Liz Tells Frank Stuff She Forgot Happened In “Bridget Jones’s Diary”

Dear Frank,

Let us continue our descent into nostalgia, shall we? Of course, when it comes to today’s topic, you probably have less nostalgia to deal with than I do.

Frank, if you’ve forgotten, Bridget Jones’s Diary is a year in the life of a slightly spacey 30-something lady, who originated in the newspaper columns of Helen Fielding. When given the opportunity to turn her columns into one of the first great examples of the chick-lit genre, Fielding riffed off the plot of Jane Austin’s the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice

Wait, Frank, because you are not a girl, you may not have watched the BBC Pride and Prejudice mini-series (which was basically the Downton Abbey of its day), so if you’ve forgotten the bare essentials of that story, here they are: Eligible, if headstrong young lady with embarrassing family gets introduced to presumably snobby gentleman, but doesn’t hook up with him — she instead ends up falling for a less reputable gentleman who misleads her into thinking what they have is for realz and breaks her heart. Then, the presumably snobby fella turns out to really like the heroine and after the snobby fella rescues the lady’s family from calamity and ruin, he and the lady totally bone have a very dignified courtship leading to a proper marriage.

And it starred Colin Firth. Ahem. More on Colin Firth in a moment.

Fielding took this basic narrative, added a lot more sex and alcohol, plus many witty observations on the difficulties of being single at a certain age, and made millions. Not to mention a pretty entertaining book!

I read and fell in love with Bridget Jones’s Diary in… God, I can’t even remember. The battered paperback I’ve moved from house to dorm room to apartment to apartment was published in 1999, so it can’t be earlier than that (unless?). But it feels like I’ve always loved this book, to be honest — that Bridget’s less-than-perfect behavior spoke to me from the very beginnings of my own awkward adolescence.

But I haven’t reread the book in probably close to a decade, which made picking it up this weekend an intense experience. For one thing, I am no longer a teenager riddled with acne, sobriety and virginity — I am, in fact, now Bridget Jones’s peer in terms of age, drinking habits and relationship status. But much in the same way that I can’t comprehend the fact that the girls in The Babysitter’s Club were THIRTEEN (Frank, how can that be!?! They ran a successful business!), being approximately the same age as Bridget Jones just feels WRONG.

Well, in Bridget’s case it feels a little less wrong. For one thing, while she is not very good at programming VCRs, I am. Or I was, anyway. That’s a thing I forgot: the 1990s. And VCRs. And how the British called VCRs “the video.” Aren’t the British cute, Frank?

Speaking of cute! Each diary entry is preceded by Bridget’s log of drinks, cigarettes and calories consumed; it’s a nice way of setting up the central dictomy of the character, specifically Bridget’s desire to better herself and the complete lack of self control which handicaps her. It’s also typically very funny, except! One huge thing I didn’t necessarily forget, but didn’t even understand at the time: Whilst Renee Zellweger, famously, put on 30 pounds to play Bridget in the films, BRIDGET JONES IS NOT FAT.

Let me say that one more time. BRIDGET JONES IS NOT FAT. Her weight fluctuates over an approximate 12 pound range over the course of the book, but that 12 pound range? 118 to 130 pounds. FOR FUCK’S SAKE. I don’t want to get all “holy shit way to fuck us ladies up, western civilization,” but FOR FUCK’S SAKE. I have spent the last TEN YEARS thinking Bridget Jones was — well, not fat, but certainly not skinny. FOR FUCK’S SAKE.

NOT. FUCKING. FAT.

I’m also now thinking about the movie, and how it took me a while, to figure out how much I disliked the movie. Which seems wrong, right? I should have loved the movie. The sole fact that Colin Firth played Mark Darcy, a character inspired by Mr. Darcy, who Colin Firth also played and in fact made iconic, should have won over my postmodern heart.

But I loved the book too much to enjoy some of the liberties taken, and while I can get behind a positive portrayal of an imperfect lady, some of the high comedy really bothered me. I mean, I am 100 percent on board with Colin Firth, NEVER DOUBT MY LOVE FOR COLIN FIRTH, FRANK, but that fight scene at the end of the movie in the snow? KILL ME. It’s dumb. I hate it.

That sound you just heard, Frank, was a hundred other ladies flipping me the bird at that last statement. I am sorry, Bridget Jones movie fans! I tell you what — let’s watch it again, with an open mind.

Reasons to maybe forgive this scene:

  • OH HAI GAIUS BALTAR.
  • And yay Shirley Henderson!
  • And everyone’s hair in this scene is really cute.
  • And I do like the bit where they all have to start singing “Happy Birthday.”

Reasons this scene should be FIRED INTO THE SUN:

  • “It’s Raining Men”? Seriously?

  • Seriously?
  • Seriously?
  • FUCK YOU.

Actually, in retrospect, 90 percent of my problems with Bridget Jones’s Diary the film may be down to terrible choices in music. Hmmm. Food for thought for later.

If I have a conclusion, it is this: I had thought that reading this book now, when I can intimately relate to the subjects it brings up, would make me love it more. But instead, it reminded me why I loved it as a teenager, when the prospect of adulthood seemed a very weird, surreal and scary thing. I saw Bridget Jones as proof that being older didn’t mean being perfect, that even if love and career and life proved to be difficult, the odds were pretty good that I’d manage to muddle through. Especially with some help from friends, vodka — and (sigh) Chaka Khan.

Love,
Liz

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About Liz Shannon Miller

Liz Shannon Miller, based in Los Angeles, is a writer for the screen and the web, her work including G4's Attack of the Show and the tech blog GigaOM. She also co-hosts the podcast Timey Wimey TV, contributes to the video curation site Here's Some Awesome, and tells her friend Frank about stuff at Liz Tells Frank.

Posted on February 21, 2012, in Books, Some Spoilers and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I absolutely LOVE the Bridget Jones’s Diary books. I remember reading them and actually laughing out loud on more than a few occasions.

    • I actually started reading “Edge of Reason” after finishing the first book this weekend, but ended up stopping. I liked it at the time, I’m pretty sure — but in 2012, something felt off, for some reason.

      Thanks for commenting!

  2. I always thought it was interesting that they got “Darcy” to play “Darcy” in the movie version. But you know what is even weirder than that? Bridget mentions Hugh Grant in her diary (in the book version, of course), and not in a very flattering light either. And then HUGH GRANT WAS IN THE MOVIE! He wasn’t playing himself, of course, as it was just a passing statement she made during one of her ramblings on, but STILL. C’mon. Gimme some twilight zone theme music here.

  3. I hear you on the poor choice in music. If I had my way someone would take Ladyhawke and redub the music on it to something more suitable than 80’s pop TV music.

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