What we can still learn from Bridget Jones’ diary about not being ‘perfect’
It is a universally accepted truth that Bridget Jones’s Diary is one of the greatest romantic comedies of all time.
It is the first time that I remember feeling seen on the screen.
While characters like Hermione Granger, Ellen Ripley, and Mulan were all heroic role models, Bridget always felt like a representation of the worst parts of myself, reflected in a wacky, relatable reality.
“She really felt like the first of her kind to be a bit of a hopeless mess, but it’s okay,” says Jenna Guillaume, romantic comedy writer and pop culture commentator.
“I like anything that describes women as less than perfect, less than 100% together all the time, because I think that’s not very relevant to most people.”
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the film’s release and 25 years since the release of the original Helen Fielding novel.
At the time, I was a toddler. So why do I find this so relatable?
Perhaps that’s because the film mimics a timeless female story: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
Bridget and Elizabeth’s stories center on women trying to find their place in the world.
They both face the conflict of being independent figures, but feeling pressure to get married. They navigate important societal functions like the Netherfield balloon or the launching of a book on a motorcycle. They understand the stress of dealing with relatives, friends and everything in between.
Bridget, who doesn’t know how to cook, but whom we love, as she is
In a time when thinness was and romantic comedies were directed by what Bridget would call “stick insects,” Bridget is in the grip of insecurity.
Although she is thin by today’s standards, she consistently calls herself fat, which Suzanne Ferriss, co-editor of Chick Lit: The New Woman’s Fiction, sees as a reflection of the real world.
“She is constantly weighing herself down, and it is a recognition not only of the pressures placed on women, but that they are put on themselves.”
Modern review of the film calls Bridget’s weight-obsession fatphobic, as she is, in fact, the weight of an average woman. But Ms Ferriss says that’s the idea: “Part of it is that she is perfectly fine, exactly the way she is.”
“Darcy likes her like that, her friends like her like that. In the novel, when she is on a diet and thinks she’s doing great, her friend Tom thinks she’s sick.”
Unlike other films featuring flawed or ‘ugly’ female characters, like My Big Fat Greek Wedding and The Princess Diaries, Bridget is never forced to change or undergo a ‘makeover’. .
His addictive personality never falters either. In a quest to reinvent herself, she falls off a conveyor belt, serves blue soup to her friends, and remains addicted to self-help books.
Bridget is imperfect and has the right to remain so.
As Ms. Guillaume says, “at the end [of the movie] she always runs the streets in her underwear. She’s still a mess, but she takes the guy like a mess. “
Bridget Jones – already a legend
While she may not have been the very first, Bridget was one of the first female protagonists to be a bit of a dag.
While Ms Guillaume says the trope is pretty cliché now, Bridget was a pioneer of the ‘striving to become an adult’ phenomenon, even before it was a thing.
University of Melbourne pop culture scholar Dr Lauren Rosewarne notes that “the very fact that 20 years later we still know the name of this character, and know what that character was, what he represented, means that the character has developed a status icon “.
She says Bridget’s legacy is our “acceptance of a multi-faceted female character who is there for more than just the eyes.”
This legacy can be seen more recently in shows like Broad City, Fleabag, and Chewing Gum, where imperfect female characters are celebrated.
“Historically, producers were loath to have a character that audiences might dislike or find somewhat boring. But Bridget Jones showed that a female-led script can be complicated and a female character can be very flawed but always popular, ”says Dr Rosewarne. .
Importantly, she says the popularity of the film “made it clear that there was money to be made from female-centric stories that specifically targeted female audiences.”
Is it relevant today?
Bridget Jones’s Diary has an all-white, predominantly heterosexual cast and features questionable flirting methods that wouldn’t fit in the #metoo era.
Past remakes of Pride and Prejudice have also portrayed an all-white cast, but ABC’s Beverley Wang Stop Everything! The pop culture podcast says that may change in the future.
“Whether it stays relevant in 2021 and beyond really depends on how it’s presented and the extent to which hypothetical adapters … read the current climate and adapt.”
Pride and Prejudice and Bridget Jones’ Diary are not perfect works, they are products of their time.
Romantic comedies today need to be diverse, inclusive, and body positive because that is where we are now.
But Austen and Fielding’s ideas of “ classic romantic comedies ” around finding your place, struggling to follow the world and what it means to be a woman, still hold true.
I am a 22 year old Australian living with a global pandemic. Bridget is a 32-year-old Londoner, emulating a character of 207-year-old Austen.
Last Christmas I showed the movie to my 83 year old chick, who spent the whole movie giggling her head and screaming “God damn it!” to Bridget’s stuff.
Above all, Bridget Jones’s Diary is a film about being a modern woman, no matter what era you are in.
It’s not perfect, but it’s a movie that I love. As is.
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