October 1, 2013
Breaking: people are overly invested in fictional characters
by Nick Davies
Helen Fielding, author of the beloved Bridget Jones’s Diary and the more-or-less-tolerated Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, released an excerpt from her third Jones book this weekend, in the Sunday Times of London. The full excerpt of the new novel, Mad About the Boy, is only available to Times subscribers, but multiple outlets, including a blog post by Jennifer Schuessler for the New York Times’s Arts Beat, report that it reveals that Jones’s longtime love, Mark Darcy, has died since the events of The Edge of Reason, published in 1999. Thus, the plucky heroine begins the third installment of her adventures a widowed mother of two at age 51, dating a “toy boy” whom she calls Roxster.
The internet being what it is, it’s not entirely surprising that there’s been some…fury over the news. Buzzfeed collected seventeen of the more outlandish responses to the news on Twitter; somewhat surprisingly, only two are in all-caps, although those two offer a fascinating study in over- versus under-punctuating: “WHAT? NO!!!! WHY WOULD YOU KILL OFF MARK DARCY?!!!!” versus “HELEN FIELDING WHAT THE HECK DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING YOU CAN’T JUST KILL OFF MARK DARCY DO YOU WANT ME TO BE DEPRESSED FOR REST OF MY LIFE”
Fielding has, from I can glean, not encountered any death threats, for which we can be grateful, I suppose. And the Huffington Post UK has posted its own roundup of tweets, some of which are sardonic and funny—“I predict a jump in sales of cats and gin.” Others, though, are terribly dramatic and personal, lamenting, “Mark Darcy dying in the last Bridget Jones book is just the most depressing foreshadowing of my life” or “it feels almost like Colin Firth has died,” which…no. Not by a long shot.
Having an emotional response to a book is a fine thing, but nobody has actually died here. Maybe killing off Darcy is a bad move by Fielding, one that will cost her any number of readers. Maybe it was a canny decision based on needing to make Jones single for the new book, and knowing that a divorce would have sparked even more outrage. Maybe it’s a wholly cynical ploy to guarantee that Mad About the Boy gets some attention in the run-up to its publication later this month. But Colin Firth is alive and well, and the original book and movie are available for fans to enjoy as many times as they please, so the keening over the character’s fate is a bit out of hand.
Nick Davies is a publicist at Melville House.