I’ve never understood how an actress who drunk sweet tea at rodeos in her home-state of Texas could be so in touch with me, a girl born in Rush Green hospital in Dagenham on an average Thursday. On an above average Saturday (31st Sep) I watched the third Bridget Jones film, Bridget Jones’s Baby, released sixteen years after the first one. I saw it with my mum after weeks of saying we’d book it and go. We finally got round to it, we paid the extortionate price, we went. (On a side-note I fucking hate you Odeon and your £4.75 dry arse regular popcorn, you’re a shit show and you should be ashamed of yourselves.) By the end of the film I was squeezing my mum’s hand and making sounds I don’t think I’ve ever made. I’ve since concluded that the majority of the pennies paid was worth it just to watch Renee Zellweger saunter onto the screen as Bridget Jones with a few more laugh lines but still rocking it, whatever ‘it’ was.
Cue the Daniel Cleaver: “Oh how I’ve missed you, Jones.”
Renee puts on that accent and she wanders around London streets with bad hair days and oversized coats, or even fluffy blue cardigans and no underwear, and suddenly the old photos of the first films are relics from my angsty teen years. Bridget Jones is my big sister, my crazy auntie and a part of me all in one catastrophe of a woman with cracking tits and the cosy apartment next to Borough market that I’ve always yearned for.
But, before I get knee-deep in things, I’m going to be honest. I’ve approached this article with some trepidation. It’s not meant to be a review of the film, and it’s not meant to be too political about women and real expectations either. I don’t know what I’m going for, or how on earth to start it (and technically haven’t I already started it?), or how I can possibly organise my wayward thoughts about Bridget into a correct structure. This paragraph should’ve come at the beginning, dammit, and I want to get this right… for me, not so much for you. Sorry. I’m nervous, for some reason.
I’ve read countless attempts by journalists to pinpoint exactly who Bridget Jones is and what she means to millions of women worldwide. She is a breath of fresh air, she is an anomaly, she makes mistakes (and often really fucking embarrassing ones.) She is not a pretty crier and she is not skinny. She smokes like a chimney and is terrible at public speaking. She falls for classically handsome men with doting English charm who fuck her around, literally. She probably relies too much on men for her own happiness. She fails, fails and fails again, until she is soaked to the bone outside in the rain, having locked herself out of her house. And yet she gets through it, somehow, all by herself (just a subtle reference to the song she sings in her pyjamas, glass of wine in hand.) I’ve read these articles, and these claims are true. But maybe they haven’t quite covered everything, and certainly not about what she means to me anyway.
‘I’ve met someone that makes me feel seasick. Oh what a skill to have, oh what a skill to have so many skills that make her distinctive, but they’re not mine to have, no they’re not mine…’
Kill the Director by The Wombats was the anthem of my 2008, full of ice cream in South Woodford and playing Guitar Hero until 3 AM. It was a time when I wore deep purple skinny jeans with converses, cardigans from H&M and thick eyeliner that looked shit. I yelled ‘THIS IS NO BRIDGET JONES, THIS IS NO BRIDGET-BRIDGET’ as I stomped on the slippery wooden floor of my dining room, woozy on WKD and peach vodka at my year 10 house parties. I listened to that song before I raced at swimming galas. There I was, standing behind the blocks and pushing my goggles hard into my face, praying that the adrenaline from the banging beat would help me swim faster because I hadn’t trained all that hard.
Bridget did her best for me. I won three races in eight years. Not bad for an average girl.
Not bad for an average girl? Now isn’t the time to fight my fight and say I’m not, or that Bridget isn’t either. Let’s be real – hasn’t Bridget Jones always been victorious for the average girls? What is she if she isn’t a big fuck you to the suffocating pressure and cuntish male gaze, the media and society’s expectations of women should be? She’s average because she’s not quite as picture perfect as Blake Lively but she’s still pretty. Not so much a worldie but undoubtedly a wild one, a pink blossom who grows on you overtime. She’s spontaneous and bitingly funny, if sometimes accidentally so and mostly at her expense. She isn’t afraid to make a fool of herself or to resort to drinking and drinking often, or having great sex with the same philosophy. She’s the type of woman that knows exactly what go hard or go home means but she’ll happily go home if she wants to, with or without your permission. She is constantly having to prove her worth to others, and she’s continually surprised with her achievements, even though she is always willing to try. She’ll have a go at things and pay the price later, whether it’s bad or good.
Over the years I’ve invested a lot of acceptance with myself because of Bridget Jones. Helen Fielding’s fictional character originally started as a column in The Independent the year I was born. So it felt kind of like a coming-of-age film watching Bridget Jones’s Baby at twenty-one with my mum to the right next to me, always and forever my right hand (wo)man. The final supper with Jesus vibes.
I smile and reminisce at the things Bridget has said over the years, like the time she walked into a posh barrister’s office in The Edge of Reason announcing “I love you and I always have and I always will” only to realise that the man was not her intended Mark Darcy, but a near 80-year-old man. “I do not love you and I never have and I never will” she says frankly, and makes her leave. Ah, that’s my girl, I think, and that’s the type of girl I want to be.
But what am I now? Sophie: scruffy, sometimes loud, I say all the wrong things at the wrong time. I’ve made the Hermione hurricane of bad wardrobe choices. I’ve fallen head first in mud in front of hundreds of onlookers. I offered a biscuit to a man on the hard shoulder of the motorway, the same guy who actually crashed into (and destroyed) my car, just because I didn’t know what else to do.
Am I Bridget Jones, the real life millennial version, trying to get my shit together? I’ve dressed up as her on two occasions, once for a fancy dress party and the other for a university drama performance. Both times I wore a red jumper with snowman knitted onto it and a sleeping mask with the letters ‘FUCK OFF’ embellished into the satin. A mediocre attempt, really. But like Bridget, I’m not bad for an average girl. As it turns out, I like being an average girl. I find there’s a sweetness to Bridget’s trial and error take on life, and hope in knowing that she’ll get there in the end. I’d like to think the same about me. No more New Year’s resolutions.
Now Bridget Jones has ascended into our culture so firmly that she is referred to in conversations and songs like she was an old treasured friend or a dear sister. And it’s because we aspire to have her spice, her openness to fucking up, her ruthless honesty and maybe her dashing Mark Darcy in a reindeer jumper. Whatever it is, the average girl has turned out to be the desired woman, and she is slaying at her average life.
So this is an ode to you Renee and most of all to you, Bridget Jones. Thank you.
© Sophie Grace Hollis 2019. All rights reserved.