There is nothing quite so satisfying as indulging in a really cheesy guilty pleasure from time to time (no innuendo intended – I mean “cheesy” in its purest metaphorical form). Sometimes, it is almost an obligation to reconnect with what is socially cringeworthy. Which is why, last night, I found myself reading Bridget Jones’s Diary.
Now I know what most of you are thinking. There is nothing wrong with Bridget Jones’s Diary. There is nothing “cheesy” about it. Except that the Literature world can be very judgmental and often full of snobs who look down on the more popular, female-oriented works written by novelists such as Sophie Kinsella and Helen Fielding. Of course, I disagree with this misogynistic snobbery. Who says that a classic is a classic, anyway? After years of studying I still cannot give you the answer to that: my only possible conclusion is that classics only stand the test of time because they are literally FORCED DOWN OUR THROAT by lecturers who are kidding themselves. So to a certain extent it seems like a valid argument to say that the more judgmental of these critics need to “get with the times” a little, before diminishing or judging a book that they have likely not even bothered to read, assuming that it would be bad because it was not written by Chaucer or Proust. Okay, these judgments might be well-based on occassion: like many I also believe that books like Twilight and 50 Shades are sort of abominable, though kudos to the writers for getting so much recognition for their tripe – but they are, more often than not, it seems, badly-founded. But I digress. Bridget Jones’ is neither 50 Shades nor Twilight, and is only looked down upon probably because Helen Fielding is not 500 years old/didn’t have sex with Shakespeare/isn’t Shakespeare. Which is a ridiculous way to judge a book – because the writing is actually excellent. Genuinely worthy of the cliched critique of “laugh-out-loud funny”. So, as far as “guilty pleasures” go, Bridget Jones’ is pretty cool – though my literary peers and also boys in general may disagree. But literary folk think metric and iambic pentameter are cool and boys like to spit on the floor so what do they know? I embrace the “guilty” of the Diary.
I do not care what my literary peers think. I do not care what boys think. Reading Bridget Jones’ was an “obligation” of the greatest kind, brought on by “real-life-miserable-surroundings” in the form of public transport: a setting in which, I have found, guilty pleasures come screaming out of the darkness to strangle you until you eat three bags of Maltesers in one sitting or irritate all your friends by phoning them constantly or, in this case specifically, read a “cheesy” book to pass the time. Bridget was the perfect companion as I careened along the tracks from the North to the South, immersing my gloomy mood in a blanket of mental laughing-gas until I felt relief.
Let me get onto the silver linings. I was, pre-Bridget, hating life. Super Glum, 2015, Post-teen. I wanted Leeds’ bars and Northern pigeons. But I could not have these things. Bridget makes you not care that you do not have these things. Because in reading about Bridget, all you want to do is continue to read about Bridget and forget the outside world which does not contain hilarious Bridget. Bridget is staring at me right now on my office desk, threatening the possibility that I will treat today like permanent lunchtime.
But do you know what? Bridget Jones’s Diary is kind of the funniest book ever. And it really did the trick. I was approximately 70% less glum by the end of the journey, Bridget Jones’ crises overtaking mine and making mine, in fact, look more comic than miserable.
Yes, there is something very therapeutic about ironic comedy. There is a great big silver lining to Bridget Jones’ everyday, consistent tragedies. Primarily you can tell, as an onlooker to Bridget’s life, that she really doesn’t have it all bad – though her anxious journal entries mimic perfectly our (or at least my) spiralling worrying attitudes towards life’s dilemmas. I worry constantly, about everything and nothing and imaginary things, and when there is nothing to worry about, I worry about an invisible impending situation which will likely cause me to worry some more. You cannot, after all, let down your worry-guard, or the worrying subject will catch you unawares and eat your brain. That is the worrier’s logic. Bridget suffers from the same problem. Okay, I’m not saying that she doesn’t have actual issues, that she narcotically worries about nothing at all. I, too, would be uncomfortable if my mum suddenly became a dolled-up TV personality dating a tanned hunk pretentiously called “Julio” (whoever met a Julio who didn’t want to insert his penis into everything that moves), leaving me behind to pick up the pieces: a.k.a., Dad. And we’ve all been in the place where we chase after men who suffer from “emotional fuckwittage”. And I completely, COMPLETELY relate to feeling skint all the time: yet simultaneously wanting to spend away my problems by buying meaningless crap.
But it’s not all bad. Not Bridget’s life, nor mine. Our woeful protagonist works in publishing and, although she worries she has no career progression in front of her and is doing badly, a job in publishing is pretty hard to attain – silver lining. She can afford to live and go out with her friends a lot, implying she has a good social life whether her romantic thirsts are fully quenched or not – silver lining. She has a great network of friends who want to listen to all of her problems – silver lining.
So Bridget Jones’ picked me up for more than just the given reason. Yes, it is hilarious, which is obviously a great medicine for the blues. But also, in picking apart Bridget’s life, and seeing all of her silver linings, I sort of managed to see my own. Which makes Bridget Jones’ a special kind of guilty pleasure: a reformative guilty pleasure which heals, as opposed to damages. She is relatable. And as opposed to thinking of ourselves guiltily: “oh, I shouldn’t have eaten that”, “why am I so stupid when it comes towards guys?” “why did I buy the seventy-quid mug just because it had a novelty picture of Gandalf on it?” – in reading about Bridget punishing herself, we feel less inclined to do the same to ourselves. We see the comedy in it. We see the silver-linings in our problems from new, amusing angles. And the ability to do that – to notice our own silver-linings through Bridget’s – brings a lot of the pleasure of reading it away from the guilty.