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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: TAs, LSAs and Support Workers needed in ...

Eye for Detail?

£41000 - £48000 per annum + Benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: Eye for Detail? S...

NGO and Community Development in Cambodia

Unpaid: Kaya Responsible Travel: There are many small development projects in ...

Senior Infrastructure Consultant

£50000 - £65000 Per Annum potentially flexible for the right candidate: Clearw...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor’s Letter: Britain isn't the most sexist country in the world

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
 

Nigel Farage: I’m taking on the status quo, and the Establishment’s fighting back

Nigel Farage
Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal
Supersize art

Is big better? Britain's latest super-sized art

The Kelpies are the latest addition to a growing army of giant sculptures. But naysayers are asking what a pair of gigantic horse heads tells us about Falkirk?
James Dean: Back on the big screen

James Dean: Back on the big screen

As 'Rebel without a Cause' is re-released, Geoffrey Macnab reveals how its star perfected his moody act
Catch-22: How the cult classic was adapted for the stage

How a cult classic was adapted for the stage

More than half a century after it was published 'Catch-22' will make its British stage debut next week
10 best activity books for children

10 best activity books for children

Keep little ones busy this bank holiday with one of these creative, educational and fun books
Arsenal 3 West Ham United 1: Five things we learnt from the battle between the London sides

Five things we learnt from Arsenal's win over West Ham

Arsenal still in driving seat for Champions League spot and Carroll can make late charge into England’s World Cup squad
Copa del Rey final: Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right

Pete Jenson on the Copa del Rey final

Barcelona are paying for their complacency and not even victory over Real Madrid will put things right
Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

Rafa to reign? Ten issues clay courts will serve up this season

With the tennis circus now rolling on to the slowest surface, Paul Newman highlights who'll be making the headlines – and why
Exclusive: NHS faces financial disaster in 2015 as politicians urged to find radical solution

NHS faces financial disaster in 2015

Politicians urged to find radical solution
Ukraine crisis: How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?

Ukraine crisis

How spontaneous are the pro-Russian protests breaking out in Ukraine’s east?
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

The first execution at the Tower of London for 167 years

A history of the First World War in 100 moments
Fires could turn Amazon rainforest into a desert as human activity and climate change threaten ‘lungs of the world’, says study

New threat to the Amazon rainforest:

Fires that scorch the ‘lungs of the Earth’
Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City: And the winner of this season’s Premier League title will be...

Who’s in box seat now? The winner of the title will be ...

Who is in best shape to take the Premier League prize?