Bridget Jones fans have been getting their big knickers in a twist over Helen Fielding’s latest book, Mad About the Boy. The author has had the audacity to kill off Mark Darcy, Bridget’s chief love interest and the character lusted after by fans of the novels. Imagine One Direction splitting up and you’ll get an idea of the hormonal outrage. Should the author have considered the Darcy entourage over the story she wanted to tell? Should authors be pressured into not touching what fans cherish or is that a form of censorship?
A couple of months ago I tweeted a slightly disparaging remark about One Direction. I didn’t think twice about it. It wasn’t offensive and it made me warm inside. Now, bear in mind this was around the time of the TV programme about how demented and obsessive, sorry, how truly supportive 1D fans can be. After I sent my tweet a friendly fellow tweep (*waves to Fi at @Childcareisfun*) suggested I ought to be careful as anything mildly derogatory about that group of supremely handsome and talented young men could unleash the wrath of their fans. Gulp.
There’s been a lot about trolling on the internet in the news recently. Thankfully, I’ve never experienced such vicious, offensive or unlawful harassment or anything approximating to it. But now the prospect of being hounded by angry teenage girls hiding behind their parents’ laptops loomed like a black Topshop-clad cloud. (I didn’t delete the tweet of course. Let them come at me with their sharpened Shellacs, I thought.) It left me feeling unsettled that what I write in public domains, whether it be on my blog or on Twitter, could potentially be shoved venomously back in my face. I decided, with a shiver, that I should be more careful about what I write. Yet in acknowledging this I had a horrible feeling of being unfairly stifled or, dare I say, censored.
For a blogger, self-imposed censorship can be a good thing. I write about my children but constantly bear in mind that, as long as prolonged iPad use doesn’t cause permanent damage, they will one day be able to read what I’ve written. For that reason I try not to write anything that may make them feel uncomfortable or embarrassed in years to come. A waste of so much material but worth it to be the Best Mummy in the World. The sacrifices I’ve made …
Back to Bridget Jones. Hats off to Helen Fielding for being brave and bold in the face of her readers. The decision to kill off a much-lusted after character can’t be an easy one to make but, boy, it gets you publicity. Some of her readers may be fuming but ultimately they’ve got a great storyline. Let the poor woman be. JK Rowling will have met with much howling from kids, adults and her publisher alike when she brought the Harry Potter series to a close. Yet everyone survived post-Harry to see millions made from spin-offs (also known as milking the cash cow until it runs dry). So don’t despair Darcy fans: you may yet see Mark resurrected in the shower Bobby Ewing style. And maybe he’ll keep his shirt and breeches on for you.