Last year when the third Bridget Jones book came out (Mad About the Boy) I was surprised how little coverage it received; but I bought it, read it and enjoyed it. I wasn’t really surprised that the new film eclipsed it in the media; such is the world I am doomed to live in. I didn’t actually see the film, as an unintentional homage to Bridget I bought the tickets (six of them) for the wrong night and so instead of seeing the film we went back to my girlfriend’s house, drank far too much wine and did drunk yoga at three o’clock in the morning whilst I sobbed about how no one loved me nor ever would again. We stopped short of ranting about fuckwittery, but it was a very BJ night nonetheless.
Idly browsing Amazon a month or so later I see that there’s a book of the new film, this is absolutely the first I’ve heard of the new book and well after the film has been released. It fits into the series chronologically as number three but gets round the problem of number four having come out the year before by purporting to be Bridget sharing her diaries with her son for ‘when he’s old enough’. It’s a bit contrived, but not the worst device ever. I enjoyed the writing and it felt like it was the Bridget we all know and love…. but, I really hated the plot!
I have no problem with Bridget having children. She had children in the third book (fourth chronologically) and I felt that Fielding was able to exploit the comic potential of a dearly beloved character in a variety of new situations. She was always deeply, deeply conventional within the whole happily ever after, marriage and babies narrative; let’s not forget that the first book in the series is based on Pride and Prejudice! However this book felt like it started as a studio executive thinking: “…pregnancy’s really hot at the moment, pregnancy always get bums on seats, what properties do we have who could conceivable get pregnant? Bridget Jones, okay, now how about we make it a bit Jerry Springer and make her not certain of the paternity? There are two guys in those stories right; uncertain paternity’s very hot right now…”.
The narrative I struggle with isn’t the marriage plot, even with its intimations of babies to come inevitably after the happily ever after; the marriage plot is a couple of hundred years old, babies did generally follow marriage, and for most people they still do. The narrative that gets my goat is: woman doesn’t like babies*, gets pregnant by accident, look, it’s going to make her happier than anything in the world**.
I feel that it’s this kind of thinking that makes people so certain that people who say they don’t want children are going to change their minds, and that if an accident, or worse an ‘accident’ occurred they’d be happy little baby making machines, because biology. I know that this does happen for some people; but some people who are pushed into marriages end up being very happy with their partners, does that mean that forced marriage = happily ever after is an idea the media should be promoting?
* This is set up at the start of the book, but has everyone forgotten that she thought she was pregnant in one of the previous books and was pretty happy about it then (fantasies of running down a beach in a floaty white Calvin Klein dress if my memory serves)?
**As epitomised by this quote: “You always wanted a baby now, didn’t you?”
“Well, always in about three years’ time for about two hours”, I said sheepishly. “But I realise now, yes, I did.”