Jonesing For Bridget: Why Bridget Jones’ Diary Is Still A Classic

Based on the novel by Helen Fielding, the 2001 film adaptation of Bridget Jones’ Diary is a comic masterpiece. Twenty years after its initial release, this film holds up (almost entirely, but admittedly not completely). Let’s revisit this tale of a 32 year-old single lady living in London. It’s time for a discussion of this compelling classic!

 

What Holds Up:

 

Bridget Herself

Bridget, as played by the iconic Renee Zellwegger, gave pop culture visibility to single women in their thirties. Single people are a demographic who have been steadily growing in size over the past few decades, but in the 90s, most romantic comedies were about gamine girls in their twenties who couldn’t wait to make it to the altar. And that’s why Bridget Jones’ singleness was revolutionary! Her charming existence refuted the notion that single women over thirty were grotesque clones of Miss Havisham, the Charles Dickens character who was left at the altar and ultimately burned to death in her wedding dress twenty years later.

Bridget is no Miss Havisham. Instead, this character is aspirational and relatable in equal measures. Good old Bridge has a closeknit group of fabulous friends (including Shazzer, a bestselling feminist author!), seemingly endless stamina for socializing at night, and a cool job in publishing (an industry that was still hiring in 2001). But as abundant as her life is,it isn’t perfect. Bridget experiences the sort of challenges many single women do: she fights with her mother, dates men who aren’t good enough for her, and  feels embarrassed when her crush catches her wearing Spanx during their first hookup. Basically, Bridget is the cinematic best friend you always wanted!

 

The Moral of The Movie: 

What’s most relatable about Bridget is arguably her low self-esteem. As beautiful and charming as she is, Bridget grew up in a world that did (and still does) socialize women to hate ourselves. The movie’s inciting force occurs when Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) rejects his mother’s attempts to fix him up with Bridget at a New Year’s Day curry buffet, declaring her a “verbally incontinent spinster.” In a world where women were brought up to love ourselves, one man’s vicious insult wouldn’t sting so much, but we don’t live in such a world. So in response to Mark’s cutting judgment, Bridget vows to overhaul her life. From cutting back on smoking to finding a new boyfriend, she’s determined to change everything about herself.

Bridget ultimately finds a happy ending – and even receives the affections of Mark Darcy. However, Mark doesn’t fall in love with Bridget because she changes; instead he becomes less of a pompous ass. At a dinner party, Marc gallantly declares to our heroine, “I like you very much, just as you are.” Aw, Marc isn’t an a–hole anymore!

 

The Love Interests:

The leading men of this movie are sex personified. Hugh Grant is dashing and dirty asrakish publishing executive, Daniel Cleaver. I mean, he’s a bad boy who cheats on Bridget, but at least he likes to read! I’d argue his love of books makes this villain more appealing than the heroes in most romantic comedies. And Colin Firth as Mark Darcy? If only I could have a lock of his boyish curls to place under my pillow at night! These men are so hot, their smiles could reheat a cold cup of tea. This is an example of perfect casting!

 

What Does NOT Hold Up:

The Fatshaming:

Everyone in this movie is obsessed with our leading lady’s weight! Daniel’s lover makes snide comments about Bridget’s size when our heroine discovers her boyfriend in bed with another woman. As if that weren’t belittling enough, Bridget’s own best friend Shazzer (a freaking feminist author), insists Bridget’s life would be better if she were skinnier!  No wonder Bridget’s titular diary is mostly just calorie counting and weigh-ins. It’s clear this movie was made pre-body positivity, when the mainstream mentality dictated women could never be thin enough. If they ever remake this movie, let’s hope the new script is less obsessed with Bridget’s body size.

 

Bridget’s Work Ethic:

I care deeply about Bridget, but it pains me how she doesn’t care about her job. Partway through the film, Bridget leaves publishing to become a reporter, which is strange, because she doesn’t even read the news. We know this because, when her editor asks Bridget to cover the trial of a Turkish freedom fighter, she has no idea what the f-ck that means. The only reason she is able to cover the story at all is Marc happens to be a lawyer working on the case. Were it not for him handing Bridget an interview on a silver platter, she’d likely have been fired. I am so over depictions of professional women who don’t care about their careers! I’ve never known a woman with a high powered job like Bridget who couldn’t be bothered to do at least the bare minimum. It’s straight up sexist to portray ladies as too obsessed with their weight and their love lives to do their properly.

 

The Final Assessment:

I’ll forgive Bridget her foibles, and instead thank her for normalizing the existence of single women over thirty. As someone who didn’t meet her husband until she was thirty-one, Bridget Jones made me feel seen. All hail this romantic comedy queen!

 

Sarah Sahagian

Sarah Sahagian

Sarah Sahagian is a feminist writer based in Toronto. Her byline has appeared in such publications as Elle Canada, Flare, Bitch Media, The Toronto Star, and The National Post. She is also the co-host of You Do You: A Dating Podcast. Sarah holds a master’s degree in Gender Studies from The London School of Economics. You can find her on Twitter, where she posts about politics and live-tweets The Bachelor