Bridget Jones and Chick Lit

Or rather, an ode to Bridget.

BRIDGET JONES helped keep my sanity intact on a very long flight. (Johannesburg to JFK is about 17+ hours.) I had bought it and THE EDGE OF REASON at the airport and I’m so glad I did. Every minute accounting of fat cells lost and gained reflected the tedious hours in the air. I fell in love with this woman who was simultaneously determined to be strong and yet was utterly gormless. Later the movies delighted me, from the very first moments where Bridget lip synchs to All By Myself.

It’s such a perfect sequence. It’s every girl’s loneliest moments, then defiance, heartbreak, determination, resignation, everything. I love it.

I like to think that the launch of the big chick lit movement in the late 90s and early 00s, which is often credited to BRIDGET,  was a moment when publishers realized that women could be profitable and successful. Women characters, women’s lives, women’s struggles.

Yes, it was often couched in the ‘safety’ of humor. Look at those silly girls and their silly worries about men and weight and wine. How silly. How not-serious. No need to consider any of those books for serious reviews or acclaim, they’re just twaddle.

But the books got written, published, and read. Which by itself is a victory.

Now the chick lit genre is dying off, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. Good because a stereotyped genre was unlikely to lead to serious acknowledgement. Bad because it strips women of another venue. I think a lot of chick lit gets shoved into romance now, which is disheartening. Must a woman’s story revolve around a romance in order to be readable? Chick lit often had romance but it didn’t have to.

I used to read a lot of chick lit. I liked that it was often lighter and funny. I liked that it was about women. Now I like that it focused on aspects of women’s lives that often get short shrift, like the difficulties of making a career in a male-dominated field.

Some of these issues have moved to New Adult, where chick lit’s ‘I’m just trying to find my place in the world’ angle went. But again, it’s limiting. To shunt it off on New Adult says that women in their 30s, 40s, or even later can’t have these worries about where they belong, what their purpose is, or who they want to be.

Maybe we’ll see a rise in women’s stories thanks to the upcoming Bridget Jones’ Baby, which is not based on a book but takes place in between books. (The third BJ book is… kind of a downer.) This movie is going to be about very women-specific topics, and hopefully it will do very well at the box office. The last year or so has had several movies with non-white-male-heroes and they’ve done well. Would be nice if Hollywood would get on board.


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