About the Movies
Bridget Jones Diary is based on the main character, Bridget Jones, who is 32, smokes heavily, and drinks a lot. She works as for a publishing company in London, and spends most of her time fantasizing about her boss Daniel. When she runs into a childhood friend, Mark Darcy, at a holiday party with her parents, she overhears Mark insulting her to his mother. Bridget takes this to heart, and goes home and starts writing in a diary about her attempts to change herself. She and her boss Daniel start to get involved at work, and during a work event she runs into Mark. Daniel and Mark hate each other, and Daniel explains that he and Mark used to be best friends, but that Mark had an affair with his wife (Bridget Jones Diary, 2001).
When Bridget invites Daniel to a family party, she catches Daniel with another woman. She quits her job, and turns down Daniel when he begs her to stay. Bridget runs into Mark again at another party, and he compliments her. She decides to throw herself a birthday party, but ends up failing miserably, so Mark jumps in to help. It was going well, until Daniel showed up drunk and Mark and Daniel end up getting into a fight. Mark leaves after Bridget yells at him, and Daniel leaves once Bridget tells him off as well. Bridget finds out that Daniel lied to her, and that he had actually had an affair with Mark’s wife. Bridget realizes that Mark is wonderful, but almost ruins it when he finds her diary and he leaves her flat without saying anything. Bridget chases him down in her underwear, and Mark reappears with a new diary as a surprise. In the end, Mark and Bridget get together, and all of the conflict has been overcome (Bridget Jones Diary, 2001).
The plot of Trainspotting follows Mark Renton, a heroin addict who decides to get clean. The other main characters are Tommy, Sick Boy, and Spud. Mark decides to get clean, and after his first night out, he discovers he slept with a 15-year-old. One of the other main characters, Tommy, breaks up with his girlfriend because of something Renton did, and when Renton, Spud and Sick Boy decide to get high again, Tommy joins them. Renton and Spud steal from a bookstore, and Spud goes to jail, while Renton is put into a recovery program and is put on methadone for his addiction. He does heroin again out of boredom and almost overdoses, so his parents lock him up until he gets through the withdrawals. After a series of hallucinations, Renton comes to and his parents make him get an HIV test. He comes back clean, even though he shouldn’t have (Trainspotting, 1997).
Tommy now has a heroin addiction and does have HIV, which Renton discovers after he visits him. Renton decides to get away, and moves to London, but characters from his past, Begbie and Sick Boy, show up and start causing trouble for Renton. Tommy dies, and the three go back home for the funeral, where they run into Spud who had gotten out of jail. The four of them decide to buy heroin and sell it, making 16,000 pounds. Renton decides that the others don’t deserve the money. He steals it, and moves back to London where he swears that he’ll become traditional and have a stable life. He makes excuses for his behavior, and leaves Spud 2,000 pounds to feel better about himself (Trainspotting, 1997).
First Observation: Socio-centric and Ego-centric
Both movies showed an Ego-centric point of view. While the main characters were true to themselves, they were not flattering depictions. They only cared about themselves as individuals, not about the other characters they interacted with. Bridget Jones is self-absorbed and obsessed with her boss Daniel, not seeing the good qualities in Mark until he helps her get ahead. Renton cares more about his own desires, and he and his friends all seem to have the attitude that places the self above the group as a whole. Egocentric societies are categorized as the individual being independent of others, or autonomous, within the society. Socio-centric, on the other hand, would be more of a collective group where the individual changes based on the kind of environment they are in. It didn’t seem like the characters in the movie changed based on where they were. Bridget was influenced by Mark in the beginning of the movie when she overheard him talking to his mother, and she set about changing herself because of it, but she didn’t really change based on who she was with. Renton, as well, was always the same character, no matter what situation he was in. While he did try changing when he went to London, he wasn’t changing because of the social group, but because of what he wanted for himself. He was still autonomous, even in the new environment.
