Miss Jones and I: How a Rom-Com Sets the Tone for My New Year

I have been struggling for awhile to figure out what would be my first blog of 2018, especially as I proved a complete failure at maintaining a consistent writing schedule in 2017 — my profuse apologies in disappointing my hearty readership of two people!

In all sincerity, this blog has, as I’ve stated before, only ever been about practice with the added pressure of putting my words out in a format that is 100% accessible to the public. I also find it hilarious that my last post was my “God I hated Pirates 5” rant. This was not at all intentional: I wasn’t so bereft from my disappointment that I quit blogging altogether. On the contrary, I had many plans that just never came to fruition due to the hectic chaos that was the backend of my 2017.

Now we’ve arrived at 2018 and one of the items on my seemingly never-ending resolutions is to make this blog (which was started FIVE YEARS AGO! Crimeny!) a part of my weekly routine once more. So, now that this is out in the void, I’m counting on all two of you to hold me to it! Weekly spoutings of media-related content will be barrelling your way in 2018…

…my apologies in advance.

That said, how to kick off 2018? There were many topics I considered, before landing on something, well…benign, personal, and not particularly life-changing. I don’t need to tell anyone reading this that 2017 saw a massive amount of change within the entertainment industry that is absolutely necessary and overdue. While I could and will add to the growing dialogue, I wanted to start off the year with joy. Simple joy from a silly New Years tradition I have with one of my favorite films: Bridget Jones’s Diary. 

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The film is an adaptation of the 1996 book of the same name, written by Helen Fielding. Origianlly based off of newspaper columns she wrote in the Independent, the book was a smash hit, and has sold over 15 million copies worldwide. There are three sequels to the book, all of which have also been financial successes, as well as was adapted into three feature films. The first book was inspired by and written as a contemporary adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudiceand anyone who watches or reads Bridget Jones’s Diary can immediately draw parallels between the two works. For goodness sake, the primary love interest in both is named Mr. Darcy WHICH COLIN FIRTH HAS BOTH PLAYED!

Pride and Prejudice is without a doubt Austen’s most popular work, evidenced alone by the over 20 film/television adaptations. The story is a classic “will-they, won’t they” love story between initial enemies that has since developed into a trope that audiences love to eat up. Be it Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen yelling out confessions of love in the rain, or Lily James slaughtering zombies in Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016), the same basic romance story has remained a timeless arc that we will willingly watch again and again.

Every New Years Day, I watch Bridget Jones’s Diary, a favorite of mine that seems to fit well with the typical New Years notion of self-improvement and resolve that accompanies the holiday. Plus, having watched the film from when I was very young, I have watched in astonishment as my life has increasingly grown to mirror Bridget’s in all of its chaotic, awkward glory. Being in 2018 watching a film from 2001…based on a 1996 book…based on a 205 year-old book is a fascinating study in the staying power of a text. So what is it specifically about the character of Ms. Jones and her many shenanigans that has successfully continued to speak to a generation beyond their intended audience? Personally, I find solace in its many relatable sentiments and life lessons that make me feel refreshed and ready to face a new year, 10 fantastic instances of which I would like to break down here.


Light spoiler warning because if you haven’t seen this movie by now, I mandate that you stop reading here and watch it. It’s on Netflix, so there is pretty much no excuse. So go. 

…GO! I mean it!

1.  A commitment to self-improvement

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What better way to begin a New Years post than by talking about the titular diary itself? Beginning January 1st, Bridget Jones (Renee Zellweger) begins a diary and within it, details several resolutions, including losing weight, cutting down on drinking and smoking, finding a decent man, and finally, maintaining consistant journaling. The film follows a year in her life from one new year to the next, and in that span of time, she actually accomplishes each of her resolutions. The path she takes to get there certainly deviates from anything she would have ever expected, but that’s life. Despite unexpected twists, there will always remain an underlying motivation moving you towards the never-ending goal of self-improvement, and Bridget’s demonstration of this is one of my favorite things about her.

2. Embrace your quirks

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Bridget makes awkwardness look like an art. From sliding down a firepole right into a camera lens, preparing a meal of blue soup, or being “an appalling bad public speaker,” her character gives an endless amount of cringe-worthy moments that make one go, “Same.”

