Bridget Jones, you've given single women a bad name
The famous singleton's creator has announced a third novel, filling Sally Newall with dread
Since she first appeared in a newspaper column, followed by two books and two hit films, Bridget Jones has become synonymous with "unlucky in love". I know a man who charmingly refers to his unattached female friends, regardless of their sanity level, or age, as "Bridgets".
So the news that her creator Helen Fielding is to publish a third novel, 13 years after the last installment, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, has made my heart sink a little. Then there's the third film and musical in the pipeline. Will single women ever be free of the Bridget tag?
It's not that I don't like Bridget, played brilliantly by Renée Zellweger in the films. It's hard not to warm to the girl who drinks wine by the bottle, cooks her friends blue soup and talks freely about the perils of big knickers; it's just that I'm not sure her brand of emotional fulfilment – snaring the man at any cost, shedding dignity and self-respect along the way – needs another airing.
Details of the new book are sketchy: the publisher, Jonathan Cape, says that the novel, to be published in autumn 2013, will cover "a different phase" in her life.
But how different will it really be? In the interview revealing the plans for the new book, Fielding assured the fan base that they will not see Bridget transformed: "She's still trying to give up (drinking and smoking), she's still on a diet. She's trying a bit harder, and is a bit more successful, but she's never really going to change."
Fielding also promised that the book would "look at later phases in life when you get branded a certain thing".
The mind boggles. In the first diary, Bridget was in her thirties, so the new material should make her in, at least, her late forties.
We can only speculate then how Bridget's new diary – or more likely blog – would start: inappropriate tweets, 10; followers 95 (down five following yesterday's said inappropriateness); hours wasted on dating websites, 7.
The Bridget of 2012 would surely be an avid internet dater, going after the younger men. She'd be sniping about ex-boyfriends – perhaps ex-husbands – not over cocktails, but on Facebook, and debating the trials of parenthood on a forum.
Yep, Fielding can have a lot of fun with 4G-enabled Bridget, but you can bet the bits that will stay the same.
Can you you recall a time when Bridget's happiness level isn't directly proportional to whether she's got a man in her life – and bed? Even if the man in question is a cheat, who treats her like a plaything (Daniel Cleaver – played by Hugh Grant in the films) or an emotionally stunted, frankly dull lawyer (Mark Darcy, taken on by Colin Firth)?
Probably not. While it's unclear how much of a part the old love rivals will feature – Fielding said, "they'll still be presences in the book . . . but everyone's life moves on" – any new men are likely to be equally unappealing, yet unfathomably desirable to Bridget.
There's nothing wrong with going after a happy ending, and any single girl who says they don't want love is probably lying, but there are more dignified ways of going about it.
And don't get me started on Bridget's career. If it went badly, it was because she slept with – and was dumped by – the boss. And when it was going well, it was because she was given a helping hand to secure an interview by the boring lawyer.
As a young teenager reading the books I didn't question it. Now in my late 20s, forging a career in journalism, I can't help but think, "do it on your own, girl".
Yes, I know it's intended as comedy, but like it or not Bridget and what she stands for has seeped into the public consciousness and now represents a mindset that is both a little bit depressing and a little bit sad.
In one of the first-ever columns back in the 1990s, Bridget's friend Jude said: "We women are only vulnerable because we are a pioneer generation. In 20 years' time, men won't even dare start with F***wittage because we will just laugh in their faces."
I'd like to think, almost two decades on, that Jude's right and Bridget will surprise me this time, but somehow I doubt it.