It goes without saying that, a quarter of a century since Helen Fielding’s novel was published and two decades since Renée Zellweger’s first Oscar nomination, that Bridget Jones and her diary are still both widely loved and considered icons of third-wave feminism. Along with “Sex and the City,” Bridget Jones’s Diary forged the narrative that “singledom,” especially for respectable, middle-class women in their thirties, is perhaps not always as dreadful as mainstream culture and media would like us to believe—perhaps there is an element of being on your own and on the road less travelled by that is worthy of celebration, even when life feels like a giant dumpster fire. And 20 years later, Bridget Jones still serves as a relatable and comforting study of a woman appearing to be doing everything wrong by society’s standards and still finding a way to love and respect herself, just as she is.

For all of our modern ideals surrounding learning to love ourselves in a world that profits off of self-hatred and doubt, Bridget Jones still resonates as strongly today as the day it came out since certain social conventions, such as a single thirtysomething woman arriving to a family gathering still without a significant other on her arm to dispel judgmental glances, never seem to go out of style. Similarly, sometimes it’s just impossible to hide the fact that you’re an absolute mess who seems to have nothing together in life. “Ah! New Year’s Resolution: drink less, and quit smoking, and quit talking total nonsense to strangers,” Bridget tells Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) upon their first meeting. “Actually, quit talking, full stop.” But when Mark openly badmouths Bridget’s seemingly off-putting personality to his mother with Bridget in earshot, she hides her embarrassment and shame like a pro. It hurts her, yes, but she’s seen this movie before and is used to being disliked by men for being a mess.

After an iconic solo dance number to “All By Myself” as the opening credits roll, Bridget makes a real resolution she intends to keep: a diary of all the parts of herself she intends to improve. “Resolution number one: ugh, will obviously lose twenty pounds. Resolution number two: always put last night’s panties in the laundry basket. Equally important: will find nice sensible boyfriend and stop forming romantic attachments to any of the following: alcoholics, workaholics, sexaholics, commitment-phobics, peeping toms, megalomaniacs, emotional fuckwits, or perverts. Will especially stop fantasizing about a particular person who embodies all these things.” But to paraphrase Josie Geller in Never Been Kissed, what she ends up finding is herself.

Not allowing the rejection from Darcy to sting even a little, Bridget soon embarks on a romantic fling with her boss at a publishing house, one Mr. Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant in his dreamiest role of all-time, even if the character is a dick), whom the audience is given to understand had a falling out with Mark Darcy as a result of infidelity with one’s spouse. Thus, we are left to assume that Daniel will be the one to treat her right—smoking 22 cigarettes, all post-coital—only for Bridget to soon discover she’s fallen for yet another emotional fuckwit upon the discovery that he was two-timing her. Perhaps a previous version of Bridget Jones would have just shrugged away with her tail between her legs, but not the current one.

After finding a new job in television, she quits the publishing house without giving the appropriate notice stipulated in her contract. “Well, thank you Daniel, that is very good to know,” she remarks after a last-ditch attempt to offer her a compliment and save himself from being publicly shamed. “But if staying here means working within 10 yards of you, frankly, I’d rather have a job wiping Saddam Hussein’s ass.” The chorus of Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” immediately bellows as other women in the office cheer her on, but the cheers went far beyond that: every person and most certainly every woman who has ever been intimidated by a powerful man in a workplace is cheering from the audience with every viewing. Suddenly Bridget’s inability to adhere to society’s standards for women in their 30s makes her more interesting and compelling, despite what her family thinks.

Bridget Jones’s Diary also remains compelling as it proves no matter how many times a woman faces public humiliation, it’s still possible to maintain a level of self-love and respect, even when nothing seems to be going right. She missed the memo that an Easter gathering was no longer a costume party and, similar to Elle Woods just a mere few months later, arrives dressed as a playboy bunny. She completely bombs an introduction for a new author at a book release party. (“Titspervert, titspervert.”) She manages to inadvertently make a spectacle of herself no matter where she goes, specifically when she is thrust in front of the camera for “Sit Up Britain” and ends up showcasing her behind on national television while falling down a fireman’s pole.

To add insult to injury, Bridget is always accepting invitations to parties full of couples and is forced to answer the apparently mind-boggling question of what it’s like to be a single adult. Even after cutting Daniel out of her life, she and Mark continue to cross paths as his affection for her appears to grow. Once again, as Taylor Swift would say, Bridget has seen this movie before and she didn’t like the ending. “I mean, you seem to go out of your way to try to make me feel like a complete idiot every time I see you, and you really needn’t bother. I already feel like an idiot most of the time anyway, with or without a fireman’s pole.” But in a turn of events, her statement of radical self-love is met with equal admiration. “I like you, very much,” Mark asserts. “Just as you are.”

Third-wave feminist classics such as Bridget Jones or “Sex and the City” were often met with the criticism of being too frivolous to be taken seriously in a sociopolitical context, with male critics specifically taking issue with messy yet privileged women such as Bridget or Carrie Bradshaw reclaiming their power by objectifying men. But both franchises managed to get their thesis statement across regardless—that single, unmarried women in the 21st century are just as glamorous as they may be lonely, and that not having your life together by somebody else’s standards should surely not be the end of the world. (The queer subtext thus writing itself.) If little has supposedly changed for women and their happy endings in the two decades since Bridget Jones’s Diary hit theatres, it would depend on who you ask. “Have you ever been in love?” Carrie asked Mr. Big in “Sex and the City”’s pilot. “Abso-fucking-lutely,” he replied. “Wait a minute, nice boys don’t kiss like that,” Bridget told Mark as they embraced in the London snow. “Oh yes they fucking do.”

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