OMG she's back. Is Bridget Jones really the anti-feminist devil incarnate, as many commentators have alleged? Or does the woman once billed as 'everywoman' in fact represent the parts of ourselves of which we're not so proud?
It's the literary event of 2013. Bridget is back - big pants, Chardonnay and all. This time she comes with the addition of two kids and a toyboy, but minus the much-adored Mark Darcy who, for reasons perplexing to many, seemed to find her bucket-load of neuroses endearing, not infuriating.
Helen Fielding's comic creation is one of the most divisive characters of modern times. It's safe to assume Bridget is parody rather than aspiration, but when she exploded onto the national consciousness in a haze of hangover and guiltily consumed calories the sheer number of women proudly proclaiming 'OMG she's JUST like me' showed that Fielding had tapped into more than possibly even she had bargained for.
Has Helen Fielding has created women's biggest in-joke?
Not if feminist commentators are to be believed. Just this week Suzanne Moore has spoken out despairingly of her hatred of the chain-smoking, man-chasing, weight obsessed wreck that is 'our' Bridget. Miss Jones represents everything that women are supposed to have progressed beyond - the endless search for Mr or Ms Right, the ridiculous obsession with losing those last few pounds. And don't get anybody started on the big pants. Ranty blogs about the hopelessness of hailing Bridget as typical or representative of women everywhere are ten, or more like twenty or thirty a penny.
The vitriol directed at Bridget seems excessive by anybody's standards. Could this be because she in fact encompasses the parts of being a woman of which we are not so proud? How many of us can truly claim to be completely and utterly happy with our bodies and to have never once wished even for a second that we could change our weight, shape or size? We may aspire to such self-acceptance and even proclaim it but there's a multi-billion pound global diet and weight-loss industry that begs to differ.
The fact is, there is a Bridget in all of us. Even if it's just the pair of greying granny pants hidden in our underwear drawer. She represents our little secrets, our less-than-aspirational truths. Even the most assertive, glamorous and successful admit to having those days when they wish they could lose a few pounds, feel more confident - or have found themselves in some kind of situation for which their choice of underwear is at least marginally inappropriate. We might not all be 'just like' Bridget, but there are few of us who are her complete polar opposite.
Whether Helen Fielding knew it or not (presumably she does know it now) in creating Bridget Jones she has characterised, and verbalised, some almost universally female traits. We all know we're a 'bit' like Bridget in some way, even just microscopically. We can all be a bit sloppy, a bit less than the perfect, confident, self-assured individuals we all aspire to be. Whether we're happy with that or not depends upon our worldview and our beliefs about ourselves as women. But nobody can get that angry, or that excited, about a fictional character unless to some extent that character represents some part of themselves. Whether they're proud of it or not.