“How have you
never seen Bridget Jones!?” is a question I get asked a lot, often in shrieking and accusatory tones. At that point I’m terrified to admit that I have also successfully avoided watching Notting Hill, Love Actually, and The Holiday. Let’s face it, they’re all practically the same movie.
For better or worse, the 2000s created a rather specific brand of British rom-com; one that features either Hugh Grant or Colin Firth.
Or, in . The storylines usually follow a white woman with little or no agency, desperately searching for love, and at times caught between “charming” English men who eventually have some sort of duel, or modern equivalent, in the name of “honour”. Though we’re led to believe that the women get their happily ever after, their entire existence is objectified, and seems to rely on the actions of emotionally unavailable men. Bridget Jones’s Diary’s case, both
Not having a heart of stone, however, I do sometimes succumb to films of this genre when I need a bit of a fairytale view of romance. And right now, after being locked down for aeons
with no dating life in sight, I need a lot of fairytale.
20 years after , I finally sat down and watched the film. Here’s what I thought. Bridget Jones’s Diary was originally released This film is so far from being PC
It would be foolish to expect
Bridget Jones’ Diary – written in 1996, filmed in 2001 – to match today’s standards of social conduct. But, the first five minutes of the film alone feature a horrendous joke about Auschwitz, an arse-groping uncle, and a casually racist joke about Japanese people. No one warned me about this.
The casual homophobia and fatphobia – exemplified by the repetitive use of the word ‘poof’ as an insult and all the comments about weight and “size” – are also difficult to ignore, and even more difficult not to internalise.
Diversity has come a long way in 20 years
The film makers may as well have said “people of colour don’t exist!” It’s incredible, but I can’t recall one character who wasn’t white. One thing is for sure, diversity and representation has really changed for the better in the last 20 years.
Bridget’s entire world is painfully heteronormative
I cringed so much when Bridget was invited to a friend’s dinner party, and all the guests were straight couples who looked exactly the same, only spoke about their
relationships, and chastised her for being single.
Frankly, it just made me think that Bridget needs to get better company, and I’m glad she ended up storming out! The audience are definitely with Bridget all the way here, and perhaps it might make viewers reflect on the makeup of their own social circles.
According to this film, life is over if you’re single over the age of 30 Alex Bailey/Miramax/Universal/Kobal/Shutterstock
Bridget does have
some personal aspirations, yet they’re very much centred around men, and the way she will be perceived by men if she does what she wants to do. It’s sad that her entire future is dictated by whether a man will find her attractive, with her main goal to be saved from the dreaded title of ‘spinster’.
While I recognise these fears do exist for some, I didn’t expect them to be voiced out loud, in such a plain manner. Maybe
the film (and Helen Fielding’s book) was so ahead of its time that in reflecting societal expectations as they were in the late ‘90s, early ‘00s, it highlighted their absurdity. I can imagine this reading being very liberating to the mainstream audience at the time.
So, it’s hard to tell if this film is a stroke of satirical genius in that respect, or whether it just further plays into and perpetuates these harmful stereotypes about singles over 30. I’m still not sure.
She has a terrible relationship with her body
Living in the current age of ‘body positivity’, I can’t help but think the central character has some disordered eating patterns. No one with a healthy relationship with their body would think that taking control of your life means losing 20 pounds, and obsessively tracking your weight in a diary.
The fact that this has been glamourised in the film must have reflected the attitudes towards and prevalence of diet culture at the time. Thankfully it’s a legacy that’s now being undone with more positive and intuitive movements around food and eating today.
No one in this film can flirt Alex Bailey/Miramax/Universal/Kobal/Shutterstock
“Is skirt off sick?” Daniel emails Bridget. I don’t know if this is how posh people court each other, but it is
so cringe. The entire email chain reminded me of that recorded conversation between Prince Charles and Camilla, when Prince Charles says he would live in Camilla’s knickers as a tampax. It’s so bad it’s good. Bridget has fantastic hair
After telling Bridget that he likes “her tits in that top” in that steamy email exchange, Daniel gets into a lift with her. He gropes her while another colleague is in the lift, who looks shocked and embarrassed. Rightfully so. I mean, it’s not something that would go down well in a lift in 2021 either.
Side note, Bridget’s hair looks really good in that scene – the length is perfect for her. So good, in fact, that I paused the film to book a hair appointment immediately after watching this bit. It was a welcome interlude, giving me time to process my conflicting thoughts. I was so grossed out by Daniel’s behaviour, and totally mesmerised by Bridget’s hair, which honestly sums up my thoughts for the rest of the film.
Mark Darcy is actually really mean
Sorry, but are we meant to think this guy is “The One” after he calls Bridget a “verbally incontinent spinster who smokes like a chimney, drinks like a fish, and dresses like her mother”? Is this how people won each other over back in 2001?
