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Why Bridget Jones deserves a smack

Rebecca Ascher-Walsh says the self-absorbed diarist gives being a woman a bad name

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Why Bridget Jones deserves a smack

I admit that I was one of the two people who didn’t love ”Bridget Jones’s Diary.” That wasn’t safe to cop to when Helen Fielding’s ode to the single girl was first published and heralded as the defining voice of modern womanhood. Saying aloud that this obsessive, compulsive, neurotic protagonist would be better off spending her time in a Dieters Anonymous meeting than regaling the reader with her daily calorie intake might have seemed, I thought, mean spirited.

But now, with Fielding’s follow-up, ”Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason,” I’m coming out of the closet. Because this time around, Jones (and Fielding) have pushed ME beyond the edge of reason. In her first incarnation, Jones, I will say, did have a winning spazziness about her; while she could never quite get her act together, she was a likable working woman doing the best she could in the face of life’s ridiculous circumstances.

Now, however, under Fielding’s best-selling pen, Jones has metamorphosed into the kind of woman that makes you ashamed to be one: totally dependent on men, undone by the smallest affront, and unable to travel somewhere without getting herself thrown into jail (if that weren’t enough, Jones then tells the readers that jail in a third world country represents a good weight loss opportunity).

Jones has been compared to Jane Austen’s heroines, but there is a crucial difference: In Austen’s day, a woman was dependent on a man, and even so, the author’s heroines fought mightily against that truth. Fielding, on the other hand, has presented us with a character incapable of doing anything succinctly except counting calories — and that, as far as I’m concerned, is no heroine. What Jones needs isn’t a good snog — it’s a good smack.