A Tragic Glance at the Role of Women in Modern Literature
Ellie Skelton | 20 March 2017

Having found the films ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ and ‘Bridget Jones: On The Edge of Reason’ enjoyable, reading Helen Fielding’s ‘Mad About The Boy’ seemed logical, hoping for some light relief and easy reading during exam breaks where filling the time staring at the fridge was deemed, by my mother, costly. Thus, I started the novel, and looked forward to the protagonist’s comical mishaps that, in the films, made me laugh with tears in my eyes... I was tragically mistaken; it was the most degrading book I have ever come across.

 

 

At first glance, the book appears attractive, entertaining and above all, female-friendly. The prologue offers background to Bridget’s life since the last novel where the reader is told Mark Darcy, or Colin Firth, has died, leaving the widow Bridget and two young children. Shock: any potential fights between Colin Firth and Hugh Grant in water fountains vanish … so why read on? The main attraction of the previous films was the undeniable masculinity of Bridget’s two suitors, which, in the opening pages of ‘Mad About The Boy’ crumbles. We are left dissatisfied, mildly annoyed that Fielding has killed Colin Firth, but more significantly, now only a mournful, depressed and fat Bridget remains; no longer an easy read.

 

 

However, we move on to the first chapter, brushing aside Colin Firth’s corpse with optimism that Hugh Grant will be written in soon, perhaps in aviators and a soaking wet shirt? Instead, it’s four years down the line and all about Bridget’s latest ‘toy boy’, a man in his twenties referred to as ‘Roxster’ whom she met on Twitter. The mild annoyance turns to anger. The existence of ‘Roxster’ so soon after Darcy’s death is nothing less than heartless on Fielding’s behalf and, what was once the basis of all romantic comedies has become, essentially, an ‘self-help’ book for women – with appalling, dismally chauvinist and ultimately degrading advice. Clap clap, Helen Fielding.

 

 

Ultimately the principle theme of the novel entwines the ‘older generation’s’ outlook on modern life, with its regrettably overused technology, fast paced lifestyle and the deplorable sexism that still exists. The novel becomes nothing more than satirical criticism of women… written by a woman. Helen Fielding constructs an adult character that has the intelligence, attention span and immaturity of an infant and then unforgivably proceeds to create humour, inflicting this inevitably tragic protagonist to dire mishaps. Granted in films, Renée Zellweger plays a brilliantly funny Bridget, yet throughout the book, I have nothing but hate for the woman… she is senseless, stupid and incorrectly, gives an abysmal name to the modern day woman.

 

 

Gone are the days of elegantly written Jane Austen characters – Emma (“I may have lost my heart, but not my self-control”; ), Elizabeth Bennet (“Vanity, not love, has been my folly”; ) and Elinor Dashwood, who offers her own mother advice: “there is a painful difference between the expectation of an unpleasant event and its final certainty.” These three characters have more charm, eloquence and intelligence in their bonnet than Bridget does in her whole 180lbs of existence. Ironically, one would suppose this to be the other way around; one would assume the female characterization in literature, almost two hundred years ago would be more degrading than the modern day interpretation of women, where males and females are deemed equal… this is not the case.

 

 

Reading ‘Mad About The Boy’ has led me to the conclusion that modern-day women need to stop hiding from the word ‘feminism’ in order to remove the label of ‘pathetic’ that writers like Fielding give us as well as rejecting her assumption women require a man in our life called ‘Roxster’. It is poignant that this advertised ‘comic’ piece of writing has such wretchedly entangled truths behind it, concerning the still existing brutal sexism of the 21st Century … but where men were once suitably blamed for this inequality, the desolate, hard-hitting reality can no longer be denied: we are doing this injustice to ourselves.

James Routledge 2016