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Bridget Jones 25 years on: why we still love her

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Bridget Jones 25 years on: why we still love her
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few years ago I was having lunch with someone, and told them I was re-reading Bridget Jones’s Diary. “God, why!?!” they scoffed.

Flustered by the put-down, I lacked the confidence to say because it’s a modern classic, a work of genius and reading it fills me with joy. Instead I muttered something along the lines of ‘um, ha, dunno’.

I felt like Bridget then, and feel a bit like her again now. (2pm. Must start piece about Bridget Jones and say something clever. 2.02pm. Will just google YouTube videos of Colin Firth. 2.36pm. Really must start piece now. 2.37pm. Ooh, my friend has sent me a funny picture of cat.)

Renée Zellweger and Colin Firth as Bridget Jones and Mark Darcy

/ Handout

Since it was first published in 1996, ‘I just AM Bridget Jones’ has been said and thought by so many women that while it may be a cliché, Bridget remains a modern everywoman.

Ostensibly the story of a 30-something London singleton trying to find a boyfriend and lose weight, Fielding perfectly captured the frantic plate-spinning lives of many young women feeling under pressure to improve their careers, find suitable partners, and be thin, beautiful and nice to everyone.

As Bridget’s quest for self-improvement regularly curdled into self-loathing, it was entirely understandable that she spent so much time getting drunk with her mates when she was meant to be writing press releases for her (‘penultimate’) boss Perpetua. Not to mention that her dogsbody role in the PR department of a book publisher left her bored out of her wits.

Unfulfilled though Bridget might have been, we fell in love with her, and the phenomenal success of the first Bridget novel led to a sequel in 1998, The Edge of Reason. That novel chronicled Bridget’s suspicions that Mark Darcy was cheating on her, alongside her mistakenly being arrested for drug trafficking in South East Asia (classic Bridget), before two further novels, Mad About The Boy (2013) and Bridget Jones’s Baby (2016), which explored her journey into motherhood.

Fans went mad after Fielding decided to kill off Mark Darcy in the third book and leave Bridget widowed — something that went unacknowledged in the film version, with Colin Firth returning to stroke Bridget’s bump in his trademark surly manner.

A canonical novel with a pair of giant knickers on the front cover

/ Picador

This year marks 25 years since Helen Fielding’s original novel was published, and Picador have brought out a lovely anniversary edition which includes some of the original Independent newspaper columns that inspired it, together with interviews with Firth and later columns on #MeToo, Brexit and Bridget’s lockdown life.

This should confirm her place in the canon, all the more so since what the world needs now more than ever is a canonical novel with a pair of giant knickers on the front cover.

The early material offers fascinating insights into how Fielding came up with Bridget’s writing style: she used ‘self’ instead of ‘I’ because, at the time, Private Eye would mock self-obsessed columnists by keeping a tally on how often they used ‘I’.

It also includes Bridget’s perfect response to the death of Princess Diana: leaving a copy of Vogue, a box of Milk Tray, an Instants lottery ticket and a packet of Silk Cut outside Kensington Palace. (‘Know she liked Vogue’, she writes.)

I re-read BJD every year and don’t feel silly about it. In fact, every time I go back to it, I’m struck by how cleverly it captures the condition of being a woman in a world still largely built for men.

All that, and it manages to make me laugh, which can’t be said for Susan Faludi’s Backlash, the ’90s zeitgeist feminist tome that Bridget pretended to Mark Darcy that she had read.

The first time I read Bridget Jones, I was 11 and too young to understand what a megalomaniac or a f***wit was. But I read it anyway, because my mum had come back from a girls’ cinema trip to see the first BJ film starring Renée Zellweger, and recounted the restaurant fight scene,  where Mark Darcy and Daniel Cleaver (a floppy-haired Hugh Grant) brawled in the street for Bridget’s love, in such minute detail that it remains one of my most formative, visceral memories.

As she cackled her way through the story, I had an epiphany: stories about romance don’t have to be soppy – they can be silly and funny. Bridget transcends generations.

The world may be different now, but all of Bridget’s urges, obsessions and anxieties have manifested in different forms. Instead of self-help books, there’s Instagram inspo. Rather than ringing 1471 to check if your beloved has tried to call, you can see when they were last on WhatsApp.

In 1995 the nation perved over Colin Firth as the original Mr Darcy in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Today we’re doing it over Regé-Jean Page as the Duke of Hastings in Bridgerton. (Although let’s face it, that particular P&P adaptation has had several rewatches since lockdown began).

