Why Bridget Jones's Baby (2016) Failed 'Millennial' Fan Girls
Not So Popular's Tash Cordeaux brings to you an overdue (and important) analysis of why exactly 'Bridget Jones's Baby' (2016) felt outdated and dubious to us, aka the Generation Y Gyaldem. Warning - spoilers!
Despite throwing in the classic 'come the fuck on Bridget' catch phrase, the new film's message and depiction of a woman who had been a feminist icon for many of us growing up in our teens, 'Bridget Jones's Baby' ignored and isolated its 'younger' fan girls. But why didn't we notice at first? Why did we still find ourselves crying at Bridget's hospital bedside as she bit hard into the love of her life's hand?
Its failures and off-the-mark messaging were masked by a heavy dose of unapologetic nostalgia. It seemed our longing for the return of the lonely woman sitting in her pyjamas downing pints of vodka and ice cream was answered. However, this time around the voice of our hilarious, relatable idol had lost its believable British accent, alongside about XX pounds ('finally down to my perfect weight') and her universal reach across generations. So here's a break down of the top 5 moments that what went wrong.
1. MILLENNIALS, HITLER CATS & NO INTEGRITY
After 16 years of following Bridget Jones from the ripe age of 9, reading the books, watching the films, naming whatsapp groups after her catch phrases, I was totally taken a back by her 'walk out' speech and the film's total degradation and misunderstanding of its millennial fanbase. The viewing experience as Bridget self-justifies her reasons for quitting her job to Alice Peabody, the young 'villian-like' boss portrayed as a 'brash, gobby, Northern hipster who is incredibly confident with her opinions' (to quote the actress 'Kate O'Flynn' who played her), felt like a slap in the face:
It just doesn't stand. Yes, we may be partial to jam jars (recycling) and tasty lunches (healthy eating), but we as a generation are infamous in the ad world for threatening businesses with extinction if they fail to amount to the unprecedented pressure we've put on brands to be more socially and environmentally conscious than any generation ever before. In a world where millennials are literally known for making 'caring' fashionable, for embracing causes worldwide (feminism being one of them *ahem*), how does Bridget Jones' integrity compare? What is this integrity that is being referred to here? What feels troubling about this statement in a post-brexit and Trump era, is the embrace of 'old fashioned' principles - it's all very suggestively right-leaning. Did we totally miss something? Is Bridget Jones right-wing and backward-looking? What does this say about the mood amongst 'midults', refusing to embrace change? Moreover, the suggestion in this speech of 'old fashioned' principles holding 'integrity' and being 'something worthwhile' opposed to being a 'celebration of the inane' seems incredibly ironic and disturbing given we're in an era of Trump's inane, post-truth policies. Is Bridget's anger misdirected toward the wrong generation?
To add more irony to the pot, as Bridget does her 'walk out' after deploring Generation Y, in the background we hear Lily Allen's classic song 'Fuck You'. Meaning to resemble Bridget's powerful fuck you to this generation, it's done so through the voice of Lily Allen, a London lass with much the same taste and style as her 'millennial' Hitler-cat obsessed boss that she slates. Who's really saying Fuck you, fuck you very very much here? The only saving grace is the moment she returns to her flat - Lily's Allen's song comes to a half and she reflects: "What have I done?" Yes. What have you gone and done silly Bridget?
2. IS IT PUSSY OR BOOBY RIOT?
Back in March 2012, the arrest of Pussy Riot's members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina, Katarina Samutsevich and Yekaterina Stanislavovna shook feminists worldwide - and for our generation - it was a moment which inspired critical thought and artistic responses (see 'Let's Start A Pussy Riot'). We had witnessed fellow 'millennial' women protesting at great risk for something politically meaningful and globally significant.
The weight and importance of Pussy Riot in the rebirth of feminism as we see it today has been belittled by 'Bridget Jones's Baby' and its obscured representation of the group in the fictional group 'Poonani'. A playful pun on the 'Pussy' of 'Pussy Riot', it strips the language of revolution and protest and reduces the group to 'Poonani' - a slang term for vagina. Why not 'Poonani Revolt'?
