This is Pride and Prejudice for the 90s - Jane Austen meets Nick Hornby. Our heroine - obsessing about weight, cigarette consumption, alcohol intake, and the purchase of Instants - is a thirty year old single woman in pursuit of an eligible man for love, sex and we'll see what happens. Burdened by low self-esteem, irritated by parental pressure to get fixed up, convinced of the ubiquity of commitment phobia among the entire male sex, Bridget Jones veers between despair, elation, cynicism, lust, moony infatuation, careful strategic relationship planning and impetuous abandon. Very funnily, believably, and I'm told by my female friends, quite realistically.
If the comparison with Austen is far-fetched in terms of deft characterisation, there are certainly conscious parallels and counterpoints in terms of the plot-line - Bridget is dallied with by a thorough bounder but ends up with her very own Darcy - a very rich barrister - who rescues her family from financial ruin. In this modernised version, however, it's not a younger sister who is taken in by a smooth operator but her mother - intent on sexual liberation and a career in TV, after thirty years of marriage and homemaking.
Bridget Jones' Diary is not remotely mainstream Christianity, but it's a fine sketch of a young woman caught in the dilemmas of singleness, with good but not always wise friends and a yearning for authentic love. Like Hornby's High Fidelity, this is not great literature but it's life and it's funny. Unlike Hornby's High Fidelity, I ended up caring about the leading character and hoping that she and Darcy lived happily ever after, with no need for the addictive purchase of Instants and the calorie binges that stalk emotional upset. But it wasn't at all clear that that was the way it would work out - alas for the uncertainty of our relationships.
Mark Greene, June 1998
Mark Greene is Executive Director of the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity and a former Vice Principal and Lecturer in Communications at London School of Theology. He is the author of Thank God It's Monday (Scripture Union, 1994, revised edition 2001) and Christian Life & Work, a DVD resource pack for small groups wanting to explore the relationship between faith and work (LBC Productions).
Previously published by London School of Theology. Reused here by kind permission.
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