But Bridget never tries to change this. On her list of resolutions, never does she try to change who she inherently is. Part of the reason, I acknowledge, is for the sake of the story; Who wants to watch a story about an extraordinary woman ultimately becoming conventional? Plus, her constant failure in trying to be perceived as alluring, mysterious, academic, and serious is both hilarious and endearing.

2. Friends can be just as impactful as family

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Bridget is widely misunderstood by those around her, but one constant in her life is her close-knit friend group. Among them is the foul-mouthed, straightforward journalist Sharon (Sally Phillips), the gay 80s one-hit wonder Tom (James Callis), and Jude, the woman introduced crying in a bathroom, which is incredibly appropriate, as actress Shirley Henderson has also played Moaning Myrtle in the Harry Potter franchise. While mostly serving the purpose of Bridget’s confidants, they are there for her during all of her key times of crisis, and often prove themselves more helpful to her than her actual blood relatives.

Whenever I watch the scenes depicting their friendship, I always think of the people I consider within my circle of friends and think of all the ways in which they serve a similar purpose in my life.  It always helps me reflect on the importance of friendship and helps me value them all the more.

3. Be ready for life to fall apart at any moment

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There is a brilliant line in Bridget’s narration that pretty much embodies the entirety of my human existence:

BRIDGET: It is a truth universally acknowledged that when one part of your life starts going okay, another falls spectacularly to pieces.

This line is spoken when Bridget begins a relationship with the man of her dreams, Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant), just as her parents’ marriage is revealed to be falling apart, but encompasses many events in the film: Though Bridget successfully changes her career, she suddenly finds herself single. When her parents finally get back together, it is revealed that her new love interest, Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) is about to move to America with his fiancee.

I think about that quote often as a bit of a reminder to never get too comfortable with success or fortune. At any moment, not only can it be taken away, but also a different part of your life can begin to disintegrate. Though this might sound incredibly pessimistic, I prefer to see it as a recentering of expectations; When the proverbial rug is pulled out from under me in a moment of celebration, it doesn’t feel quite so disorienting.

5. Don’t be afraid to wallow in self-pity as long as it’s fleeting

In several key instances, Bridget experiences the aforementioned “proverbial rug” being pulled from under her, and goes back home to her flat to lick her wounds and wallow in her sadness for a bit. The first time is perhaps my favorite scene in the movie, which occurs under the title credits as Bridget is chain smoking in her pajamas drinking profusely, watching Frasier, and lip syncing to “All By Myself.”

Another happens when Bridget discovers that Daniel has been carrying on an affair with her while engaged to someone else. Though spending a deal of time mourning her broken heart, she slowly recovers, proudly announcing in her narration, “Instead, I choose vodka. And Chaka Khan.” She throws away all anti-feminist self-help books, pours her liquor down the drain and hits the gym.

The “getting your life together” montage is a typical rom-com trope, but I love that there are several of these within one film. It paints a realistic image of a modern person dealing with very real issues. Life will deliver setbacks that leave you right where you started, moving several steps backward instead of forward. But Bridget not only never succumbs to failure, she also allows herself a grieving period. This is paramount, as most stories push the idea of never standing down and never letting your opposition see you hurt. Bridget Jones’s Diary expresses a notion that counters this idea: Cry, scrape mold off the months-old cheese in your fridge, drink yourself into a stupor. Let yourself mourn the hurt you feel…only as long as you can pull yourself out of it and emerge stronger than before. And Bridget does exactly that.

6. Stand up for yourself

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Bridget’s giant metaphorical middle finger to Daniel when she quits her job and tells him off in front of the entire office is so emotionally satisfying. This is another example of her rising stronger from a moment of self-pity. Even though she later relapses, allowing Daniel the opportunity to apologize and even somewhat defending him, she is unafraid to strike back in vengeance when she’s been unfairly wronged. Once again, this simulataneously paints her as a realistic character with weaknesses, yet also as an ideal of what we want to say to the people who have hurt us. Overall, it emphasizes the importance of standing up for yourself despite adversity.

7. Just because you are perceived as being a clown doesn’t mean you always are

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BRIDGET: Every time I see you, you seem to go out of your way to make me feel like a complete idiot. And you really needn’t bother. I already feel like an idiot most of the time anyway.

