Monday, 1 December 2014

On Bridget Jones

I've just watched the 2 Bridget Jones movies. 
And I don't get why they're so popular. Or maybe I do. Bridget Jones is 30-something, overweight, unattractive, clumsy, awkward in public, not good at speaking, constantly doing ridiculous things and embarrassing herself in front of everybody. She wears no makeup and has a horrendous taste in clothes. She drinks and smokes and swears and wears old-fashioned, huge knickers and can't ski. She makes mistakes, tumbles over things, stammers, wears clothes inappropriate for the occasion, makes a spectacle of herself everywhere, and then, when she starts working for television, does things like parachuting into a pigsty. At the start of the film, Bridget is single, but she has 2 men loving her, played by 2 of the most charming and popular actors at the time- Colin Firth and Hugh Grant. Hugh Grant's character is a douchebag, but he is a playboy of sort; and Colin Firth's character is almost perfect, handsome, kind, gentlemanly, well-to-do, Eton-educated and a human rights attorney, though he does have a few faults like he lacks spontaneity, has no gift for small talk and at parties often wears something childish given by his mother. At the end of both films, Bridget Jones gets a happy ending. 
Girls and women identify with her. Don't we all have such moments? Don't we all feel stupid and inadequate and clumsy? Don't we all plan and prepare carefully for something important only to mess things up in the end? I should identify with her. 
But I don't (which is beside the point anyway), and I have issues with Bridget Jones. Am I being anti-feminist? Am I heavily influenced by all the images of perfect, attractive, confident, successful women created by the media? Am I being so narrow-minded and cynical that I don't believe in that happy ending? Am I being harsh and judgemental and critical towards someone I should like and sympathise with? Am I leaning too much on the side of sense and lacking sensibility? 
The problem is this: I don't see anything special in Bridget Jones. Is she intelligent? Nothing shows that. An intelligent person can be shy and awkward in public but wouldn't say the things that she says (e.g when talking about a new book in the 1st film). Is she good at her job? The films say so, I don't see it anywhere. And why does a person bad at public speaking work for TV, in front of the camera, anyway? Is she deep then? Thoughtful? No sign of that. No sign of introspection or a cultivated mind. She doesn't think about anything apart from her family, the 2 men and her insecurities. Cultured? She seems to know pop culture only. Strong? Determined? Firm? No, she almost yields to the bad boy in the 2nd film if not for the sudden appearance of the prostitute, though she can get credit for leaving him then. Perceptive? Clear-sighted? She notices nothing, makes wrong judgements and assumptions and in the 2nd film falls for the bad boy again. Gentle? No, can't see that. Neat? No, her home's messy. Deft? No evidence of that. She's not good at cooking either. Sensitive? No, she can be rude (e.g scene in 2nd film, talking to some conservatives who are against charity). Kind? I don't find her unkind, but very little shows her kindness, only when she says that poor people are not necessarily lazy or when she leaves some stuff for the girls in the Thai prison in the 2nd film. A good friend? Her friends are always there for her, listening to her problems and offering advice or consolation, I haven't seen her do anything for them. Understanding? She is, when being with her father as her mother leaves him, but that's all- Bridget Jones shows nothing when being with other people, hangs up the phone while her mother is speaking, leaves her boyfriend standing on the streets, insensitively talks badly about Eton people to an Eton person... Spontaneous? More like she's messy, making no plan, having no discipline and lacking organisation. Independent? Modern? She worries all the time about becoming a spinster and imagines herself dying fat and lonely. 
She's liked for being "real", for thinking herself inadequate, for doing lots of things wrong, but does she do anything right? 
I only acknowledge 2 things. 1, she's straightforward and honest and 2, she's a good-natured person who means no harm to anybody, but then, as I've written above, Bridget Jones has no manners, notices nothing and has no sensitivity and can just hurt or annoy people that way. I expected to see some hidden quality but found nothing. 
OK, I get it. That's the point. She's an absolutely ordinary person, with nothing remarkable, nothing outstanding. Absolutely ordinary. And the idea is that a woman doesn't have to be physically attractive or very talented or excellent at work to deserve an almost perfect man. Besides, it's a comedy, you see, so everything is exaggerated for comic effects. 
All right. I'm just not convinced. I don't see any quality in Bridget Jones and don't know what Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) sees in her. And, considering how different they are, I don't think they'll be happy together. Now this is the hard part. Let me digress a bit: once I wrote about Breakfast at Tiffany's and Hors de prix. As the latter's inspired by the former, they are very similar and both have a happy ending, but the crucial difference is that the couple in Breakfast at Tiffany's spend time together and the guy understands the girl and sees underneath the strong, happy, carefree image she wants to present to the world, which makes us believe that they have found true love and can find happiness, whereas Hors de prix shows nothing that guarantees the compatibility and happiness of the couple, so I finish the film thinking that they wouldn't be together for long. Happy endings are nice, but they shouldn't feel contrived. The Apartment is another film that has a perfectly convincing happy ending, for instance. 
The intention, apparently, is to tell us women to accept who we are and love ourselves, but I'm not so sure that it works. Does it mean that, like those tumble platitudes dissected once on this blog, we should accept ourselves exactly as we are, without ever trying to be better? Does it mean that we ignore everyone and need no improvement and expect others to accept us? Concerning the ending, what if it isn't good as the filmmaker thinks? What if the women who identify with Bridget Jones dream and get disappointed and suffer for not finding Mark Darcy? This kind of film is like Pretty Woman. A fantasy. 
My dislike of these 2 Bridget Jones movies has, it should be noted, more reasons than this. The whole thing is bad, and the comedy is rarely funny. But this is enough. This is enough for people to stone me to death. 

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