So at the beginning of this year, my book club chose several dense, emotionally wrenching classics to read in a row and decided after the second one that maybe we needed to take a break and read something light and fun, preferably with a film adaptation included. As a not-so-serious suggestion, I threw out Bridget Jones’ Diary, and so began the great book club over-correction of 2016. Perhaps that’s a little dramatic, but oh well.
I first read Bridget Jones’ Diary in high school, along with its sequel. It tells the story of Bridget, a 30-something in London who whines and complains about her job, her lack of love life, her friends, her parents, her weight, anything that catches her fancy. While I enjoyed the second one, I remembered not really liking the first one but couldn’t remember why. Now I do.
- Bridget is horrible. I mean, I get that she is 30-ish, single, in a dead-end job, and her life hasn’t gone the way she’d hoped, but it would be a lot easier to connect with her if she wasn’t just such a whiny, entitled, dismal person who insisted on making the same bad choices again and again.
- Her mother is awful and takes no accountability for anything, which is probably why Bridget, who is marginally better than her mother, takes so little accountability in her life.
- Neither guy option is particularly great. Daniel Clever is a louse and a cad. Mark Darcy is rude. Yes, he is OBVIOUSLY a riff on Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice (specifically the as-played-by Colin Firth Mr. Darcy in the BBC miniseries), but he is written inconsistently, and the big revelation of their negative relationship being a series of silly misunderstandings feels contrived.
- All of the supporting characters are flat caricatures of stock sidekicks, frenemies, and mean girls. Not very interesting nor very appealing. Why hang out with so many people you don’t like, Bridge?
- And finally, there is the weight issue. I won’t harp on this too much, but imagine being a relatively self-conscious 16-year-old girl reading about an unhappy 30-something who obsessively tracks her weight and berates herself for being “obese”, “disgusting”, and “gross” and seeing that said 30-something’s weight range matches her own. Doesn’t feel great as a 16-year-old or a 29-year-old.
To be fair, this book was not written for teenagers. But it hasn’t particularly aged well either. Maybe it’s because I feel like I have my life together way more than Bridget does (thus putting me into the “smug marrieds” category, perhaps). Maybe it’s because my friends who are ostensibly in Bridget’s situation (single/dating with a solid to good job and a circle of good friends) seem to be happy living their lives the way they want to. I’m sure everyone has their Bridget moments; I definitely do. But to live your entire life as a Bridget moment must be exhausting. It’s certainly exhausting to read.
Yes, Bridget Jones is the ultimate chick lit, but chick lit is supposed to be fun. For me, Bridget, at least in written form, was never really fun. (I do like the movies—all of this stuff seems mitigated in them somehow.) So sorry, Bridge. You were not the palate cleanser I, at least, needed. I think I’ll chuck you and move on to a character who has it together.