Bridget Jones at 25: does she still speak to today’s singletons?
It’s been 25 years since Bridget Jones first made her way into our lives, in the form of an immensely popular newspaper column. The world might be very different now, but attitudes towards singledom haven’t really moved on in the decades since
Bursting out of her spanx and onto our screens in 2001, Bridget Jones was an unapologetic everywoman. This chardonnay-swigging, calorie-counting karaoke aficionado spoke to millions of women the world over, charming audiences with her loveable ordinariness. And yet, while her bed-hopping antics amused and entertained, there was something about Bridget that also inspired pity among viewers. Sure, fans might have compared themselves to Ms. Jones, but it was always in a tongue-in-cheek, self-deprecating way. Nobody actually wanted to be like Bridget.
Revisiting the film in 2020 - particularly as a millennial woman - this tragicomic aspect of Bridget's character is one element that doesn't quite hold up as well as it did in the early 2000s. Those of us in our mid-twenties to mid-thirties have entered adulthood in a post-financial crash world. In an era when service industry jobs attract scores of university graduates and skyrocketing rental prices have forced many of us into cramped houseshares, Bridget's London life suddenly seems aspirational, rather than pitiable.
She has her very own bachelorette pad in Borough Market, a steady career in the notoriously competitive publishing industry, and a wonderful circle of friends who actually make time to meet up and grumble over wine on a regular basis. It's a life that every millennial dreams of. Younger viewers might not see themselves in Bridget as those early 2000s audiences did. Except, perhaps, when it comes to dating.
Despite Bridget's other successes, she's defined by her single status. In a 2013 column for The Guardian, Bridget Jones creator Helen Fielding reflected on how attitudes towards singledom had changed since her novel first hit shelves.
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"Back in the mid-1990s, the way single women in their 30s were presented socially - and certainly in books and films - hadn't caught up with reality," she said. "The air of Miss Havisham and the tragic barren spinster left on the shelf was still hanging around us."
In the 2001 film, Bridget is dismissed as a "spinster" in an early interaction with love interest Mark Darcy, and is plagued by premonitions of dying fat and alone, only to be found three weeks later half-eaten by Alsatians.
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Fast-forward twenty years, and we are supposedly living in the era of the "power single". Unmarried women are no longer "spinsters", but "self-partnered". Around the world, single living is on the rise and marriage is in decline. Being single is now a lifestyle choice, as opposed to an undesirable state that we should all be desperate to escape from. At least, that's what we are told.
In reality, though, attitudes towards single women haven't really moved on since 2001. Still today, we tend to view women through the lens of their romantic partnerships. At big family gatherings - birthdays, weddings and funerals - single women will know all too well the familiar feeling of coming under the relationship microscope. Even as you regale your relatives with tales of your professional achievements and personal successes, you can see their eyes glazing over until they see an opportunity to ask the inevitable question: "so, is there anyone special in your life?"
Single or not, we all have someone special in our lives. That person is ourselves. And aren't all of our relationships - with friends, family and yes, romantic partners - special in their own wonderful ways? I certainly have someone special in my life. In fact, I'm lucky enough to have many. As did Bridget. With or without Mark Darcy.