Following World Book Day, I thought it seemed fitting to recommend a book today, one of the classics (in my opinion) and in the light of International Women’s Day what better book to recommend than the iconic, Bridget Jones Diary by Helen Fielding.
Now, before you roll your eyes and exit out of this tab, humour me. There is a lot of eye-rolling and unimpressed laughs when Bridget is mentioned. But there shouldn’t be.
Bridget Jones Diary began as a column, started by Fielding herself, to depict the life of a singleton in London. Being too embarrassed to write about her own life – in Carrie Bradshaw mode – she instead generalised it to the life of single people in the 90s, and soon it was developed into a book.
Most people have seen the film and forgotten about the book. Though Renee Zellweger’s performance is accurate and memorable, unfortunately, a lot of the satirical aspect of the book and the jokes don’t quite translate into a film made for a wide audience.
Bridget Jones is a 32-year-old single woman who believes she is heading toward Spinster-Ville. Her quest to lose weight, stop smoking and drinking, find the dream job and man are both hilariously exaggerated and mildly relatable.
“I will not fall for any of the following: alcoholics, workaholics, commitment phobics, people with girlfriends or wives, misogynists, megalomanics, chauvists, emotional fuckwits or freeloaders, perverts.”
– Bridget Jones
It is easy to dismiss Bridget Jones, both in the book and the film, as frothy, silly, helpless and a terrible role model. In modern times, Bridget Jones Diary is associated with anti-feminist ideologies because of her obsession with men and her weight.
But, Bridget intends to be more ironic and satirical then is interpreted at times. The numerous parallels to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice only add to the layers of hilarity.
“It struck me as pretty ridiculous to be called Mr. Darcy and to stand on your own looking snooty at a party. It’s like being called Heathcliff and insisting on spending the entire evening in the garden, shouting “Cathy” and banging your head against a tree.”
– Bridget Jones
Though I have seen the movie more times than I can count, I only read the book recently and it came to me at a time when I was dreading the thought of reading and couldn’t seem to engage with any of the books purchased on my kindle.
So often, this happens at a time when I’m forcing myself to read the ‘books you must read before you die’ or something else that will display and encourage a supposed intellect.
I think people glorify the act of reading and associate it with a level of intelligence, and anything considered dim-witted or simplistic is a waste of time. But if you’re anything like me, and sometimes get bogged down by the overwhelming pressure of reading a ‘good’ book, then just pick up Bridget Jones Diary instead.
I think there is so much stigma around books loosely categorized as childish, girly, or without depth when they can really bring you great comfort and leisure. I’m tired of feeling guilty for not reading so-called classics by F. Scott Fitzgerald or James Joyce when I’d much rather get caught up in a ditsy romantic storyline. After all, reading is a hobby for leisure, and shouldn’t feel like a chore.
The problem is people who haven’t read the book or have not properly watched the film have decided what it is, without looking deeper. They think; ‘damsel in distress stuck in love triangle but will inevitably pick the nicer man and everything will be perfect’ when it is so much more than that.
Bridget has many flaws, which are vital because the book celebrated imperfection and created the new heroine, who wasn’t really a heroine at all.
It meant that women could be normal, no pressure to be powerful and strong and not necessarily weak and subjected, but just normal. Sure, her priorities don’t correlate with the modern woman’s priorities (and let’s be honest, her obsession with being below nine stone is almost laughable), but who’s to say the same won’t be the case for current culturally appropriate work for generations who succeed us.
I think we need to remember the time it was published. We can be happy about how the expectations and pressures have changed for women, but we can compare similarities also.
Bridget is selfish and self-indulgent, full of mockery and debauchery, but we must remember that this is exaggerated at times for the sake of humour because it is important to laugh at ourselves.
Bridget Jones could be interpreted as a problematic character, but she is harmlessly lovable. All her worries and problems are an exaggerated version of things that modern women still worry about. She touches on self-esteem issues, work drama, friendship, family matters, and relationships woes.
It should be noted, that she is not all that bad. She defends herself, she is a good friend and displays traits of independence and resilience.
“That is such crap. How dare you be so fraudulently flirtatious, cowardly and dysfunctional? I am not interested in emotional fuckwittage. Goodbye.”
– Bridget Jones
I think Bridget is a character who should be commemorated and celebrated, because she defined the genre of Chick-Lit, and without Helen Fielding’s character, a lot of so-called frothy novels would not have a lot of aspiration or comparison.
Believe it’s anti-feminist all you want, but I won’t hear any of it until you give it a read first.
Get it here!