A British journalist in her 30s, who was terribly broke began an anonymous column in a newspaper in order to fund her yet to be written book – the column was a humourous piece that had the 30 something woman, her trials and tribulations, her life, friends – a mirror to life of modern England that quickly became popular. The protagonist is indeed Bridget Jones, who went on to catch the imagination of millions of women across the globe.
“I really thought I was writing to pay the mortgage. While I was writing the column, I was on the political desk of the Independent Newspaper. I felt it would look silly. So, I didn’t tell anyone it’s me. After six weeks people began liking it and praising it. Being shallow as a peddle, I began to reveal it's me and started to boast,” shares Helen Fielding, the author of ‘Bridget Jones Diary’, followed by other books in the series, ‘The Edge of Reason’, ‘Mad About the Boy’. The books went on to become bestsellers and Bridget Jones, the character was included in the BBC’s Woman’s Hour as one of the seven women who had the most influence on British female culture in 2016.
The film series based on the book with Renee Zellweger, Hugh Grant and Colin Firth enjoyed success. Commenting on why Bridget is so popular across cultures, she says, “Initially it seemed unlike she will translate to other cultures. But I am amazed how readers from all over, especially India, took to her.
It probably has got to do with the commonality of women in terms of situations, frustrations and fears and how they impact each other with humour. With so much pressure to Helen’s books are sprinkled with quotes and lines that have stood the test of the time. The wry British humour which one finds in ample measure too made its way into the hearts of people.
Expressions like “Smug Marriage’’, ‘‘Singleton’’ and quotes like ‘‘Dating is like a war, planning strategies and analysing opposition’’ and ‘‘No 1 dating rule – Do not text when drunk’’ continue to be relevant.
“Smug marriage was the expression coined by one of my friends. In the 30s it was like a domino effect when every one of your friends ended up in marriage. Bridget clearly reflects the trend in society. Otherwise, so many wouldn’t have bought the book. I think the society was full of oppressive stereotypes about women.
Single women in her 30s and not married did not have an identity which was embarrassing and ridiculous.” She adds, “The way women are shown in movies is oppressive too, a 75-year-old actor is shown making out with a woman in her 20s, but one cannot turn it the other way around. That needs addressing. Fiction and movies are an effective mean of changing the views of society that are often misinterpreted.”
Speaking at the recently concluded Jaipur Literature Festival, Helen Fielding acknowledges Jane Austen as her inspiration. She quips, “I stole her plot considering that it was market researched over a couple of centuries. I thought she wouldn’t mind since she is no more.”
Bridget Jones has grown to be different with each book, however, the essential traits have always been there. “In fact, in one of the books, I made her use Twitter, and to get it right I was on Twitter for a few weeks. If Bridget had been 30 today, she would have had the same problems essentially. It is still difficult for men and women to understand each other. Technology makes it even more complex,” she shares.
She further states, “I had started it as an anonymous column in the newspaper. I was broke. I was a journalist. If I had known so many people would read it, I would have never dared write with such honesty. Freedom from self-consciousness allowed me to be honest.”