One thing that has changed is that badly-behaved men don’t get away with mistreating women quite so easily. Men being terrible at relationships was always Item One on the agenda for Bridget and her friends, Jude, Shazzer and Tom on any trip to Café Rouge, and who could forget Jude’s on-off boyfriend Vile Richard, a commitment-phobe whose behaviour constantly forced her to leave board meetings and cry in the toilet?

What was observed but never questioned in the novel was the behaviour of men like Mr ‘Titspervert’ Fitzherbert and Bridget’s sleazy TV producer boss Richard Finch. Mr Fitzherbert gawped at Bridget’s bosom while asking her to do things, while Richard Finch would tell Bridget in a job interview that she wouldn’t be penalised for ‘sleeping with the boss’. Even Bridget’s affair with that other slime ball, Daniel Cleaver, suddenly looks dodgy.

There’s been a lot of discussion about how Bridget would fare in a post-MeToo landscape. Fielding has said she’s not sure if the first film, made in 2001, could even be made now. “You couldn’t write that now. The level of sexism Bridget was dealing with, the hand on the bum in so many of the scenes, [Sit Up Britain boss] Richard Finch, “Let’s have a shot of the boobs.” I mean in the end she turned round and stuck it to them but it was just part and parcel of her life. It was quite shocking for me to see how things have changed,” Fielding said on Desert Island Discs last year.

Meanwhile, nice men are finally cool – the rumour that Mark Darcy might be based on Labour leader Keir Starmer was possibly the best thing ever to happen to his image. Starmer was working as a hotshot human rights lawyer in the mid-nineties when Fielding started the columns. “It’s a rumour that’s been doing the rounds for years,” Starmer said last year, presumably secretly quite pleased, before Fielding categorically put paid to it in an interview with the Radio Times. “No, I’ve never met him”.

Early in the novel, Bridget’s pal Shazzer makes this prediction: “’We women are only vulnerable because we are a pioneer generation daring to refuse to compromise in love and relying on our own economic power. In twenty years’ time men won’t even dare start with fuckwittage because we will just laugh in their faces.’”

That may have come true now: plenty of women are independent, and have laughed in many mens’ faces. The beauty of Bridget is that she does all of that, but she’d still like a nice boyfriend, because life is still hard and no one wants to go to Una Alconbury’s turkey curry buffet on their own. As Bridget would say, ugh.

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‘Yo, I’m the star here’: girl in pink on the power of authenticity

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‘Yo, I’m the star here’: girl in red on the power of authenticity

Spring is all over the corner,” states Marie Ulven, sat tinkling away at the piano within her airy Oslo condominium. “I really want that f***ing spring electrical power.”

Amen to that. We’re talking towards the end of March as Norway, the house place of the artist identified by the lowercase moniker of girl in red, edges towards some mercifully hotter temperature. “This has been the longest winter season of my everyday living,” she sighs.

That may well very well be down to the 22-year-old’s preferred Covid hideout. In the deepest depths of wintertime, the Norwegian cash is cloaked in darkness for 18 hrs a working day — significantly gloomy during a pandemic — but it undoubtedly hasn’t been helped by coronavirus pulling the brakes on an artist who, by most metrics, appeared set for substantial issues.

Born in Horten, a smaller metropolis some 30 miles south of Oslo, Ulven’s initial launch as lady in purple was i wanna be your girlfriend in 2016, a slow-melt away Soundcloud good results that steadily racked up listens just before the hoopla started to spread considerably and wide. It now has more than 160 million streams on Spotify. A string of singles and EPs adopted, each and every one particular swelling her extremely on the net, really Gen Z fanbase.

All those early tracks were beguiling snatches of hooky, hazy, lo-fi indie, which inevitably lumped her with the “bedroom pop” genre tag (they were being all created in her bedroom, to be fair). But that was not the only label. Her lyrics about like and sexuality went straight for the emotional jugular — “I never wanna be your mate, I wanna kiss your lips”, she sang on that breakout tune, aching at a romantic relationship with a female good friend who did not come to feel the identical way — and remaining no doubt as to their queerness. Considering the fact that then, she’s frequently been known as a “queer icon” in the press, with the New York Moments headlining a 2019 report about Ulven with a recommendation that “she’s getting to be the gay musical purpose design she never had”.

