For me, there’s nothing to kick the year off like a rewatch of Bridget Jones’s Diary, a comfort classic and guilty pleasure that perfectly encapsulates the resurgence of the ‘Frazzled English Woman.’ I’m sure you are no stranger to this stereotype, especially in light of its increase in popularity over the recent winter months. Now, I’m no apologist. Despite my love for the movie, I am very much aware that Bridget Jones’s Diary has become somewhat outdated – my friend has criticised Bridget Jones’s Diary for its poor portrayal of the modern woman, calling into question the toxic nature of Bridget’s relationships with men, and the movie’s appalling treatment of the female body. So, with the start of the new year and oncoming semester, it’s time to debate whether Bridget Jones’s Diary has aged like fine wine, or milk.
Let’s start off with some positives. What about… Bridget Jones is an icon? That’s as simple as I can put it. With humourous dependencies on alcohol, an undying love for cigarettes, and the absurd amount of chaos that follows in all aspects of her waking life, Bridget is a culmination of all the factors that make up a hot mess. Her experience is raw, honest, and it is these makings of a ‘Frazzled English Woman’ that marks Bridget Jones’s Diary as a movie resonant with the experiences of women, especially in the mid 90s where rom coms offered only false and highly romanticised narratives. For many, Bridget Jones represented what it was like to be an unmarried woman in your 30s, marking a turning point in the genre of chick flicks. What’s not to love?
… As it turns out, quite a bit actually. Yes, Bridget Jones is a realistic depiction of a modern woman. However, the treatment of her character in the film is undeniably problematic. There are numerous instances throughout the film where harsh comments are made towards Bridget’s body; this includes even Bridget herself who makes losing weight a key part of her resolutions: “lose 20 Ibs.” While it may be “realistic,” it is questionable whether such comments still stand in the modern day. Furthermore, while reinventing herself seems to be a constructive transformation for the new year, Bridget’s male counterparts in the movie never seem to get the short end of the stick. They never have to improve, despite Bridget having to for the entirety of the movie’s runtime. Instead, Mr. Darcy (Colin Firth) is portrayed as a saviour for Bridget, seeming to be the “Mr. Right” in her story. Despite engaging in multiple acts of infidelity, including cheating on Bridget (basically he acts like a bit of a man-whore), Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant) is not really shamed for any of his wrongdoings, and is instead characterised and swooned over as a sex symbol.
All this comes in direct contrast with Bridget, who is represented as the archetypal ditsy, dumb blonde. Although her messy nature is at times hilarious and relatable, it’s hard not to feel like Bridget, and therefore women in general are once again the butt of the joke, while men—particularly attractive ones—get off astonishingly easy in this movie. It is hard to say whether realism trumps representation when such problematic issues might add fuel to fire in a different, and harder conversation to be had when dissecting and watching Bridget Jones’s Diary.
In retrospect, Bridget Jones may not be the best character for us to idolise, and in this upcoming new year, I hope that if we aim to create a better version of ourselves, they are informed by our own opinions, and do not adhere to harmful societal standards. Though the film may be typical for its time, Bridget Jones’s Diary, while still enjoyable, is probably most safely consumed in moderation, and with the film’s flaws and imperfections in mind.