How close is Bridget Jones to Helen Fielding, her creator? JLF 2018 seeks answers
Helen Fielding, the creator of Bridget Jones’s Diaries, reveals that many of the character’s awkward moments were inspired by her own experiences. She regaled her audience at the Jaipur Literature Festival recounting tales of how the character was born and her own similarities with her.JaipurLitFest Updated: Jan 28, 2018 18:05 IST
“I came to India and to Jaipur years and years ago when I was a hippie – as a backpacker, travelling in trains. I was a giggly young girl in her thirties and one of the things my friend and I found funny was the cows in the street, even though we understood the holiness of it,” Helen Fielding recalled during a session at JLF 2018.
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It is something that you can imagine Bridget Jones – the protagonist of Bridget Jones’s Diary, Bridget Jones: Edge of Reason, Bridget Jones: Mad About The Boy and Bridget Jones’s Baby – doing as a ‘singleton’. But how close is Bridget to Fielding, her creator? A journalist who has reported in Africa, Fielding was freelancing and working on a book when she was approached by The Independent to write a column as herself on the experience of being a single woman living in London. “I said, ‘I can’t do that,’ but I could write an anonymous column on the subject and created the character Bridget Jones. The anonymity helped me to be unselfconscious and therefore I could be more honest than I might otherwise have been,” she says. As the column became popular Fielding couldn’t help confessing that she was the writer. The novels and films, which Fielding scripted, followed.
Most woman can identify with Bridget’s struggles with relationships, dating, smoking and her weight. They are what make the character so believable and lovable. How did Fielding, a serious journalist who worked at the BBC, think up the muddles Bridget often found herself in at work? Fielding confesses that she had experienced some of those awkward moments at work herself. “It has happened to me… Losing the thread of conversation during an interview. And once, when I was covering a royal birth, someone forgot to cue me and it was live and I was fiddling with my hair!”
Watch: Bridget Jones’ Diaries’ Helen Fielding in conversation with Meru Gokhale
Fielding’s series allows the Bridget Jones character to evolve over the years. “In the fourth book in the series Mad About The Boy, Mark Darcy has died and Bridget is a widow. So there’s sadness in that; lots of darkness. I think comedy always has its roots in something painful. There’s pain even in being a spinster at 30. That’s a tough time,” she says. Perhaps, Bridget’s character has been embraced by readers because, at her core, she is an honest, warm and dignified person. “There have been three films and four books and they have done reasonably well. So it’s not a one-book wonder. But the pressure from myself is that I wouldn’t want to bring forward a book that is not as good as I can make it. There are aspects of Bridget that haven’t reached their full potential – there’s another film to be made, a stage musical, at some point television… I would also like to write some ideas I have set in Los Angeles that are separate from Bridget,” she says.
Fielding is never sick of Bridget and clearly, the character’s potential is even greater in this era of technology and the consequent proliferation of options. Fielding says she isn’t sure if the multiplicity of options provided by dating apps makes life, in general, and commitment, in particular, more difficult. The rules, she believes, remain more or less the same: “Don’t text while drunk” as Bridget said in one book. Years later, in Mad About The Boy, Bridget might have had the same realisation when she tweeted something about birds one night and has to apologise to birds in general the next morning!
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