An Irish woman's social, political and domestic commentary
Monday, October 17, 2005
ST on Bridget Jones
Heroines today are pathetic, with one kicking exception
Bridget Jones is back. An Irish newspaper is running a weekly column about the eternally thirtysomething ditz who still can’t get her love life sorted out. Now I don’t mind the author, Helen Fielding, milking her Jones character for every available penny, but I do mind that the most popular female heroine of the past 10 years is both self-obsessed and stupid.
Bridget Jones is as thick as a plank. Instead of newspapers or proper books, she reads ludicrously titled self-help manuals on love. She succeeds in her broadcasting career because her capacity for farce is appealing to her moronic boss and, ergo, the viewing masses.
From her column and book and from the big screen, the message screams down at girls: stupid is funny and endearing, stupid will get you a man. Women of education are cold and cruel. Career women are ambitious schemers. Hate the woman who reads books. Despise she who knows one politician from another. Your knowledge of celebrity gossip will make the boys laugh and, God knows, the last thing they want when they come home from the office is a know-it-all.
Compare the heroine of chick-lit to the heroes of “lad-lit”. In Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch or Tony Parsons’s Man and Boy, the men start out as selfish, immature and self-obsessed, and the events of the narrative have a redemptive effect. Through the good offices of a sensible woman the lads are completely reformed. The happy ending is their transformation into fully formed mature adults.
Meanwhile, the happy ending in Bridget Jones is that the bitch with the fancy job got her comeuppance and the men love silly Bridget just the way she is.
What’s wrong with that, I hear you scream? Surely it’s okay not to read a book or the news section of the paper? While it’s true that applying maths to anything other than counting calories is not compulsory, improving your mind is the path to self-fulfilment. Conducting a war with your body is not. If women are constantly portrayed as searching for meaning in their lives, why is that meaning only to be found in losing weight, getting a man or figuring out whether to pluck your eyebrows?
Every year when the Leaving Cert results appear, concern is expressed at girls getting far better results than boys. But the lads needn’t worry. Through the systematic thrashing of female self-confidence, the girls will baulk at promotional opportunities, salary negotiations and office power struggles. By the time they reach 30, men are earning more than women and their careers are peaking. Women are being reminded that they need to upgrade their grooming before their ovaries shrivel up.
So why consistently glorify stupidity in our female heroines? Must they all be twittering victims happy to be patronised by men?
The sinister aspect to the ubiquity of the silly woman is the demonisation of the clever woman. At a time when women have more legal and economic independence than ever before, why is it impossible to find a happy woman of any intelligence in popular culture?
Casting around for a more appealing role model, who do we find? The Sex and the City girls started out as confident, career-orientated women who would deal with men as men deal with women. By the end of the series, each had made humiliating sacrifices and u-turns in order to get a man — any man.
The clash between man and job is considered inevitable. Miranda, the lawyer, is considered redeemed when she moves to the suburbs and minds her sick mother-in-law. Samantha, the promiscuous one, is given breast cancer — that will cool her heels for a while. Charlotte, the Wasp-ish art curator, abandons her job “so she can concentrate on getting pregnant” and converts to Judaism so the man she wants will marry her. Carrie resigns from her job and moves to France in the hope of making a selfish pig love her. She only leaves when he hits her.
Surely there is one woman on television who isn’t pathetic, neurotic and possesses an IQ in double digits? Grace of Will & Grace is a flake. Ally McBeal is an airhead. The Desperate Housewives haven’t a job between them. Every top-notch female doctor in ER is eventually given a baby to drag her out of the hospital.
All is not lost, however. You might come across reruns of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Apart from her stupid name, Buffy is quite the feminist. She kicks vampire ass and shoulders the burden of saving the world. Various men come and go, serving as mentors or lovers. Usually they cannot cope with her being the stronger one, and they leave. Unlike other television heroines, this does not result in her falling apart. Instead, the boys are portrayed as losers, and she gets on with the job.
But of course, they canned Buffy and brought back Bridget. You wouldn’t want the girls getting any ideas now, would you?
Special Blog Update**
1. I restrained myself from comparing Bridget to Elizabeth Bennett as I can't become the P&P column EVERY week BUT I am of course aware that Fielding completely ripped of P&P except in terms of the intelligence of the heroine. Our Elizabeth is clever. Bridget is a dope.
2. In ER I also note that they even gave Carrie a baby. She was the top boss of the hospital. First they gave her a mystery crutch to make her unattractive. Then they made her a lesbian. Then they provided a baby through her lesbian partner (who ended up being killed - she was a Fireman/person).
3. I see a guy is making some money and notoriety on the Bridget phenomenon too...(or if you can't reach that link, here's another) posted by Sarah | 12:55 1 comments
bridget jones diary was one of the worst books i have ever read and that includes the da vinci code (i was locked in a girls house and i swear that was all she had apart from david eddings books) salman rushdie liked it, and thats enough for mePost a Comment