Fourteen years have gone by since there’s been a new installment of Bridget Jones’. Well, then is it any wonder to gush like crazy over the return of chick lit’s leading lady and her creator? If there wasn’t a Bridget, there might not be a Carrie Bradshaw (Sex and The City) or an Andy Sachs (The Devil Wears Prada) or countless other great books that made us laugh, cry, relate and let us know, we’re not strange creatures from outer space if we are singletons.
Recently spoilers were printed in the UK that quickly made the rounds to the US media. Helen Fielding had killed MARK DARCY! When Helen was asked by Vogue’s Valerie Steiker, culture editor last night at Housingworks Book Store, if she expected the swift reaction via Twitter from fans, she said no. She didn’t expect to be sitting at home in her pj’s like Bridget, watching the telly, and seeing updates about Syria, then the next story saying “HELEN FIELDING KILLED MARK DARCY!” She didn’t expect a man to run out of a restaurant she had just left yelling at her “You murdered Colin Firth!” right after the news broke. When I asked one of my friends to come to the event she said “Bitch killed Mark Darcy, she is dead to me.”
The hard part was having to tell Colin Firth. After all, the BBC version of Jane Austen’s “Pride & Prejudice”, of which Colin played the most memorable Mr. Darcy, inspired Fielding’s character Mark Darcy. For Ms. Fielding, Colin/Mr. Darcy/Mark Darcy is a hybrid creature and she cannot separate them. She wanted to tell him about the character’s end in person but, their schedules were so conflicting she had to tell him over the phone. She said it was like a death, she asked him if he had someone there with him.
However, Colin/Darcy/Mark Darcy did not disappoint. How very British of this clever man to take it in good stride, and announce that it was a fictional character and no one had actually died. So, as a fan, when I heard the spoiler I was quite upset. However, as a writer, we are constantly told to kill our darlings, throw thunderbolts at our characters to shake them up, to challenge them and create conflict and new goals. For Ms. Fielding, Mark Darcy is a gentleman. He would never leave Bridget and their two children, so he had to die. “It’s far better that he dies and lives on in memory untarnished, like Jesus. He’d never be a fuckwit.” Indeed would you want to read a book about a happy marriage? We love Bridget for her struggles, for her self-doubt, for her bumbling through social situations and love.
Fielding said the way in which dating has changed now with social media, is the amount of things that can be silent and have to be interpreted.
Fielding has often be thought to be Bridget. She created Bridget as a means to write columns so she could keep her own life private. There are, of course, many similarities. She admitted she is overly ambitious in the kitchen and the blue string incident did happen to her. Her friends know she is usually going to overreach in that area and takeout will be ordered. Fielding is now divorced, a mother of two and living in London and in her 50’s. Bridget Jones is a widow, 51, and a mother of two living in London trying to sort out social media and modern dating. I can just say Poor Bridget! Let the comedy ensue.
When the Q&A was opened up to the audience I asked Helen if there was anything she had wished from the book had made it into the films and vice versa (oh self brag moment: Fielding said “That is a very good question” – oh yes, I have professionally interviewed people but a compliment from Helen/Bridget –for now she is a hybrid of those two personas for me–is quite amazing). Ms. Fielding answered yes and sometimes things get confusing. There were things she wanted to put into “Bridget Jones: Mad About A Boy” but had happened in a previous book or film. One thing she would have loved to have in the films was Bridget Jones interviewing Colin Firth the actor. (Note: if you own the 2nd film there is an outtake of exactly that but I didn’t bring that up since she seemed a bit tired from a full day of press). So, in actual real life, Helen met up with Colin Firth in Rome where she was Bridget Jones for the night out with Mark Darcy! And, they’ve also had phone conversations where Colin Firth is Mr. Darcy.
Indeed Helen Fielding is so charming and so humble when it comes to the success of Bridget. Ten minutes into the event, she admitted she was quite relieved and happy with it since she stressed about the VOGUE part of the evening – dressing up for it, accessorizing properly and wearing hard-to-walk-in-heels. I love that she removed those uncomfortable heels and let us all just have them sit there and admire them. Hurrah for Helen/Bridge.
Helen spoke about how men and woman just communicate differently. Bridget’s motto is KOB = keep buggering on & of course, she does. Women will go out, have some drinks and have a laugh about their problems. Whereas, (Fielding kept saying she is not a sociologist), a male friend went out with another man who was getting a divorce after twenty years. She asked him afterwards why the couple is getting divorced and her friend responded he didn’t know, they talked football all night.
When asked what she would be if not a writer, she replied a doctor. She said if anyone wasn’t feeling well she would be quite happy to assist them. Oddly enough, five minutes later the last “question” was really more a drawn out statement, when a woman three chairs down from me began moaning. If you were on the subway, you just move away from that kind of insane moaning, we’re New Yorkers, we used to it. However, this poor elderly woman who had come on her own was slumped over, unconscious in a bookstore! Guests and Fielding sprang into action. The fire department came and took the woman to a hospital. I want to say, as relieved as we all were she regained consciousness, thank you to you Ms. Moaner. You saved us from a seemingly, unending, pointless statement that was taking down the whole event and instead, gave us a chance to see Helen-Bridget as doctor in action.
The best question from Vogue was, if this book becomes a film, will Mark Darcy be present in flashbacks. Fielding said he would be well represented and that she’d like to be part of the casting! Oh ah.
Finally, it was lovely to have a bit of chat with Helen during the book signing afterwards. I was very happy I got to discuss the “Chick Lit” genre which so many in publishing “eschew” , which is the tone and genre I write in and Helen was surprised and told me to keep on going with it. The great thing is I got to inform her that Mad About A Boy is #1 in the Fiction Satire genre on Amazon. She was so happy. I love when you get a few moments with someone you admire, for whatever reason, and they are made happy by something you said to them. Thank you Helen-Bridget. I am glad you wrote another installment and shocked Britain by writing about a woman in her 50’s- gasp, dating!