Nonetheless the chants of 'Power to the Poonani' in the film are fantastic and just as you want to shout out at the screen alongside 'Poonani' during their court hearing, Mr Darcy (their defense lawyer) says: 'Christ, looking forward to going back to some good old fashioned genocide.' :O Noooo! However he doesn't stop here:
Well, okay... Even the lawyer defending this group and their rights seems to undermine them, but surely Bridget our feminist icon understands their importance? Especially in her new role as a political news broadcaster? Nope. She fake laughs to impress Mark: 'that is hilariously funny'.
Also, it might just be me but Pussy Riot are not the Free The Nipple movement and yet to see them protest topless? As a literal poonani flash would be too much, thinks the director, let's throw in some tits with Mark Darcy's name scrawled across the bodies? Bloody brilliant.
3. DANIEL'S EASTERN EUROPEAN GRAVEYARD GROUPIES
This is a short but sweet point. The film continues to play into the Western Hollywood-esque films narrative of us vs them when it comes to Eastern Europeans and the Brits. Not only does the film's depiction of Pussy Riot undermine their protest and objectify Eastern European bodies, but the jokes won't stop. The funeral of Hugh Grants character, Daniel, is saturated in supposedly young Eastern European women who he has slept with and as we discover, has actually taken advantage of (he uses the same lines on everyone). Bridget takes note: 'His death seems to have hit the Eastern European modelling community particularly hard'. She laughs amongst her friends. Totally unnecessary and nothing innovative here in sexualising Eastern European women. Boring Bridget.
4. THE MARCH OF THE "STUPID LESBIANS"
Towards the end of the film, as an in-labour Bridget struggles to make her way to the hospital, the comedic element chosen to be the 'barrier' preventing her from a safe and secure passage to motherhood is 'feminism' - embodied in the 'bloody woman's rights march' (to quote their Italian friend, Gianni played by Enzo Cilenti).
It's unbelievable that director Sharon Maguire would think to herself, yes let's have Bridget lifted and physically totally dependent on a man (Mark Darcy) as they fight their way through a crowd of women protesting for equal rights and free speech, to the backdrop of 'love lifts us up where we belong'. Let's have Bridget literally go against this movement and the sentiment that has exploded in the recent Women's Marches seen across the world this year. Not only does the mise en scene powerfully imply an anti-feminist stance, but the script plays along:
Once we make our way to the hospital and have seen Bridget enter motherhood, we are suddenly joined by three empowered women who berate the feminist protest (?!):
Our only saviour amongst this scene around Bridget's new born child is Mark's whispers which are shouted out: 'actually they're marching in aid of free speech, it's rather important'. Well done Mark - however haven't you already been poking fun at 'Poonani' and these Russian women for the majority of the film? Hmmm.
5. HAPPILY UNEMPLOYED EVER AFTER
The final point is a fairly obvious one. There's nothing wrong with getting the guy and having a child. However, it seems that the writers forgot to tie another knot, and we're left hanging wondering what exactly does Bridget plan to do now she is unemployed? Is she to depend on Mark? What happened to this independent, career-powered role model? Are women not allowed to have it all? I suppose Mark can just have it all instead...
I could have been satisfied with the film regurgitating gags from 2001, but as a fan it's a shame to see 'Bridget Jones's Baby' miss the opportunity to really embrace modern principles, its fanbase and the increasing rise of feminism. It's strange that 15 years on the new Bridget Jones has proved to be an outdated Hollywood-esque love story that won't make room for feminism and love - despite previously being a challenger of the norm. Perhaps we've outgrown Bridget? Perhaps her fan girls don't need her anymore.
Despite that, it must be said that Emma Thompson's performance as Dr. Rawlings was fantastic, and it seems that although slightly dubious Mark Darcy has usurped Bridget as the film's new feminist icon (or as close as), which I suppose is in some senses progressive?