Full disclosure: This is the order in which I read the books/saw the films…
Bridget Jones’ Diary (film, 2002)
Bridget Jones’ Diary (book, 2003)
Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (book, 2o03)
Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (film, 2004)
Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy (book, 2014)
So I was lured in by the romantic comedy and wanted more from a perfectly imperfect heroine. I can’t really remember what I made of the first two books the first time round. I must have liked the first book if I went out and bought the second when it was a new release. And I vaguely remember being shocked that it would feature something so serious as Bridget being locked up in a Thai prison for drug smuggling. The film adaptation of Edge of Reason pissed me off because it was one of the first times I had a read a book before I had seen the film, and I did not appreciate the way the film made light of her time in prison, that Daniel was incorporated into the Thailand storyline and that Rebecca was gay!
Before I read Mad About the Boy, I wanted to re-read the first two books to familiarise myself with the original version of Bridget Jones, rather than the Renee Zellweger version. And I was infuriated! I don’t know if it’s because I’ve grown into quite the feminist over the last ten years, if it’s because my relationship is nothing like those depicted in Helen Fielding’s work or if I’m not actually meant to like any of these characters, but I couldn’t identify or empathise with any of the characters. The only one I marginally liked was Magda because she actually gave decent relationship advice!
With Bridget Jones’ Diary, bearing in mind that the book is nearly 20 years old now and that I don’t know what it’s like to be a 30-year-old single woman in 1990s Britain (I’m 26 and have been in a very happy relationship for the last three years, thank you very much), I was angered to read that this is probably how most people see women my age. Forget about the plot for the time being and just focus on the characters: what is there to actually like? Women who need men, can’t look after themselves, are jealous and paranoid in new relationships, go back to relationships where they’re cheated on because it’s comfortable… What’s to admire about that? I want a heroine that inspires me, not someone who only decides to further her career because she’s been shagging her boss and has to get out of her current job! And as for the relationship, Mark Darcy seems like a perfectly pleasant chap – so why does he pine for Bridget? I much preferred the film, especially the “I like you, just as you are” scene. Swoon!
As for The Edge of Reason, annoying, angsty Bridget was kicked up several notches, but the film came off far worse. In the book, her jealousy wasn’t justified (Rebecca was just a bitch), at least not until she destroyed their relationship, as Mark was 100% faithful while he and Bridget were together. The same was true of the film but for some reason the screenwriters decided to make Rebecca a lesbian and actually infatuated with Bridget rather than Mark. What the fuck?! And again with the ridiculous relationship dramas and obsessing over not being married with kids at a certain age and the differences between Smug Marrieds and Singletons. Gaaah! Does anyone actually have this problem in real life? Man up, work on your self-esteem, build the career you want. Don’t put your life on hold for a man!
And, lastly, Mad About the Boy. Given that Bridget is now 51, I’m not exactly the target market for this kind of story, but Bridget is meant to have this kind of mass appeal for women the world over. Before the book was even released, the press was all over the fact that Mark Darcy was no longer. Wasn’t he the main draw for readers and viewers alike? He was the one person who grounded Bridget and made her feel confident about herself – in the films, at least. In the first two books it felt like they spent more time apart than together and if this was real life I would doubt their ability to stay together. But to kill him off?! And when they had two young children? Harsh! But Bridget is meant to be The Single Lady and it had to end somehow. Now we get to see her navigate her way through singledom 15 years later. In a world obsessed with technology, social media and botox. And what do they do to Bridget? Turn her into a cougar!
In Mad About the Boy, Bridget is a smidgen older than my mother, so I could see the humour in her trying to master technology and the internet. And I can appreciate how hard it must be for a newly single 50-something mother. What I liked most about the book was the portrayal of different types of relationships, families and ideas of how to raise you children. I’m at a stage now where I want to ‘settle down and start a family’ (eek!) and I enjoyed seeing how Bridget battled with balancing home life with her career. I also liked the portrayal of women of a certain age in the media. The book itself is a great reflection of our attitudes to women today. I wonder how it would work as an adaptation though, as they care currently working on Bridget Jones’ Baby, which would exist somewhere between books two and three. And I’m not sure the developments of the long-running characters would translate well, especially given that Daniel is godfather to Bridget’s children!
As a fictional heroine, Bridget isn’t exactly in my top ten, but I like that reading these books made me expect more from literature. Now I know what I want and it’s not that! I want strong, confident women who are spirited and take control of their own lives. I want a heroine who is as fearless as Lisbeth Salander, as passionate as Emma Woodhouse, as intelligent as Hermione Granger, as driven as Jo March and as compassionate as Scout Finch. Got any recommendations?