Let Bridget be a lesson to you

19th November 2004 at 00:00
If you can't beat them, join them. If your Year 7-10 girls are struggling to look 15, and the female end of the staff room is covertly on the phone booking cinema tickets, best to make the most of it. The new Bridget Jones film is rolling over us like a tidal wave of syrup and whipped cream: now is the moment to build a PSHEcareers lesson deconstructing the education of the fictional Ms Jones.

I know her well; have followed her through the newspaper columns, two books and both films. She is a fine comic creation, but it was a shock when single women started wailing "She's just like me!" and declaring her a role model. It is as if men started going around saying "Hey, I am Adrian Mole" or "I dream of being Mr Pooter in Diary of a Nobody."

The cleverness of Helen Fielding is that Bridget - while good-hearted and capable of occasional sharp observations - is revealed at every turn as a prawn, a klutz, a dumbo, a creature who is so self-obsessed and needy, infantile in her dependence on silly friends and silly books, that it is no wonder men run a mile. That's the joke. Or so I thought. She's not an ideal - she's an "awful warning".

Scattered through the canon are plenty of clues to how her education made her. She was at school somewhere in the Home Counties, where she had just enough ambition to avoid "marrying Abnor Rimmington off the Northampton bus".

Her A-levels were a disappointment: she missed her place at Bristol and read English at Bangor. We are not told whether she did much work, but she never refers to any classic work of English literature (apart from the TV version of Pride and Prejudice) and never compares her own situation to that of a fictional heroine (most English graduates do, compulsively).

She never goes to the theatre and mainly reads Vogue, celebrity magazines and vapid dating manuals. Nor does the outer world interest her much, unless it comes in boyfriend form: she is famously unable to point to Germany on a map, and only reads newspapers when forced to.

When Mark Darcy takes her to the Law Society dinner in 1997, Bridget understands not a word of serious conversation, but announces that everyone normal votes Labour because it stands for "kindness, gays, single mothers and Nelson Mandela". Mark Darcy bleats that her views on his cases are "refreshing", but only because the poor sap is sexually infatuated, and insecure enough to like his women dumb.

She has managed somehow to land a job working for a publisher, but only ever refers to one author's book (Kafka's Motorbike) and spends the day sending flirty emails. She does write press releases, which take her an inordinate amount of time, and has no discipline whatsoever working from home, spending the short morning changing into different bras and falling asleep all afternoon.

When she gets a chance to do a star interview with Colin Firth, she gets tipsy, fails to pick up any of his cultural references ("What is neacher?") or to read the book of the film he is making. When she comes to write it up, she spends the day on the phone to her friends and finally has to hand in the tape, having written nothing.

When her mother swings her a job as a daytime TV researcher she is equally feckless, gets sent off to a court case having read nothing about it, and is out buying a Twix when the verdict comes through. Darcy rescues her, whereon she is convinced that she is a star. In the newspaper column, she finally gave up TV to do aid work in Africa (as her creator did in real life). But in book and film she merely falls into Mark Darcy's arms and Holland Park mansion, to be a dilettante dependant. In real life the marriage would probably not last long, leaving her a discontented, drunken, desperately dating divorcee.

This woman has less general knowledge, wisdom and ability to organise herself than the average bright sixth-former. If you strip away the warm, fuzzy Zellweger charm, Bridget is frankly hopeless. School and university have left her with little in her head, and she has seen no need to put anything else there in the intervening decade. She does not learn, barely reads, has no skills or solid ambitions, and it is a toss-up whether she will be able to set aside her self-obsessed cravings for long enough to raise a child. She is prey to every crystal-waving self-help charlatan in town. A happy ending is, alas, unlikely.

Go on, live dangerously. Zap them with that little lot.

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