A cry went up around the world Monday, not as the government threatened to shut down and stop the incomes of thousands of Americans and possibly render lasting ill effects on the economy as a whole; but rather, because of a stunning plot twist revealed in the latest Bridget Jones novel, “Mad About the Boy.” Yes, in these most difficult times, what we need most is another installment of British satire of weight-obsessed, superficial women. (I hope it’s satire. A lot of people seem to take it very seriously.)
You might find yourself talking to a lady this weekend who is just as stressed about the Bridget Jones spoilers as the state of the government, and you’ll find yourself at a loss to comfort her. Never fear, bro. I can get you up to speed on Bridget Jones, and you won’t even have to sit through three hours of Renee Zellweger squinting at you. You’re welcome.
A BRO’S GUIDE TO BRIDGET JONES
Helen Fielding began writing the Bridget Jones column for The Independent in 1995, which depicted the life and loves of a 30-something “singleton” in London. She turned this column into a novel in 1996. The sequel novel “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason” was released in 1999. The novels were adapted into movies in 2001 and 2004, and Renee Zellweger famously had to consume an entire meal regularly to play to role of Bridget.
Here are the basics of her story: Bridget Jones is a 32-year-old journalist living in London when we meet her in the first novel/movie. She is obsessed with cigarettes, her weight, and the 1995 BBC miniseries “Pride and Prejudice.” Hungover at a New Year’s Day party hosted by friends of her parents, she meets Mark Darcy, who is committing the grievous offense of donning a reindeer sweater. (A grievous offense in the late ‘90s/early ‘00s, before our sense of irony kicked in.) Bridget thinks he is a jerk because he’s an attorney in a reindeer sweater, but also, he looks exactly like Colin Firth. He thinks she is an idiot. Frustrated when she gets home, she vows that this’ll be the year she gets her shit together: She’ll lose some weight; she’ll cut down on the smoking and drinking. The most logical route to getting your shit together, of course, is to become romantically entangled with by your handsome boss Daniel Cleaver, which Bridget promptly does. Her initial email flirtations turn into banging on the regular until she finds out he is engaged to someone else. Sad statement on who men will sleep with versus who men will marry.
Bridget runs into Mark Darcy a couple times afterward, and they begin to kindle a relationship, with Mark helping her with work connections. After an epic fight with Daniel, it is revealed that Daniel the cad slept with Mark Darcy’s ex-wife. Bridget looks at both men with new eyes and allows herself to feel the tingles of attraction toward her own Mr. Darcy. However, it seems that he’ll be taking a job in New York with a foxy lady attorney. Bridget is disheartened, and is about to run off to Paris (with her mother) when Mark returns to her house to tell her he’s staying. Cue romantic British music and a kiss in the snow.
When we pick up with Bridget in “Edge of Reason,” she and Mark Darcy are happily dating, but Bridget starts to get frazzled when a beautiful co-worker of his starts popping more frequently into their lives. Furthermore, he won’t give a straight answer about whether or not he’ll even marry her and make lots of the bebez. Naturally, with all the Bridget Jones logic she possesses, she makes the best possible choice for herself and breaks up with Mark and immediately runs off to Thailand with her friend Shazzer and her old boss Daniel Cleaver to film a segment for a television show Bridget is working on. Bridget attempts to rekindle some sparks with Daniel, but that falls flat when she sees a Thai prostitute headed toward his hotel room. Her Thai trip also runs a little bit longer than expected when Shazzer asks Bridget to pack her gift for her boyfriend back home, since she has no room, and that gift turns out to be packed full of cocaine. Bridget is sent to a Thai prison for months on end. On the plus side, the prisoners love her relationship exploits and she loses a ton of weight. Finally, Mark Darcy turns in up in Thailand, and he gets her out of jail–it’s a good thing he’s an attorney. When Bridget gets back to England, she discovers that Mark had to pull in Mi5, Interpol, and lots of other important strings to get Bridget out of prison. She hopes this is a good sign and runs to his house, only to find the foxy co-worker there. She is again devastated, although very skinny, and turns to leave, when foxy co-worker confesses she is a lesbian and has a thing for Bridget. Relieved, Bridget runs to Mark’s office where she begs him to take her back–he does her one better and proposes. Cue romantic British music and a kiss in the legal chambers.
Impress your friends: The structure of the first Bridget Jones novel is a loose modernization of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.” Fitting, given Bridget’s “Pride and Prejudice” obsession and all–did you not pick up on that? But this is in the plot sense, with a woman blinded by her own prejudice against a snobbish man taking up with a cad before seeing the light.
Lady boner points: “Bridget Jones: Edge of Reason” is thus loosely based on the plot of Jane Austen’s “Persuasion.” Have your read “Persuasion?” You should. It’s her best written and most well-structured novel, although you could say that “Emma” is the funniest.
Super lady boner points: Mention that while your mileage may vary with regards to Bridget Jones novels as successful Jane Austen adaptations, clearly the finest modernization of a Jane Austen novel is “Clueless.” (Not debatable.)
Impress your friends: Colin Firth, the infamous Mr. Darcy of the 1995 “Pride and Prejudice” miniseries that inspired “Bridget Jones,” actually first collaborated with Helen Fielding on the fictional interview between himself and the character of Bridget Jones for “Edge of Reason.” The idea of lampooning his original Mr. Darcy character (while simultaneously distancing himself from that role) led him to take the role of Mark Darcy in the movies.
Lady boner points: Andrew Davies, the screenwriter of the “Pride and Prejudice” miniseries, actually collaborated on the screenplay for the “Bridget Jones” movies.
Super lady boner points: Just watch the 1995 BBC miniseries “Pride and Prejudice.”
Impress your friends: On Sunday, a Sunday Times review of “Mad About the Boy” announced that Mark Darcy is sadly no longer with us when the book picks up–he has died in a car accident five years prior, leaving Bridget as a 51-year-old widow raising two small children.
Lady boner points: “Mad About the Boy” will apparently pick up with Bridget immersing herself in social media as a hip, cool woman of 2013, and meeting a young “toyboy” on Twitter, as you do. I’m sure he’s fine, but he’s no Mark Darcy.
Super lady boner points: Start a #MarkDarcylives campaign on Twitter; he’s clearly the only one for Bridget, right?
Go forth and woo with some of this knowledge, you singletons, and land yourself your own thick-thighed chain-smoking Anglophile. #MarkDarcylives