Ulven has spoken at size in preceding interviews about the complexities of currently being crowned these a thing so early into her occupation, but the point that she’s captivated these proclamations, and that her music would seem to resonate so deeply within just the hearts and minds of her listeners, is an indication of the unshakeable authenticity in her music.

It’s a little something that pretty a great deal carries above into Ulven’s extended-awaited debut album, if i could make it go quiet, because of on April 30. As Ulven says, the 11-observe release “is nonetheless inherently lady in red” — there are lyrics about really like, unrequited and or else, as nicely as mental disease, none of which is dressed up in any ambiguity. On lead solitary Serotonin, she grapples with “intrusive views like reducing my fingers off/ Like leaping in entrance of a bus”, though Rue unpacks the guilt of emotion like a burden on her spouse and children although going by way of a significantly demanding period.

She doesn’t keep again when it arrives to doomed romances, both. On the next album track, Did You Arrive, she asks an unfaithful spouse that exact question. “That track is a pretty direct a single,” Ulven claims. “That’s so dope in my viewpoint. Like, entire on, ‘did you arrive?’ — I’ve never ever listened to any one say that in a music just before.” She’s not guaranteed how people today will respond when they listen to it for the initially time, but if they enjoy the bare honesty of it, then that would be an “ideal situation”, Ulven says. “That track produced me truly feel truly psyched about earning tunes, and I feel like the music that seriously excites me is the songs I want to place out. I never at any time want to make audio in which I’m like, ‘What the f*** does this even indicate?’, and I’m just singing some gibberish shit.”

It’s all about wanting at these thoughts useless in the eye, no matter whether they are the dim types or the more hopeful kind, like those people on the tune I’ll Connect with You Mine, “a huge observe about opening up to someone”. “I would say that I’m type of possessing all the things I’m sensation below,” Ulven suggests. “There’s no, like, ‘I truly feel ashamed for feeling this’. I just come to feel like I’m consistently contacting myself out on this report.”

The most important distinction below, in contrast to Ulven’s before function, is the sound — there’s a considerably richer sonic palette, a person that spans soaring ability-pop choruses, thumping R&B beats, fizzy garage rock and even a thing near to house new music. It is pretty audacious when you consider all the achievements she’s currently experienced functioning by means of all those indie-pop stylings, but for Ulven, things have moved on.

“There’s usually heading to be some folks becoming like, ‘Oh my god, make a further we fell in love in october’” — her greatest track so far, with additional than 200 million Spotify streams — “but like, obviously that is not going to materialize,” she suggests. “There’s only 1 of that tune and it’s out there.”

The new audio also ties into that idea of ownership in her audio. Ulven is the principal producer on the album, charting this new style-fluid landscape for herself, but when information broke that Finneas, Billie Eilish’s producer brother, had a hand in the studio work for Serotonin, it was his title that dominated the headlines. When I provide up how usually ladies artists, specifically the types who just take a holistic method to their audio, are overshadowed by the guys who make more compact contributions, Ulven interjects with an exasperated cry: “I KNOW!”

“That concentration just truly keeps this [idea] that, like, ‘Oh, a woman is just a rather experience, and she has a wonderful voice’. There is a thing about it that just seriously sucks, man.” When she noticed individuals providing Finneas the spotlight for Serotonin, Ulven was “like, ‘Yo, I’m the star right here, for f***’s sake. I wrote this music, I built this song’.”

She adds: “I’m so proud of how it says ‘Marie Ulven’ on all the music [credits] on the document. It’s so very important to sense that amount of ownership. So, ideally, individuals are likely to be examining the credits and be like, ‘Yo, lady in crimson wrote just about every single tune, holy crap’.”

female in crimson performs in Melbourne in 2019

/ Getty Pictures

Lovers will certainly have time to dig deep beneath the area of the record, as they’ll have to wait around until finally at the very least April 2022 for Ulven to embark on her European tour. She has “mixed feelings” about getting again on stage — “I need to have to get a personal coach or some thing and just be like, ‘You want to get me ripped since I’m basically going to participate in shows for two months straight’” — but most of all she’s fired up to “have that amount of connection with my fans” once again.

She will take a moment, and a broad grin spreads throughout confront. “You know occasionally, when you get genuinely happy and it feels like you are smiling, but on the inside of of your body? I truly feel that way when wondering about it now.”

if i could make it go tranquil is out by means of AWAL on April 30

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