I cannot tell you how much I relate to this quote. Much like Bridget, I prefer to face every situation with humor. I find that humor is the quickest way to make someone warm up to you and is an easy way to diffuse conflict. However, one of the downfalls of this method I’ve found is that people expect you to always be “on.” Since you will take the prattfalls or willingly be the butt of the joke, others won’t quite know when to take you seriously. When this miscommunication occurs, it often leaves the “clown” feeling used, under-appreciated, or taken for granted.

This quote speaks to me deeply, because in these moments of hurt, it is easy to feel that your only social role is to be the clown in every social setting. Once again, Bridget serves as an ideal when she fights back against this stereotype. She might not always be successful, and this failure leads to the movie’s best instances of humor, but the fact that she’s trying to change her image makes others take her seriously. In fact, in response to this line of dialogue, Mark replies (in an incredibly swoon-worthy way), “I don’t think you’re an idiot at all. I mean, there are elements of the ridiculous about you, […but] I like you very much. Just as you are.” She is capable of being taken seriously, and her fight to get there does not go unnoticed by those around her.

8. Sometimes it just takes time

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Coming from Welcome to Single-ville over here, this is another great message I take to heart. Bridget is in her 30s and still hasn’t landed a man. Though the older members of her family perceive this as a shortcoming and add to the pressure she feels to find the “perfect guy,” every failure, every second spent alone leads up to her ending up with Mark Darcy.

When you’re living the not-so-sparkly bits of life, it is easy to feel like you’re stuck in a rut, waiting for life to improve, waiting for the next chapter to begin. As you might know from previous posts, my own love life has been one false-start after another. Seemingly just as soon as a new relationship comes my way, it is just swiftly disappates. But this makes me no different than anyone else; Every single relationship is a failure until the day one lasts. Even then, permanence is never promised. So even though she’s fictional, Bridget is representative of the reminder that finding a relationship that sticks and gives you that undeniably good warm, fuzzy feeling takes time to find. So chill out, self. You’ll get your Mark Darcy. And he will deliver you a brand new diary and kiss you in the snow.

…maybe. I won’t keep my expectations too high on that one!

9. Seek the one you love

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I went through several revistions of this header. “Pursue the one you love,” “chase the one you love,” “go after the one you love…” All of them sounded vaguely threatening, so I went with the most neutral option: Seek. 

When Bridget wants something, she chases it with every ounce of her passion. By the end of the film, her foremost want is Mark Darcy, who has been reappearing consistently during her year of self-discovery, moving from hated enemy to the object of her affection. Once she finally realizes that she loves him, it’s all but too late until he makes THE MOST ROMANTIC GESTURE EVER and flies back from America to “kiss her goodbye.”

S W O O N  C I T Y.  

Mark’s intention is to start a relationship with Bridget, and when she excuses herself briefly, he comes across some early entries in her diary detailing how much she once despised him. He leaves in a rush, and once Bridget realizes what’s happened, what does she do? Try calling him? Writing him a letter explaining everything? No. She literally runs out in the cold of a London winter her underwear. She would have gone barefoot were it not for the snow on the ground. She is undeterred by her appearance–love is on the line and now that it’s hers, she is not about to let something so frivolous ruin it. She literally chases down love.

I so admire this, not only in the literal pursuit of love, but just pursuing what you want in general, which leads me to my final point…

10. Live with yourself in mind first and foremost

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Bridget only gets what she wants when she stops living for others and takes charge of her life. She defies her family, her boss, and society in general, making her own path rather than the one carved out for her by others. The moment that she starts putting herself first is when she starts to see real change.

Going into 2018 in a world scarred by natural disasters, man-made disasters, the looming threat of war and division, the unsettled embers marking impending extreme social change, and mass uncertainty,  I cannot think of a better sentiment to begin a new year with. Life is short and happiness all too fleeting. Though at the surface these reminders feel frivolous and self-oriented, I believe that if more people resolve to live their life in the puruit of happiness, love, and fulfillment without regard for failure or personal appearances, the only outcome could ever be goodness and the spread of goodness.

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So that’s why I watch Bridget Jones’s Diary every New Years Day. A fluffy, silly rom-com whose humor, realistic depictions of contemporary feminity, and general messages promoting goodness set a hopeful tone for a new year.

Until next week, my people. Let’s see if I can take Bridget’s example and actually make this resolution a reality!

All gifs from giphygiphy.

 

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