Film

Bridget Jones buys The Big Issue? Of course she does

Today Bridget Jones would be a Big Issue reader. But what does this tell us about Bridget – and The Big Issue?

Bridget Jones has faced many claims over the years: anti-feminist, anti-nice-guys, flaky, promiscuous, neurotic, fat, thin, clumsy, awkward, smoker, drinker, drama queen. But she is, improbably for a character played by a full-blooded Texan, irrepressibly, unashamedly, quintessentially, beautifully British. She is in so many respects what we recognise, what we are, what we sometimes don’t want to be and sometimes just what we do want to be.

So the news that Bridget, our Bridget, was filmed buying a copy of The Big Issue from a vendor outside of her flat in Borough, South London – which presumably she would then add to the stockpile creaking and tilting by her couch, collected over years – didn’t surprise us at all. It was, in fact, a stroke of genius by film-makers for what it revealed about her, but also, about us.

It was, in fact, a stroke of genius by filmmakers for what it revealed about her, but also, about us

So what can’t be denied is that Bridget has always had a distinct charm and secure place of affection in our hearts. She’s not just got egg on her face, but yolk in her ear and shell in her fringe (which she cut herself with bacon scissors). She falls, she stumbles, she fumbles and she bumbles. She chooses the inappropriate guy, makes errors in the (clearly) wrong career, drinks too much vodka (on a Monday), eats too many pies (according to her own self-critical inner monologue), wears bad clothes her mother forces on her, says “fuck” when she really really shouldn’t and quite often has the wrong kind of sex with the wrong kind of people.

But, what many have often missed about Bridge, and the new film Bridget Jones’s Baby makes abundantly clear, is that she has also always always been kind and warm-hearted and generous and good. Yes, she has moments of narcissism and self-involvement (hey, none of us are perfect), but her care extends beyond the world she’s standing in.

That said, that world has changed dramatically in the years since Bridget was born (cinematically) 15 years ago. Since, we’ve survived New Labour, a returning Conservative government, rode huge highs and plummeted into lows. Arguably, the gap between “them” and “us” has contracted and in some cases disappeared altogether. Bridget – and her long chequered career history, still empty fridge and yep, sparse flat – represents the uncomfortable fact that we are all one turn of bad luck, one career-ending error, one incident, away from – if not ending up on the streets – no longer able to afford our rent or our life as we know it. We are, in 2016, more than ever, in this together. We know friends, we know neighbours, we know family members who are living month to month. We are surrounded by the recognition of the slippery situation we live in, where the scales can tip and fall at whim.

The selfishness much of us spent the Noughties in – including Bridget – ordering increasingly expensive glasses of tart wine and renting flats with brighter and brighter brushed steel has dulled in this new reality. Not only does Bridget Jones and Bridget Jones’s Baby live in this new world, but also she herself has a new life to boot. She is 40-something, she is pregnant, she has no stable partner and, at times, an unstable job. You see her focus shift from the narrow view of her existence to one where she blinks outwards at a society she is now fully a part of, that she now needs to be part of. You witness the dawning social responsibility settle on her shoulders: she, we, have to make the world an OK place not just for us but for the next generation to hopefully parachute, not crawl, into.

Not only does Bridget Jones and Bridget Jones’s Baby live in this new world, but also she herself has a new life to boot

There is, when you think about it, no greater shorthand for our changing country and our new sense of individual responsibility than the sight of one of our most-loved characters – one who has previously been accused of being concerned with personal gain – handing over £2.50 for a copy of The Big Issue. It’s that sign that says, I want to help someone else and by turn, myself and all of us.

And in that act – whether it landed on the edit room floor or not – Bridget reminds us of, well, us. Yes, us at our worst, us at our most shambolic, but ultimately us at our very best. We too are the people who will stop in the street, look The Big Issue seller in the eye, offer a smile, and recognise the importance of helping someone else less fortunate to help themselves. As, not only could it make them the best version of themselves but us the best version of ours. That is what makes us great, Great Britain. Even those of us that are Texans.

Bridget Jones’s Baby is in cinemas now

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THE BRIDGET JONES GUIDE TO BUYING THE BIG ISSUE

STEP ONE: Get to know your local vendor.

Keep an eye out for them every week. Stop for a chat, share a smile, a joke. Complain about relationship/work/family woes. Ask about what’s in the latest magazine!

STEP TWO: Oh my god. No change!

The Big Issue costs £2.50. If you don’t have the exact money, don’t stress! It’s OK to wait for change – your vendor won’t be offended. Vendors are trained in handling money.

STEP THREE: Take your magazine.

ALWAYS take your copy. It’s the only way your vendor can grow their business – if you give money without taking the mag you make them a beggar instead of a salesperson.

STEP FOUR: Have a good read, update your Diary.

Say cheerio, take the magazine home, and read it. You’ll be enlightened, entertained, and feel good; you gave your business to someone who benefits directly from the sale.

Words: Terri White, editor-in-chief of Empire magazine @Terri_White

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