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We All Owe Bridget Jones An Apology For Single-Shaming Her

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We All Owe Bridget Jones An Apology For Single-Shaming Her

Picture your typical single woman, and most of us are likely to conjure up images of Bridget Jones, sat on the sofa, crying into a tub of ice cream.

We took the 'perpetual singleton' - famed for her drinking, smoking and obsessive calorie counting - into our hearts, after Helen Fielding created the character in 1996, and many of us single girls still identify with her more than 25 years on.

But as much as we adore Bridget and the clumsy way she navigated London's urban jungle and her own love life (really - she was voted the most inspiring on-screen heroine in a 2020 poll), looking at the character through a fresh, modern scope presents some problems in how she was portrayed.

Bridget Jones's Diary was an instant classic (Credit: Universal)
Bridget Jones's Diary was an instant classic (Credit: Universal)
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Yes, while Richard Curtis' Bridget Jones' Diary is still our go-to rom-com staple, and Renée Zellweger is unquestionably spot-on in the role, it can't be denied that there are some issues with how Bridget is characterised, as a single woman.

For one, she's continuously single-shamed and questioned on why she hasn't settled down, despite only being 32. Bridget even hears relatives say 'tick tock' when discussing future plans to start a family, in a cruel reference to her biological clock.

While the film, which has recently celebrated its 20th birthday, does admittedly parody lots of tired tropes about singledom, a lot of societal beliefs about being single are also endorsed.

Bridget was presented to us as a plump, fag-smoking, wine-swigging no-hoper, whose only pathway to happiness was with Mr Darcy. As a result, her careers in publishing and then television are largely brushed over, and the fact she owns a one-bedroom flat (in the highly desirable Borough, London, of all places) serves only as a pitying backdrop to her well-established singleness.

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Bridget's smoking and drinking was linked to her perpetual single status (Credit: Universal)
Bridget's smoking and drinking was linked to her perpetual single status (Credit: Universal)

Instead, the film focuses on the pressure Bridget puts on herself to eat less, exercise more and change the very fibres of who she is to satisfy the whims of a man - even if he does tell her she loves her "just as she is."

The original character of Bridget may have been intentionally satirical, poking fun at the middle classes for their more ridiculous foibles, but the nuances within that were seemingly lost on the big screen.

The typical attributes we still associate with Bridget - getting drunk, singing Céline Dion's All By Myself and resigning herself to dying old, alone and being eaten by Alsatians - are still something some people associate with single life today.

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Match's dating expert, Hayley Quinn, agrees the character is most definitely a victim of single-shaming.

"Bridget Jones used to be the poster girl for the single women in the nineties, but her hopelessly single character also perpetuates many negative stereotypes about what life is like for single people," she tells Tyla. "Her parents are worried about her, she drinks too much wine and is neurotic about how many mince pies she eats.

"She isn't walking into the dating world feeling complete by herself - she's desperately chasing love to feel fulfilled."

Bridget's happiness is always linked to whether she has a boyfriend (Credit: Universal)
Bridget's happiness is always linked to whether she has a boyfriend (Credit: Universal)
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Hayley explains that the pressure on Bridget to find 'The One' as soon as possible is something that we still see today, despite huge social change.

The average age for women in the UK to get married is 35, national statistics show - up four years since the 1990s.

Women may choose to focus on their careers or other life endeavours then settling down, and the introduction of online dating sites and apps means that some people may want to enjoy the dating game for longer.

"Single shaming sucks; it assumes we all have to have arrived at the same destination, on the same timeline, and if you haven't? Well then there must be something wrong with you," Hayley says. "In fact, many people are relating to this more now than ever.

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Bridget's single-ness is something people have attributed to shame (Credit: Universal)
Bridget's single-ness is something people have attributed to shame (Credit: Universal)

"Recent research from Match found that 52 per cent of singles say they've experienced single-shaming since the start of the pandemic, despite 59 per cent being content with their relationship status."

The emphasis Bridget puts on finding love, over all other aspects of what appears to be an otherwise fabulous life, masks all her other achievements - and perpetuates the notion that the only "true" happy ending for a woman is a wedding day.

With the world so wholly changed in the last 20 years, Hayley urges single women to not feel ashamed about their choice to remain single, and to celebrate other things in life that make us happy instead of chasing a spectral Mr Right (or should way say Mr Darcy).

Bridget pins all her happiness on her literal Mr Darcy (Credit: Universal)
Bridget pins all her happiness on her literal Mr Darcy (Credit: Universal)

"Whether it's Jane Austen or Bridget Jones, it's important for everyone to recognise there's more than one route to happiness in life; and not everyone's end destination has to be the altar," she says.

"If you're single today, don't do a Bridget; enjoy the fact you're the main character in your own story and the master of your own destiny - be single on your own terms."

Featured Image Credit: Universal

Topics: Film News, Dating, TV & Film, Sex & Relationships

Kimberley Bond
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