Helen Fielding's timeless creation is growing older - but is Bridget Jones growing wiser too?

Great TV shows like The Simpsons have survived the decades by having characters that never age. New Bridget Jones novel, Mad About the Boy promises a different tack

Share

One of the great things about The Simpsons, apart from the expertly crafted jokes, the sharp social commentary, the puncturing of celebrity ostentation, and the superb characterisation, is the fact that no one ever grows up.

So Bart, Lisa and Maggie are the same age as they were when the  show - in my estimation, the greatest series in the history of TV - first came into our lives all of 24 years ago. Even the family dog, Santa's Little Helper, is still going strong, many years after the normal life expectancy of a typical mutt.

That's the thing about cartoon characters: they don't have to grow up, causing the scriptwriters problems. Bart's frames of cultural reference have changed over the past couple of decades, but he's still the same primary school boy with wicked intentions who has learnt rather too much from his father.

Long-running series with "real" people don't have the advantage of being preserved, aspic-like, in a particular time and place. So it is with one of the most successful comic creations of our time, the perpetual singleton Bridget Jones. The invention of a sparky Yorkshirewoman called Helen Fielding, Bridget first captured our attention back in 1995 when her diary was published every Wednesday in The Independent.

Bear in mind that this was in the days before social media, and popular movements had to be created - literally - by word of mouth, it seems astonishing in retrospect how quicky, and effectively, the impact of Bridget's take on the mores of modern life spread. She became a totemic figure for a certain type of single, thirty-something woman who dates, drinks and obsessively watches her weight. She was a creation of the 1990s when reckless consumption and conspicuous materialism were not frowned upon in quite the way they are now, and when social commentators talked about "The Bridget Jones Generation", Helen and her fictional alter-ego had secured their place in modern cultural history.

Then came the books, the films, the musical (still in gestation), and now she's back. A new diary, entitled "Mad About the Boy", is to be published in October, nearly 15 years after the last instalment, and Bridget is now a forty-something trying to negotiate her way around the potholes of 21st century communication.

Like all of us, she may have had to succumb to the ageing process, but, judging by an advance release of short snippets of the book, she hasn't lost her capacity for chaotic self-destruction. Today she is immersed in social media, counting her number of followers in the way she once counted calories, and she's discovering a rule that I discovered some time ago: don't drink and dial. In the old days, she'd never have written a letter late at night, and gone to a postbox and delivered it. "A text is gone at the brush of a fingertip," she writes, "like a nuclear bomb or Exocet missile." The previous Bridget Jones tomes have sold a total of more than 15 million copies across the world. To have stood the test of time, given that Bridget was very much a product of age in which she was born, is quite remarkable. She is truly a phenomenon. Timeless, but not ageless.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Central London, Bank

£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A truly exciting opportunity has ari...

Ampersand Consulting LLP: Systems Developer (C/C++, Ruby/ Perl) - £40k

£40000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Systems Developer (C/C+...

Recruitment Genius: IT Systems Manager

£22000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An experienced Systems Manager ...

Recruitment Genius: Rockstar Sales Executive - OTE £65,000

£25000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful, VC-funded star...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: sculpture, silly jokes and a guide to solving all engineering problems

John Rentoul
Michael Brown was shot and killed by police in August  

Ferguson: Sad truth is that Michael Brown was killed because he was a black man

Bonnie Greer
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital