Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason

A bottom the size of two bowling balls? Yeah, right. Rachel Bell argues that the casting of Renee Zellweger undermines the premise of the Bridget Jones character.

, 15 January 2005

When Renee Zellweger was cast as Bridget, the British press moaned that she

wasn’t a quintessential English Rose and where was Kate Winslet when you

needed her? Renee did a decent job of it and was forgiven. Since then she

has been tirelessly applauded by the press, particularly women’s magazines,

for her inconceivable, self-sacrificing willingness to pile on 25lbs for the

role and then, with amazing swiftness, lose the lot and become an even

smaller version of her original self. Lollipop Renee (lollipop is a term

coined by women’s magazines for women whose bodies have become too tiny for

the heads, making their heads look strangely too large) emerged to a

disbelieving nation of women and reigns supreme as the revered queen of

shrinking.

What a martyr, blah, blah, blah. But what everyone, the press and most

crucially, the author Helen Fielding and the director of Bridget Jones’s

Diary, Sharon Maguire appear to have missed entirely is that by casting

Renee, they have COMPLETELY UNDERMINED the premise of their film.

a calorie-counting, Mr. Right chasing stereotype

I don’t love Bridget Jones

because she is a calorie-counting, Mr. Right chasing stereotype that reminds

me of Ally McBeal in her forced, irritating, scattiness. However, hundreds

of thousands of British women absolutely love Bridget Jones. She is their

celluloid best friend. Why? Because she is a bit fat, a bit awkward, a bit

paranoid and a bit uncool. She frets, worries, procrastinates and makes a

tit of herself. Her life is messy; she drinks, smokes and eats too much and

is not getting enough sex. All she wants is to be poised, sophisticated,

thin and with boyfriend. In effect, Bridget Jones is normal.

She is still a

stereotype of the twenty or thirty-something singleton desperate for romance,

but at least she offers a different stereotype to the thin, overtly

sexualised male fantasies that Hollywood only knows. Bridget is not a

man-eating playbunny with the body of a teenage girl. For a lot of women,

going to watch Angelina Jolie or Halle Berry do their, ‘Look at how sexy I

am’ thing for two or three hours is pretty depressing (for different

reasons for different women). In Bridget, women recognised her insecurities

about weight, self-image and men and yes, getting caught out in your comfy

knickers. She symbolised hope for women that yes, men could fight over you

and love you for your inner beauty, your specialness. They had found their

anti-heroine to root for because she was real and because she was one of

them.

Renee Zellweger is actually a size 6-8 who can lose weight with a frightening military

efficiency

But she isn’t really, is she? We all know that behind Bridget is Renee

Zellweger, a size 6-8 who can lose weight with a frightening military

efficiency, only attainable with a personal trainer; a Hollywood actress who

goes in for all that red carpet stuff, who appears poised and sophisticated

and dates actors and rock stars. She can say the line, “I truly believe that

happiness is possible even when you’re thirty-three and have a bottom the

size of two bowling balls,” with no intention of keeping that ass. She is

nothing like normal.

Helen Fielding’s books may have helped to ease women’s

paranoias about their self-image, but the films have planted them most

gloriously back in not-good-enough, dieting, self-hating hell. Some best

friend.

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