I can’t bring myself to idolise Bridget Jones. Sure, I laughed a lot at the books, I respect Helen Fielding as a successful talented author, and I snuggle down to watch the film whenever it’s on TV because it’s a classic. I love cringing at Daniel Cleaver and shuddering at just how much he reminds me of some male ex-colleagues. Bridget Jones is a hilarious character, a fun piece of entertainment and yes, some bits remind me of me. That’s the appeal, there’s a bit of her in all of us. Getting things wrong, fucking up at work, wearing the wrong outfit, trying to have New Year’s Resolutions and failing, falling headfirst down a ski slope and in general: feeling like shit. She was one of the first characters to embody aspects of real modern life. She’s endearingly bad at things. Bad at feminism too, you could say. She allowed women (and men) around the world to relax their shoulders and think THANK YOU BRIDGET. Thank you for being a fuck-up. Thank you for existing on the screen, so that we feel less crap about being losers in a world of constantly praised perfection.
But, it’s a book and film. She is a character. She is not a real 3D person who is battling through real 3D problems. Most of it is overly dramatic, cinematic and far from the real world. I have nothing against her, but she is a figment of someone’s imagination. I like that she’s flawed (more flawed that most female Hollywood characters), I like that she’s ridiculous. “Come the fuck on, Bridge” is one of my favourite things to say to a friend who’s being a bit dim or vice versa. Dressing up as the wrong thing at a fancy dress party is genuinely awful – Lindsey Lohan in Mean Girls and the rest of us totally understand that too. The “didn’t get the memo” is a theme of life, but it’s also romanticised in many films. Not getting the memo can be truly painful and not just a bit of fun.
“God you are such a Bridget Jones” is a back-handed compliment. It’s way better than being a well-behaved square. Imagining using your ONE life by sticking to the rule book and being smug. No thanks. But, by god, the media love to reference her. “The modern day Bridget Jones!” “The NEW Bridget Jones”, “The NEXT Bridget Jones!” If you’re a female author who’s writing about a funny woman or a memoir about messing up, someone has probably likened your work to being “a bit like Bridget Jones!”
Bridget Jones has been included in this year’s Woman’s Hour Power List. I read this news today, the same day that Wonder Woman has been dropped from being a UN Ambassador due to complaints. Luckily there won’t be any tears from Wonder Woman because SHE’S NOT A REAL PERSON. I’m sure she’ll get over it.
I mean seriously: we have spaces available to celebrate women’s voices and we are giving these limited spaces to fictional women? I look around me and see so many empowering inspiring women making an impact. I couldn’t help but feel slightly confused at why a fictional character has a real life medal being put around her fictional neck (so to speak).
I find it quite problematic when we praise fictional women with real life accolades, even if they are written by women, because whatever happens we are setting ourselves up for a gap between real life and imaginary worlds. “You cannot be what you cannot see” is the phrase that is making the rounds and it’s true. We need to see real-life women who we could potentially be. We cannot be fictional people. We can loosely inspired by them, but they don’t exist beyond the film or the book.
In a world where we have so many women around us to inspire us, who live and breathe and walk through this messy world, I find it hard to idolise fictional characters. I find real human flaws (that I can see and feel) more inspiring.
The judges behind the Woman’s Hour List say Bridget was chosen because she “actually had impact in real women’s lives”. I can think of a thousand other women who had actual impact on real women’s lives, by you know, being an IRL woman herself.