from a distance but show our true, beautifully down-to-earth selves once you take a closer look. In this case, I think it’s quite fair to say that you can judge a book by its cover.
Have you read or watched Bridget Jones? If so, what are your thoughts on its place in modern-day society? Look out for Part 2, Hayley's portrayal of her own day in a Bridget Jones-style diary entry.
Written by Hayley.