I was watching the sequel to the film called “Bridget Jones’ Diary” last night. The story is narrated from her fictional diary by the principle character, a young single British woman who struggles through career development and finding a mate. It is very loosely inspired by the novel, “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen, and, in fact, features Collin Firth as the object of desire, an actor who played D’Arcy in “P and P” and bears the same surname in the two “Bridget Jones” movies.
This movie made me reflect on my autobiographical work, “Confessions of a Klutz” more than this blog of mine because of the characterization of the “Bridget” persona. Bridget is full of self-doubt and perceives her faults and mistakes in an exaggerated way through the filter of her emotions and state of insecurity about her femininity and sexuality, appearance, abilities and speech. Basically, then, she writes about how klutzy she is physically and socially, so much so that she doubts whether she is lovable and deserving enough to be happy.
That is quite a profound idea. I should confess, right here and now, that I have had the same neurosis all my life. Unlike Bridget, though, I have never really overcome it or found someone I liked and admired enough who feels strongly enough about me in return that a union happens in spite of it. Well, life is not a movie. I must point out, though, that I did not keep up a diary. Perhaps, if I had, I could have seen things more clearly and made some changes in time. Instead, my neurosis has continued to plague me.
The movie posits that D’Arcy may be Bridget’s solution to her troubles. Her spontaneity and surcharged emotionality empowered by her lack of self-confidence get her into trouble repeatedly. How many handsome, successful, well-educated, socially responsible, compassionate and equally as insecure D’Arcy’s could there be, if any, in this world and what would be the chances of meeting one in the course of my life, anyway? He is a knight, albeit with flaws, who rescues Bridget more than once.
I guess most women don’t readily believe these days that they would come across such a figure. Ideas about romance have been turned upside down by feminism, revelations about the crimes of men, career and financial advancement of women, politics, commercialism and post-modernism. Moreover, forward-thinking women think that they should be rescuing themselves, and even rescuing men.
One could, on the other hand, interpret Bridget’s diary saved her. It may have lead her to see and understand her challenges and flaws, and her accomplishments and assets better as she stumbled through life day by day. For example, she tears herself away from a decadent relationship with a man who just wants to use her because he is handsome and popular, and becomes smitten with the lawyer D’Arcy, although she does not have faith in her own intuition, lovability and feelings enough to let herself be loved by D’Arcy until the end of the second “Bridget” move. It is not clear whether the story intends to convey the power and effectiveness of diary-writing.
I want to reflect on Bridget’s career development as she recounts. With some sort of background in communications, she is working as some sort of junior support staff for a publicity company owned and managed by the enigmatic but slightly morally twisted handsome devil who likes to play the field so as to flaunt his power and influence, the character played by Hugh Grant. She lets herself be used by him sexually but is hurt by his shallowness, so she finally decides to tear herself away, despite her attraction and her self-doubts, by quitting her job and taking a stab at finding a job in a field she prefers, journalism. Because she feels forced to break her ties with the reckless and superficial Grant character, and his power over her body and her career, she takes the leap. Her resume apparently being impressive enough, she is interviewed by a TV station for the position of reporter. Almost by fluke, as Bridget narrates it, she is hired without any substantive experience and knowledge. Because of her lack of experience and training, she is sent out on trivial investigations and frequently embarrasses herself and the station in the process.
We must remember, however, that it is the self-doubting Bridget who is telling her own story, for her errors and mishaps are supposedly not as damnable and damaging has she herself perceives, for the station tolerates it all and keeps her on. Her ability, it turns out, combined with the whims of serendipity, allow her to succeed bit by bit. Let me explain, if you don’t know the films. Her boss needs someone to fill in to report on some political affairs one day, so he sends her out on such a mission. Having met the enticing lawyer named D’Arcy already, he grants her an exclusive interview when he finds her skulking about outside the courthouse at the point he happens to take a brief break to go out to the street to buy cigarettes. See, it is partly by chance! (Partly, because she is there and searching for an opportunity to report a story.) He being amused and enchanted by her already, invites her to do an exclusive interview of a high profile human rights case, and she somehow manages to ask some intelligent questions. Her boss is ecstatic. Finally, she makes a dignified report on an important matter. It is a coup for both her and the little independent TV station.
This coup could not have been struck, however, without the play of chance and D’Arcy’s decision. D’Arcy decides whether she should or do such a high profile interview. We, the viewers (not readers, for I have not read the book), are lead to be that his perceptions of Bridget cast doubt on her abilities but his infatuation and wish to impress her lead him to make the decision. He thereby makes his first act of rescue of Bridget.
We must recall, at the same time, that the D’Arcy character is an insecure and flawed but romantic one who works in a noble profession. His profession is noble in the duo sense, as he is of a privileged class working in a privileged position, having chosen to do the noble work of seeking justice and defending human rights. Bear in mind that the vocation of law is on preferred by many parents, and certainly those of the upper classes. Yet, D’Arcy has apparently chosen civil rights defence over corporate, tax or other kinds of legal work. He is a persona of romantic and altruistic leanings, although his faith in his own propensity is shaky, for he also is full of self-doubts, as is revealed through the unfolding of the story. In fact, that is the biggest revelation to Bridget by the end of the sequel film. She learns to see that the male figure she admires, is attracted to and has faith in, is a man with a frail sense of self just as she is. Had she had confidence in herself and her sentiments, she would have seen it from the beginning.
Whereas Jane Austen addressed the issue of social mobility for women in “P and P”, “Bridget Jones’ Diary” addressed issues of contemporary feminism. Today, more pathways to social mobility are open for women in terms of careers and finances, and there continue to be pathways through marriage. Bridget gets both. She achieves social ascendance after breaking through career barriers, including the barriers of sexist men who want to keep women in supporting roles for male masters in terms of labour and as sexualized servants. She breaks free of her bodily and mental impulses to think so that she can weigh events, relationships and experiences and make conscious decisions for her own well-being.
She does not make a breakthrough in thought and action for others, really, in this movie, while the male protagonist exhibits concern and work for others. However, the story reveals that it is her own self-preoccupation and ego that has lead her astray, for it feeds her self-doubt. That is to say that everything that does not seem to be working out for her must be her own fault, in the mind of Bridget until the end of the sequel. Notice that the movie cleverly shows her egotistical interpretation of events when billboards and monitors are shown to read her name or something about her instead of the advertised products or news messages as she passes by them. All she can see is herself, until she grows some more. The D’Arcy character, in effect, teaches her to think about someone else, but the movie does not take that lesson very far.
The film also underscores a return to romance. It is a defeat over cynicism, materialism and the dark side of post-modernism. D’Arcy and Jones gain confidence and belief in romance.
After all this analysis, what have we here that relates to positive thinking and journal writing with the aim of positive thinking? We have a hypothetical example of the use of diary writing that can result in development of self-identity and self-confidence as well as values and goal-setting, career development, and relationship management and choices. We have broadened optimism about human capacity and life.