The weight-obsessed woman cliché is in the past. So why do we need another Bridget sequel?

Renee Zellweger in Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
'The news that the final Bridget Jones book is being made into a movie has filled with me with a dreadful feeling of ennui', writes Gordon - Alamy

Bridget Jones is back, and much like the supermarket chardonnay she was so fond of drinking in the Nineties and Noughties, she has not aged well. I wouldn’t usually be so disparaging about another woman, but given that this one is entirely fictional, I will make an exception.

The news that the final Bridget Jones book is being made into a movie has filled with me with a dreadful feeling of ennui, similar to the one I developed back in 2008, when, for the 867th time, someone described me as “a right Bridget Jones” because I was a size 14 and didn’t have a boyfriend. There was no greater crime in the Noughties, and thanks to Helen Fielding’s calorie-counting anti-heroine, boy did we all know it.

I resented Bridget because, in the eyes of my “smug married” friends, I was Bridget – chubby, lonely and pathetic, the longest relationship I could muster being with a packet of Marlboro Lights. When I “finally” coupled up with someone and had a baby – at the not-so-grand age of 32 – I breathed a sigh of relief and assumed all of my troubles were past me. Finally, a man wanted me!

I saw Bridget Jones as nothing more than a charming caricature for singletons. I even celebrated her, because I believed she allowed women to embrace their neuroses. Now I’m older and a bit wiser I realise that the worst thing you can do with a neurosis is embrace it. You want to extract it, laugh at it, and question how the hell it got there in the first place, before setting fire to it and moving the hell on with your life.

But at the last check it was 2024, and most people are past the notion that women should dedicate their lives to the pursuit of dieting and dating. TikTok is filled with Gen-Zers reacting in horror to the newspaper coverage of Renee Zellweger’s slight weight gain in 2001, when the actress first took on the role. Pictures of Zellweger on set show a perfectly svelte young woman, but at the time you couldn’t move for features on how horrifically fat the Hollywood star had become. It seems laughable now, but at the time Zellweger’s weight was one of the great obsessions of the early Noughties, along with the war on terror and the hunt for Bin Laden.

I thought we had left the weight-obsessed cliché of a woman in the past. It seemed curious, then, when Universal Pictures confirmed last week that Zellweger will reprise her role for Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy, based on the book of the same name that was released in 2013. The movie will also star Hugh Grant and Emma Thompson, but not Colin Firth, because sadly, his character is dead. Instead, Bridget is sleeping with a 30-year-old toyboy, in an attempt to get over the grief she is experiencing at the loss of her husband. The toyboy will be played by Leo Woodall, the 27-year old currently delighting audiences in One Day.

So how is Hollywood going to rebrand poor old Bridget for a generation who only know body positivity and self-acceptance? I re-read the book last week, and I can’t imagine they’ll include the bit that sees size-14 Bridget signing up to an obesity clinic and only eating protein bars for three months so she can shed 50lb. Nor is her friend Talitha likely to tell her that “you probably do need to lose a bit of weight, and get some Botox and do something with your hair”.

Bridget holding up her large underwear in Bridget Jones's Diary
Bryony: 'So how is Hollywood going to rebrand poor old Bridget for a generation who only know body positivity and self-acceptance?' - Alamy

But as I got reacquainted with Bridget, I realised the real tragedy of her life: it’s not that her husband is dead, or that she thinks she needs Botox. It’s that she can’t see how bloody great she is. Here is a woman with an absolutely biting sense of humour, who is living in a big house in Camden, socialising at members clubs, writing a screenplay, sleeping with Dexter from One Day.

And still she is duty-bound to focus on her crows feet, and the fact that she occasionally eats her children’s cold, damp fish fingers. I despair.

Oh I know, I know. It’s only supposed to be a bit of entertainment. But if Bridget can’t take herself seriously, then how the hell is anyone else supposed to? How different would life have been if, instead of obsessing about her weight, Bridget had obsessed about the sinisterness of living in a society that rewards women for half-starving themselves and taking up as little space as possible? If instead of counting calories, she had counted up all the time she had wasted waiting for some inconsequential loser to reply to her texts?

I like to imagine then, the ultimate plot twist for this movie: one where Bridget dumps her bathroom scales, and the toyboy, and the notion that she needs a man or a size-10 dress to be a valid human being and walks off into the sunset to live happily ever after, knowing she’s always been enough as she is. It’s exactly the cheesy Hollywood ending that Bridget – and the rest of us – deserves.


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