It’s hard to believe that the very first Bridget Jones film came out in 2001. From the outset, poor Bridget was harassed for not progressing the ways in which our suffragists and suffragettes had hoped for. Bridget was obsessed with her weight and obsessed with wanting a man, usually one that was ‘bad’ for her.
She couldn’t make a speech, or soup and she didn’t know what El Nino was. She couldn’t do much of anything. Which is certainly problematic in a big-budget heroine, but as dim-witted as she was portrayed to be, at least Bridget never took it all that seriously. Unlike her contemporaries like the Carrie Bradshaws or the more recent incarnations on Girls, Bridget was likeable because she was a bit clueless but took it in her stride.
Now back as a 43-year-old with an impressive job as a producer on a hard news show and a favourite godmother to all her friends’ kids, Bridget is still a portrayed as a fumbling twit but also still a very funny one. Forced to partake in a Glastonbury styled festival, she shags Patrick Dempsy (playing an online entrepreneur who knows the algorithm to soul mates but doesn’t know how to create a more palatable website) and later, a conveniently single Colin Firth. Then shock horror, she finds herself pregnant – to one of them.
The absurdity of finding out who the daddy is evolves into slapstick that is nonsensical at times, though it is revived by the addition of Emma Thompson as Bridget’s brash doctor and ally. Thompson also co-wrote the screenplay alongside Helen Fielding, which could explain the better jokes and better Bridget. For the most part the film is enjoyable and harks back to the first one where Bridget has complete agency and our empathy throughout – and we even get to see a more sensitive side to ol’ tightpants, Mark Darcy.
My main beef with Bridget is the ending (obvious spoiler alert). Oh the ending. Bridget is fired from her awesome job, finally gets Darcy and we end with her at her wedding – the happy, unemployed, smug bride. Why couldn’t she have found another fabulous job just before the big day? Or even better, why couldn’t she and Darcy have decided to reject the patriarchal societal pressure of institutionalised marriage and decide to just be partners? Raising mini-Darcy on the idea that marriage came about as a way to gain property and enslave both parties to some capitalist ideology? Or why couldn’t the ending find Bridge, Darcy and McDreamy living in some happy polyamorous love triangle, raising mini-Darcy in some poncy hipster East London dwelling and owning a cereal café? Because life should not have to end or begin on your wedding day.
I understand that it was Bridget’s desire during the entire series to marry and that marriage is the staple for most rom-coms – if not all. That perhaps is my real boeuf with her. These rom-com conventions play on outdated fairytales in which the only route to happiness is down the aisle (preferably with someone you just met).
If we look to rom-coms where the focus is on the male protagonist, however, there is a big difference. Yes they want the heroine, but they are not obsessed with the idea. I adore Richard Curtis (despite his rather inexcusable need to keep all his characters vanilla white) and if we were to go off Notting Hill or Love, Actually, the male characters were not preoccupied with the idea of love. They just kinda fell into it. Julia Roberts just happened to walk into Hugh Grant’s shop and the Flopsy one was all over her. Colin Firth left his cheating wife for the life of a solitary sad writer and accidentally fell for his cleaning lady, Aurélia. Finding a soul mate and ending up in a marriage was not the defining characteristic of either protagonist – unlike poor Bridget. They just happened to get into it, like most people do in life.
Perhaps one day we will get a mainstream rom-com that answers our prayers – one in which a fabulous woman is going about her fabulous business and accidentally falls for some fabulous dashing man and they don’t have a wedding. They just have fun and are fabulous together.