Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote that, “in every work of genius, we recognize our own rejected thoughts.” When Bridget Jones’s Diary was first published in 1996, there was a lot to criticize, from a feminist perspective: Bridget was obsessed with men and with her weight; the character was too unflaggingly “likable” to convey psychological depth or undergo much change. And yet … the charm of the novels and the movie adaptations that followed was that they said things that many women had thought or felt, but not articulated.
Were our thighs fat? Were we being charming? Or were we just drunk? Would we meet our true love someday? What if we lost five pounds? Would he still want to have sex if he saw us in control-top underwear? Bridget Jones made fun of the imperatives delivered by women’s magazines, while acknowledging the reality of the anxieties and desires they created. The effect was paradoxical: The books reinforced gender stereotypes while simultaneously encouraging readers to laugh at their absurdity.
This month, Bridget returned to cinemas in Bridget Jones’s Baby. The latest, and apparently last outing for the perennial “singleton” shifts its focus from men who break Bridget’s heart to men who get Bridget pregnant. Shortly after her 43rd birthday, Bridget has a one-night stand with Jack Qwant (Patrick Dempsey), an American tech billionaire she meets at a music festival. A week later, she sleeps with her old flame, the barrister Mark Darcy (Colin Firth). When she finds out she’s pregnant, she has no way of figuring out which one is the father. Terrified of needles and of the risk of miscarriage—the script repeatedly emphasizes that given her “geriatric” age, this is her one shot at motherhood—Bridget refuses to have the amniocentesis she would need for a genetic test.