I know that
Bridget Jones’s Diary was loosely inspired by Pride and Prejudice, and having played Mr Darcy before, Colin Firth just teleported the exact same character into this film. If you remember from English GCSE, the OG Darcy is very cold and sanctimonious – yet, I had hoped he wouldn’t be that mean when reincarnated in the ’00s.
Admittedly, Mark does get better throughout the film (unlike Daniel who just seems to get worse), coming into his own as he finds ways to rescue Bridget in the second half (see point 3 in this list for my thoughts on Bridget’s need to be rescued, however).
Not that anyone is asking, but if I had to choose one of them, it would be Mark – only because the other option terrible. Today’s viewers surely agree that Bridget’s bar needs to be higher!
Daniel Cleaver would get #MeToo-ed in 2021 Alex Bailey/Miramax/Universal/Kobal/Shutterstock
Living through the #MeToo movement, sexual harassment in the office is definitely up for discussion today. Hence, it’s shocking to see how normalised this type of behaviour was in the film, especially because of the obvious power play. I can’t help but see Daniel’s pursuit of Bridget as predatory, despite her supposedly liking it.
I get that Daniel is meant to embody a certain type of fuckboy when compared to the likes of the prim and proper Mark Darcy, but even the fuckboys of today aren’t as physically aggressive in their pursuits. The most they’ll do is ghost you on WhatsApp, after love bombing you for weeks. I feel like (hopefully!) Bridget would have had a lot to contribute to the #MeToo conversations.
Indoor smoking is the most surreal thing to see
I remember when smoking inside was banned in 2007, but it still feels very odd seeing so much of it in every single indoor setting. Through 2021 eyes, seeing Bridget light up yet another cigarette – in restaurants, bars, at home, in bed, in the office – makes it look like she has a serious smoking problem.
Clearly, it was the norm back then. But all I could think when watching it now was, how could anyone concentrate on their work when they’re breathing in someone else’s cigarette fumes?!
The bunny outfit is everything Alex Bailey/Miramax/Universal/Kobal/Shutterstock
Seeing as Noughties fashion is coming back around, the outfits in the film seem pretty inspired, but they’re still way more Jane Norman (RIP) than Juicy Couture. That said, I was
obsessed with the bunny costume – it made me laugh a lot!
Despite the obvious juxtaposition with the other guests’ formal gowns, Bridget pulls it off because it really suits her. Goes to show that you can completely miss the dress code memo, and still brave it out and make it work!
When Daniel says “hello mummy” at the sight of Bridget’s enormous underwear
Speechless. I would be mortified if someone saw my underwear and reacted like that! I know it is meant to be a joke about her spandex, but I would have wanted the ground to swallow me up whole in that moment. I have recurring nightmares about this level of awkwardness. No one warned me that this film is
triggering. Bridget’s ability to find a journalism job is incredible – and completely unrealistic Alex Bailey/Miramax/Universal/Kobal/Shutterstock
When Bridget decides to quit her PR job, and successfully manoeuvres into broadcast journalism in the blink of an eye (with absolutely no training, may I add), my mouth hit the floor. Obviously most of the audience wouldn’t have realised how unfeasible this bit is, but as someone who works in industry, and is aware of how few jobs there are at the moment, I couldn’t help but laugh.
Ditto Bridget having a huge flat in the middle of Borough Market – unless her family are secret millionaires, it would never happen in 2021.
I didn’t expect to like or relate to Bridget as much as I do What do I and Bridget Jones have in common? I didn’t think there’d be much, but living in a patriarchal society 20 years apart, it’s fascinating to see how we both share similar hopes and fears about love and success. Ultimately, we’re both chasing similar versions of happiness.
Bridget is caricatured as somewhat pathetic, but she’s also spiky and fun, and I admire those qualities in her character. At least she can take the piss out of herself – I like to think we’d have a good laugh together!
Despite everything wrong with the film, I kinda loved it Miramax/Universal/Kobal/Shutterstock
Watching any film 20 years after it was released makes for a strange viewing, you can’t help but measure it against today’s standards. Having reflected on the chaos that is
Bridget Jones’ Diary, it feels like a documentary of the average, middle-class British woman in the 2000s.
Yes, a lot of the messaging around relationships and body image is unhealthy, and parts of the storyline are incredibly ignorant, but it also manages to retain huge amounts of humour. It’s almost a celebration of not being able to meet the unrealistic standards of society.
In a way, it feels like a Christmas film – one that’s so cozy, you keep coming back to it. It’s nostalgic, and I can totally see why people run to it whenever they need cheering up! I may or may not have
run straight to the sequel...
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