Bridget Jones’ Diary is fat phobic and none of it has aged well
Bridget’s whole life goal is just to lose weight and get a man. Like what?!
Cult-classic Bridget Jones’s Diary is about a thirty year old woman living in an impossibly lovely flat in central London, with a relationship status which matters far more than her career, friendships or overall sense of self. Yes it’s iconic, but Christ has it aged badly.
From the outset, the movie makes it clear that Bridget’s inner world is one defined by a) men and b) shame. Her obsession with men and wallowing in female shame registers as typical romcom humour, “haha die alone and eaten by Alsatians, so funny!”. But cheap jokes aside, these tropes have stark consequences.
The movie is entirely fat phobic
The movie opens with Bridget’s self narrated soliloquy lamenting not having a man, in her “thirty-second year of being single”. Bridget is ashamed of her body as she constantly tracks her weight in her diary. She also projects a sense of guilt for her perceived “overweightness”. In reality however, weight gain and health are not mutually exclusive. Also, weight loss doesn’t equal happiness.
Bridget is a victim of internalised fatphobia. Her fixation of weight stems from the external messages for women that fatness is shameful and only thinness is worthy. It’s clear to see the negative impacts of her learned hatred of ‘fatness’. But by leaving the issue of body image unresolved, the movie is harmful.
Her upbringing is partly to blame for her fixation on male attention. Bridget endures pressure from a mother who constantly tells her the reasons why she’ll ‘never get a boyfriend’. However this internalised hatred of ‘fatness’ is harmful because it is tied to toxic desirability politics.
Five minutes into the movie, we are confronted by Bridget’s negative body image. She cries to Celine Dion’s “All By Myself”, bemoaning her fear of dying “fat and alone” and eaten by dogs. Comments like these are cheap laughs but paint a picture of shame, insecurity and inadequacy that suffocate women in many societies today.
According to Priory Group, around 75 per cent of those suffering from eating disorders in the UK are women. What’s more, consumer industries profit from women’s negative body image. These industries peddling weight loss teas and supplements rely on women thinking they are inadequate. Female inadequacy creates wealth for many industries.
Daniel Cleaver is a legitimate sex pest
The movie has aged badly for its harmful presentation of consent and lack thereof. Unfortunately, the movie normalises sexual harassment. Bridget endures the advances of a seedy, handsy uncle at Christmas. Even worse, the movie suggests that inappropriate touching is okay if it is from a handsome guy you are attracted to.
She is enamoured by her boss’ flirty emails and grabbing of her bum in a lift. This is just not okay! Bridget having visions of a wedding after her boss compliments her ‘tits’ is depressing to watch in 2020. Replace Hugh Grant in this situation with a deeply unattractive man and play that storyline out in your mind. Suddenly it feels even more unconsensual and gross, but the characters’ actions are the same – he’s just fit so he gets away with it.
Also, her love interest/boss is a piece of garbage who treats her like…well, garbage! After sleeping with her multiple times he hits Bridget with “It’s not exactly a long term relationship is it?” Nevertheless, she defines the relationship as “committed” based on minimal shows of interest. Not Bridget’s fault, just not a good example to set for women everywhere.
Eventually though, Daniel Cleaver’s no good tendencies came out. Bridget realises he cheated on his fiancé with her and rightfully ignores him for a while and quits the job! Go Bridget! But then when he comes running back after being dumped by his fiancé, she seems undecided about whether to take him back. Bridget WHY? I mean Daniel is ultimately to blame for being trash but her lack of boundaries left her vulnerable to being mistreated.
Although Bridget was naive and the relationship ended badly, it was wrong for workplace harassment to be glamourised as a thrilling dynamic. Bridget’s relationship with Daniel was always bound to be predatory and unequal due to his power position as her boss.
Mark Darcy is also VERY far from perfect
Bridget’s other love interest, widely lauded “perfect” man Mark Darcy, is terrible but in a different way. Mark Darcy is a bare minimum boy with the emotional variety of a brick. Mark is stoic and only cares about Bridget romantically when he sees her being shown male attention. Also let’s not forget that when he first meets her he rants about her in a borderline misogynistic rage behind her back, saying she’s a “verbally incontinent spinster who smokes like a chimney and drinks like a fish”. Apparently this is all undone by him simply saying he likes her “just the way you are” though, which is enough for her to consider his advances! Seriously! The bar is so low, guys. This movie did not teach us good things.
Also Mark’s “like” for Bridget is based on observing her from a distance, never engaging with her intellectually or making consistent efforts to get to know her. Until he dislikes her being with Cleaver, when suddenly he decides she’s rightfully his.
He also gets Bridget an interview scoop and wields that as a sense that she’s indebted to him. Not nice. I often wonder whether Bridget would have turned down desperate Daniel Cleaver’s second chance advance if Mark hadn’t shown an interest in her. What would her self acceptance journey look life if it wasn’t defined by these mediocre men?!
The movie’s message is harmful, it suggests that women can achieve fulfilment and confidence as long as the right man is in their life. You too can be important as long as you have male attention! These messages are wrong and the fact that the movie is jarring shows how much progress has been made for women in the 2000s. We refuse to accept the bare minimum to feel desired and we won’t normalise sexual harasment. Move over Bridget, time for more sensitive stories where our protagonists discover their worth in themselves – instead of in boring men and weight loss journeys.