After musing with Femme about the curse of Bridget Jonesism and reading the following article about another Austen rehash I thought it might be good to spend some time thinking aloud.
Jane Austen = beloved author of just 6 books (some more popular than others).
Austen novels = out of copyright = moneyspinner for production companies.
Shitloads of other amazing books = out of copyright… hmm
Austen may not own the market as such but her work never seems to go out of fashion. Much like Shakespeare there will always be those who find it stuffy and dull but it will always be loved well enough to make a profit. Profit is a key word, obviously, as nothing is ever produced for the good of the people.
Making a safe profit restricts media output. At this point I get sidetracked – feel free to skip the next paragraph.
*Funnily enough indie films are gaining popularity because they don’t tick the safe boxes and we’ve even started getting mainstream imitation indie films like Elizabethtown which I watched last night and found charming enough though slipped into stalker territory at the end (why Hollywood confuses stalking with affection I’m still not sure, but this film made an effort to have some heart and the mother’s character was fantastic). *
What I find irritating is that contemporaries of the great and beloved and the great and unknown never really get a look in, while stupid adaptations and rehashes of the great and beloved (I’m looking at you, Helen Fielding) are spaffed out in abundance because they know the audience will recognise the familiar story and accept it. They are unlikely to hate it. It’s sad that that is the bar they are aiming for really: to get as many people as possible to not hate it. Not to create a core of fans, not to challenge people in a ‘I’m not sure how I feel about this, you watch it with me and we’ll talk about it’ way (what with brain-use positively discouraged and all). If anything they want to reinforce the beliefs they think we have already so that we more readily relate to the characters. This is where I come to Bridget Jones.
The book ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ was not dreadful. I hated it because I had write my A-Level coursework essay comparing it to Pride and Prejudice and I had been intending never to read it. It turns out Fielding ripped off a lot more from Austen than is first apparent, from which I conclude Fielding isn’t very good at writing plots/full length novels. But the book is mediocre, chick lit fodder and it’s huge success is unprecedented – I believe the Austen connection carried it a long way.
I may have resented having to read the book but being an avid reader and admiring how much of Pride and Prejudice she managed to cram in there it’s not actually the book I have a problem with. Bridget Jones as a character has become a benchmark, a representative of women in our culture, and she is a feeb. A total and utter feeb who can do little to nothing by herself and frequently fails spectacularly. She is obsessed by how she could possibly get men but doesn’t consider that these are just two of many men on this Earth and might in fact both be shit. Or just incompatible with her feeble self. She complains feebly about her feeble self but does nothing positive. I have anti-sympathy for her plight.
If I have anti-sympathy for Bridgie you can imagine how I feel about those who compare themselves, others, or the general female population with her. Her example has made it more acceptable to be a feeb. To sit around and whine about your life failing, to be obsessively insecure to the point where you ignore all your friends and to most definitely ignore your friends if there is the possibility of making a highly unsuitable man develop and interest in your feeble self. Bridget Jones gives you the permission to be lazy, to give up caring about things that might make you happy and resign yourself to the feeling that you knew all along that you were rubbish and no one loves you.
How can this character be based on Lizzie Bennett? Bright, sparkly, proud, sharp as a tack Lizzie; the young woman who loves her friends, despairs of her parents, and won’t accept the condescension of Mr Darcy – refusing him until he shows a little respect rather than humiliating herself as his feet. I expect I am just repeating what half the internet have said already but all my grated feelings came up again and I had to get them out.