Being Bridget Jones
- Brian Donaldson
- 22 December 2020
Enjoyable documentary about 25 years of an accident-prone phenomenon called Bridget
At the beginning of Being Bridget Jones, some grainy home-movie footage of author Helen Fielding as a toddler tells its own story. Trying to gently remove a tray of warm biscuits from the oven, her grip becomes unsteady and the whole lot lands with a crash on the kitchen floor. This is the kind of 'Bridget' moment that not only shaped much of Fielding's life, but helped make her name. You could argue that the UK government is led by a male 'Bridget' (they share the same initials and have an equal talent for public displays of stupidity) but it's not easy to enjoy something quite so tragic.
After standing out from the crowd at Oxford for her no-nonsense northern demeanour (her pal Richard Curtis found this particularly engaging), Fielding would later pitch up as a local TV news journalist. A spectacularly awkward small-screen report has her standing outside a hospital awkwardly trying to string out a segment about a royal birth that was still due to happen.
But then the Bridget muse struck, and she never looked back. First it arrived in 1995 as a series of popular diary entries in The Independent (written so anonymously that even her closest pals, Tracey MacLeod and Bridget Jones' movie director Sharon Maguire, had no idea of the author's true identity). Then it became a publishing phenomenon that pretty much launched the dreadfully named 'chicklit' (as Ayesha Hazarika points out, 'you don't have dicklit'), and then there were the box-office busting films: Renée Zellweger, Hugh Grant and Colin Firth are all in this doc reflecting on the franchise's glorious if unlikely success.
But then #MeToo came along and Fielding is honest enough to note that laughing off hands patting bums in offices has had its day: her books were just in the right place in the right era. Among the talking heads quoting from the books, Germaine Greer is a lone voice suggesting how appalling it was that Bridget Jones could be taken seriously as a feminist icon, the Australian annoyed at everything from her rabid determination to be in a couple to the colour of Picador Classic's Bridget Jones' Diary: 'fucking pink!'
But perhaps it's Hugh Grant who hits the nail of Bridget Jones' phenomenal appeal on the head, particularly in this time of lockdown, isolation and shielding: 'we have a terror of dying alone and being eaten by Alsatians. We're all terrified of that. And it's coming.'
BBC Two, Tuesday 22 December, 9pm.