20 Years Later, Does Bridget Jones’s Diary Hold Up?
Two decades later, the rom-com is still endearing despite its flaws.
I have decided, somewhat serendipitously, that if I happen to have a daughter someday, I will name her Bridget (if there is no daughter, a cat will get the name instead). There is no other name that sounds as solid. (And how cool is the nickname ‘Bridge’?)
I made this decision while re-watching Bridget Jones’s Diary in celebration of the film’s 20-year anniversary.
I won’t confirm whether this hypothetical daughter’s namesake is actually the imperfectly perfect rom-com character, or an actor I adore, because it could be either. But Bridget Jones wouldn’t be a bad person to be associated with.
For a lot of women, Miss Jones is one of the more relatable romantic comedy characters. Her job isn’t all that great, her apartment is far from glitzy, and her dates don’t always go smoothly.
She is a prime example of a “hot mess.” She doesn’t make all the right choices and occasionally screws things up. Yes, a lot of her screw-ups fall under the classic klutzy-quirky-cute trope, but she has flaws nonetheless.
She is not a passive victim of sexualization and misogyny. If she is a “tart,” she owns it.
The film’s flaws, however, aren’t so cute.
It starts out on a high note (sarcasm) with a racist comment in the first five minutes (coming from her mother), which Bridget does not condemn and even repeats later on.
Fatphobia, another form of discrimination, is a recurring theme in the movie. Renee Zellweger reportedly gained 25 pounds to play a woman who, by most standards, could be described as thin. Over the course of the movie, Bridget lists her weight in her diary, presumably to illustrate her “decline” as she begins to drink more and starts to give up on finding love.
The weight bias becomes most apparent when Bridget is basically called fat by her boss’s other lover. But in the end the ridiculous scrutiny of her perfectly average (if not below average) weight is slightly redeemed by the fact that Bridget, although “fat” by Hollywood standards circa 2001, finds love without changing herself.
Throughout the film, Bridget’s body is also subjected to constant sexualization, both at family functions and at work (I want to host a queer “Tarts and Vicars” party. Fight me.) But the way Bridget takes charge of and flaunts her sexuality is empowering. She is not a passive victim of sexualization and misogyny. If she is a “tart,” she owns it.
But the office culture at both of her jobs in the film would not fly in this #MeToo era (and it never should have been okay in the first place). Hugh Grant’s Daniel Cleaver should have been ousted for sexual harassment and having relationships at work.
He makes me shudder a bit as his arrogance and gross objectification and other inappropriate conduct is eerily reminiscent of fuckboys I’ve known.
I find him quite loveable in Love Actually, but in Bridget Jones he just disgusts me in every scene except the boat one.
Colin Firth, on the other hand, has always had a place in my heart. His character has a comforting, solid presence, that of someone you want to come home to, and he proves that in Bridget’s birthday dinner scene.
If you saw him in a lineup of my celebrity crushes, you’d probably think it was a game of “One of these things is not like the others.” There’s just such a blandness to him. At first glance, he has all the appeal of an unsalted pretzel, offset only by his endearing stumbling and his overall sweetness. As Mark Darcy, with those goofy sideburns and that unwavering gruffness, he’s not easy to like immediately, but that’s the point.
(If you know what Colin is like in real life and he’s completely different, please keep it to yourself. Let me daydream).
Darcy is the good guy, there to balance out Hugh Grant’s fuckboy, and the obvious choice for a long-term partner (although Daniel is the sexier, more dangerous one).
The plot of the two men literally fighting over Bridget adds another layer of proof to her desirability. Not only does this would-be “spinster” find love, she gets more than she bargained for with two hot men to choose from. She’s also surrounded by loving friends and has a great relationship with her father.
In the end, we can see that Bridget would be complete with or without Mr. Darcy, as she is doing well in her new job as a reporter and has the support of her friends.
While the plot doesn’t seem to scream feminism by 2021 standards, it’s clear that Bridget hasn’t succumbed to misogynistic ideals of how a woman should look and act. She does things her way, however improperly. And she’s loved for it, just as she should be.
Seeing a person who isn’t considered to be the most beautiful, poised, and successful woman in any room she enters find love (even in a fictional reality) is reassuring to me because I struggle with perfectionism. I thought someone like me (awkward, introverted, and ordinary) was so incredibly lucky to have someone like my previous partner that every tiny mistake I made felt detrimental. I wanted to be the perfect girlfriend, because as a person I never felt good enough (spoiler alert I still fucked things up).
Bridget is loved unconditionally, and knows her worth. She stands up to Daniel when it’s clear he doesn’t value her enough.
So, despite its flaws, Bridget Jones’s Diary remains on my list of comfort movies (along with When Harry Met Sally). It gives me hope that in all my messiness, I too might someday be loved “just as I am.”