Sunday Times: Why I think Bridget Jones is pants

Alcohol units: who’s counting? Cigarettes: which kind? Calories consumed: who cares?

I hated Bridget Jones the moment I saw her. My mother took me to see the first film in 2001. I was so appalled, I asked to leave. Who was this neurotic bore who spent her life pining after men? Why should I care about her and her fat-shaming? “You’ll get it when you’re older,” my mother said. Fifteen years later, with Bridget and her baby arriving on screen, I’m the same age as Bridget was originally, and I still don’t get it.

If forced, I can sit through an episode of Sex and the City for the portmanteaus and the clothes. SATC gave us brunch, frenemies and tutus. What did Bridget ever give us? Except another Hugh Grant film.

There is nothing attractive or fun about Bridget. She is boring, she is awkward, she is always uncomfortable (and always in the most predictable of ways). She never capitalises on her goofiness so it seems charming. Bridget seems incapable of styling it out or embracing her imperfections as her USP, as Zooey Deschanel or, better, Amy Schumer might. Instead she slobs around desperate for someone to marry her, adamant someone should commit to loving her for ever, when at thirtysomething she can’t love herself.

There is nothing sassy, witty or outrageous about Bridget. She is only interested in three things: dieting, dating and moaning about both. If she has any kind of hobby it is self-loathing. She’s strangely beset by a constant anxiety that she will end up fat, drunk and alone: which sounds like my idea of a good night out. In the new Bridget film, all 15 years has given her is an interest in babies. What else! She is a woman, after all.

Bridget hates her body. She’s endlessly self-disgusted, although I actually think she looks pretty good. If she had emerged in 2016, she would be a plus-sized model: a blonde Ashley Graham. Instead she’s a binge eater with a fat-shaming complex.

Bridget acts like a child, but not in a carefree or playful way, just one that is infantilising: too ditzy to cook, too dippy to stand up to her parents or the man who slaps her ass and pretends he’s her uncle. Bridget is no pioneer of #everydaysexism.

For all her complaining, Bridget bagged a job most media graduates would kill for. In the first two films she is a TV presenter. Although, unlike Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada, Bridget was never allowed to grow fully into her media role. This seems especially cruel given she was written by Helen Fielding, now a famous, successful author. Even though in the third film Bridget has climbed the career ladder to become a hotshot TV producer, she’s still an incompetent one. Not that it matters because, however well she does in her career, she’ll never see herself as a success. Her idea of making it is a nuclear family. Silly me, I thought it was owning your own flat and a Vivienne Westwood dress.

I gather that when she was born, in the mid 1990s, Bridget Jones was supposed to represent a new kind of woman: independent and single. But Bridget only ever seemed to see the downside of this. She lived like a teenager, but she didn’t enjoy it. Although she could somehow afford her own London flat, why didn’t she relish the freedom? Why didn’t she fill it with fairy lights, subscribe to The New Yorker and drink piña coladas in the bath? Unmarried, unencumbered by a mortgage or a baby, she could have been spending summers in Ibiza and weekends falling out of clubs. Instead she moped around crying into tubs of Ben & Jerry’s — an only occasionally worthwhile pursuit.

If Bridget wanted a shag, why not just go clubbing? Or speed dating? But then Bridget doesn’t want sex. This is a woman who buys into slut-shaming and expects every one-night stand to lead to a ring. Why not just enjoy a fling with Daniel Cleaver? After all, who would want to date this narcissist? But then this is the worst thing of all about Bridget: that, given her raison d’être is finding a man, she has the most appalling taste. Having married Mr Darcy, aka the Most Boring Man Alive, in the new film, her love interest is Patrick Dempsey playing another damp squib.

One could write Bridget off as outdated. Forgive her, she was born in 1995 before SATC, before Broad City, before Girls. Except that is why she makes so little sense. This was the era of peak ladette, when Zoë Ball and Dani Behr were in full beer-drinking, miniskirt-wearing party mode. When Kate Moss’s posse ruled Primrose Hill.

Perhaps I am too unkind about Bridget. I suppose I should find her endearing. But I don’t. I feel sorry for her and how we’re invited to laugh at how hopeless she is. The joke is always at her expense.

Available: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/why-i-think-bridget-jones-is-pants-d3j6wfpsd

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