Image Credit: United International Pictures
For as long as I can remember, I have worshipped the character Bridget Jones. When I was younger and friends would compare me to her I took it as the highest compliment you could receive. Jones, as her boss and hot headed bachelor, Daniel Cleaver, often refers to her, is endearing, lovable and awkwardly charming. From doing her make-up on public transport due to running catastrophically late to experiencing “verbal diarrhoea” in tense social situations I like to think we all see a bit of ourselves in her. So, writing this piece and addressing the problematic nature of her character feels blasphemous to me. Yet, it needs to be done.
When we first watched her on the silver screens, we were subconsciously brainwashed. Bridget was your all round typical woman in her early 30s who, shock horror, was unhappy with her weight. Within the opening 7 minutes of the first film of the franchise we discover this in a scene where she storms around the house in the new year's ritual many of us face; starting the next year on better footing. “Obviously will lose twenty pounds” she announces before rattling off numerous other flaws she will attempt to fix in her life. When first watching this the words “obviously”, “twenty” and “pounds” swirled round my head continuously, knocking into each other as they refused to fall to the back of my mind.
As our beloved Bridget makes this verbal resolution she is standing on the bathroom scales which the camera lingers on just long enough for the audience to see that she weighs 9 stone 7 pounds. The rhetoric that follows makes it clear to watchers that, for her, this is not an acceptable weight.
The admission follows the famous Christmas scene where Bridget, 32 and catastrophically single by her own admission, embarrasses herself at her parents festive party in front of future love interest Mark Darcy. He then makes those hideous comments we all despise him for when he snaps at his mother that he doesn't need a blind date with a spinster “who smokes like a chimney, drinks like a fish, and dresses like her mother”.
“And that was it. Right there. Right there. That was the moment.” explains Bridget as the set up was complete. If she wanted to avoid feeling as she did, she had to make some changes.
The party scene, of course, precedes the iconic 1 minute and 52 seconds of Bridget singing along to 'All By Myself' by Celine Dion, a television remote and bottle of white wine taking turns to substitute as her microphone. It’s relatable so we gobble it up. Those opening seven minutes were the reason we fell in love with Bridget instantaneously; we all have occasions in our mind we’d rather forget. Little did we realise it was setting up our subconscious to associate 9 stone and 7 pounds with being alone and unhappy.
Circling around Instagram recently was a post from podcaster and columnist Alex Light, that was inspired by Comedian Laura Lexx’s Twitter feed. The post highlights how, in contrast with what we were led to believe, Bridget Jones was never overweight. We were constantly told at school that our minds were like sponges, soaking up all the information we could at an early age. However, this knowledge did not always come from teachers or textbooks but from outside media influences in our life. We grew up understanding that Bridget, who was slim when we look at where she would’ve been on the BMI scale as pointed out by someone on Twitter, was overweight. If we let ourselves fall to such a horrific size then we too would know this shame of being publicly ridiculed, and according to the woman herself, “die fat and alone”. The notion is equally ridiculous and dangerous, as Alex Light points out.
The consequences of this have been astronomical and it’s only now we are starting to wake up to them. Perhaps it’s why diet teas and appetite suppressant lolly-pops were introduced to the market in the first place; companies believed that their products were desirable to consumers. It’s not a novel question but, just imagine how many companies would go out of business if women were happy with the way they looked? With girls having grown up watching Bridget Jones on screen from as early as 2001, they were being tricked into falsely understanding what sufficed as acceptable and unacceptable figures when stepping on the scales, myself included.
If, after reading this you have fallen out of love with Bridget Jones, then I apologise as that certainly wasn't my intention. What we do need to do, however, is consider why we relate to the character so much. Do we adore her as she, like many of us, doesn't have a smooth path when facing the trials and tribulations of daily life? Or, have we fallen in love with her because, in her own eyes, she is overweight?
Can we still love Bridget Jones? Of course, I know I always have and always will - if I were to steal from her monologue from the second film. But, we mustn't fall into the trap of loving her because she was overweight because firstly there is a lot more to her character than this. And secondly, and most importantly, because at 9 stone and 7 pounds; she wasn’t.