I’ve watched Bridget Jones’s Diary more times than I can count. I can quote bits of the film, give you a slightly too detailed yet somehow abridged synopsis and even own all three films on DVD after getting too frustrated that they kept moving streaming services. Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001), the first of a three film series, was released 22 years ago. While many aspects of the film have not aged well — it really is a product of its time — watching it still brings me so much comfort. I’ve recently wondered what keeps me wanting to watch it again and again.
I think it might be Bridget.
Bridget is a bit of a mess. This might be putting it lightly. She somehow manages to swing from one awkward moment to the next. She’s clumsy. She says the wrong thing. She wears the wrong thing. She always seems to do the wrong thing.
A quick search of my texts revealed far too many occasions where I’ve apologised for doing something not quite right, with saying things along the lines of “Sorry, I’m just a bit of a mess at the moment.” When it feels like everything is out of control and there’s too much going on, I always seem to fall on the explanation that I’m a mess. I think I might have described myself as a mess more than I have described myself as anything else.
Bridget lives out what often feels like a nightmarish situation. In the course of one film, she rambles about what she is thinking (often with very little filtering) in front of the guy she likes (and his family and their friends), almost messes up at work, turns up to a party in a costume only to find out that it isn’t a costume party, makes blue soup, and slides down a fire pole, only to have to climb back up, before landing on the camera filming her for the segment. Despite all of this, she is fine.
If you turn to Google with the question, “Am I a mess?”, you are met with guides on how to fix your life, sort out the mess and turn it all around. But why do we feel like we have to get rid of our messiness? Why do I feel the need to apologise for not having it all together? Why does not being in control make me a mess?
Whilst Bridget seems like she is trying to pull her life together — she has a large collection of self-help books and starts the titular diary to track her life — she doesn’t need to change in order for things to go her way. She doesn’t have a dramatic makeover or realisation where suddenly everything is clearer and calmer. Even when new parts of her life start to fall apart. As Bridget says, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that when one part of your life starts going okay, another falls spectacularly to pieces.”
Bridget doesn’t get less messy as the film goes on (and this continues in the subsequent two films as well). There’s something comforting about this. Seeing a woman be unapologetically messy, and knowing that even when it goes wrong, she will still be okay.
I don’t think you can spoil a movie after 22 years, but in case you’ve decided that you want to watch the movie, skip over this paragraph. Even at the end of the movie, Bridget runs out into a snowing street in only a cardigan and her underwear to chase after Mark Darcy. Bridget realises that Mark saw what she had written about him in her diary, and freaks out that she has scared him off. As she finally catches up, she starts rambling that she was stupid and didn’t mean it. And yet, it turns out that he had left to buy her a new diary. For a new start.
Bridget exists as herself wholeheartedly. She openly feels her feelings, whatever they require. Whether it is moping on the couch with a tub of ice cream, or professing her truest thoughts to whoever needs to hear them. She does what she wants, when she wants. Throughout the films, Bridget is allowed to be Bridget, in all her messiness and complexity.
I’ve been thinking about this idea that the author Glennon Doyle has about people who feel like they are a mess. She says that rather than being a mess, we are instead people who feel a lot in a world that is messy. You are not a mess, the world is. We feel messy because we are paying attention. Because we care.
In a world that is constantly full of stress and confusion, it makes sense to feel messy. It makes sense to feel unsure. Everything might be out of control. But also, everything might be okay. We don’t know what is going to happen. Maybe today will be blue soup, but what if tomorrow won’t be?
Maybe I am a mess. Maybe Bridget one too. Maybe neither of us are. What if you aren’t a mess? What if we are all just trying our best, and maybe just maybe, that is good enough.