Second Observation: Non-Verbal Communication
Non-verbal communication can be any way of conveying information that isn’t through verbal communication. Gestures, body posture, sighs, etc. are all ways that a person can non-verbally communicate how they are feeling. There was some non-verbal communication through small gestures—more in Trainspotting, than in Bridget Jones’ Diary. Bridget Jones was very verbal, though there were some non-verbal cues throughout the film that Bridget often misinterpreted, whether it was on purpose or on accident. While there was body language used in the film to convey meaning, it was often paired with communication that explained what was happening. The body language in the film was much stiffer than Canadian body language usually is. One scene that did stick out was between Daniel and Bridget, as he’s explaining that he has to go back to the city for work and miss the party. Bridget gets very small on the bed, wrapping her arms around her legs and putting her head on her chin, while Daniel gets aggressively angry and hits the bedpost, saying that Bridget just didn’t understand the pressure he and the company were under because she only walked in with her “pencil skirt” and wrote short articles (Bridget Jones Diary, 2001, 35:00).
In Trainspotting, the non-verbal cue that stood out the most was at the end of the movie, when Renton decides to leave with the money. Spud looks at him as he walks out, and nods at Renton, giving him permission to leave (Trainspotting, 1997, 1:27:00). Renton does feel bad because of this non-verbal cue, and leaves Spud money so that he can get rid of the guilt. While both movies did have non-verbal cues, they were harder to read, possibly because of cultural differences.
Third Observation: Friendship and Relationships
Both of the movies centered around friendships and relationships. Bridget Jones Diary’s plotline was driven by a love triangle between Bridget, Mark and Daniel, with Bridget eventually winning the nice guy (Bridget Jones Diary, 2001). Trainspotting was also driven by relationships, but not in a positive way. Renton and all of his friends were self-absorbed, and each brought the other one down with them, even when the others were trying to stay clean or change (Trainspotting, 1997). Friendship is based on voluntary choice, unlike kinship, and mutual concern for the others is what drives friendship, and trust and loyalty are core parts of healthy friendships (Beer, 2001). For Trainspotting, the friendships were driven by heroin addictions (Trainspotting, 1997). While Bridget Jones had strong friendships, she often put them aside for time with her love interest, Daniel (Bridget Jones Diary, 1997). While some part of Renton probably cared for his friends, as he explained at the end of the film, they had all begun to “drift apart” and he no longer owed them anything. (Trainspotting, 1997, 1:33:00). Bridget on the other hand, did keep in touch with her friends regularly, though her focus was always on sex and her relationships with Daniel and Mark (Bridget Jones Diary, 2001).
The hardest time I would have living in this culture is the language and slang that is used. While the accents were understandable, and the scripts were written in a way that made slang terms easy to puzzle out, I think that learning some of the slang terms would be confusing at first. There would be language barriers through the meaning of words, even though the primary language is English. If my understanding of English culture were only based off of these two movies, I wouldn’t want to move to London or the UK. The characters were too self-involved, one of the movies featured heroin addicts who didn’t have any empathy or care for others, unless they were directly impacted in a specific moment, like when Tommy died. The supporting characters did show that they cared, like Renton’s parents and Bridget’s friends, but the main characters were too self-absorbed, making it appear that this might be a big part of the culture. I’m not sure how true that is, and I imagine it varies by individual, but the two main characters from the movies didn’t appear to care about anyone besides themselves, even though Bridget Jones Diary was supposed to be a love story. It was more of a movie about a woman changing herself and trying to find love with the wrong person, before she finally was treated right by someone she didn’t immediately have feelings for until he helped her to get ahead in her own life.
I would also have a hard time with different aspects of living there, such as learning to drive on the other side of the street. The food also didn’t look very appealing in the movies, but I’m sure that I would be able to find things I enjoyed eating once I got to know the area I was living in. As for studying abroad in the UK, I would worry that I’d have to learn a new form of writing, or that I would have to make sure I didn’t spell anything incorrectly, or misunderstand lecture notes because of accent differences. I think that living there would be easier than other places, because they speak English, but I also think that the language similarities also make the differences much more difficult to pick up on immediately.
I was surprised that I didn’t have more cultural differences jump out at me. I think that
there were a lot of things that were different about the movies compared to Canadian culture, but
that it was manageable differences that were smaller rather than big differences that stood out
right away. I did notice that there was a lot more profanity in the films, but that it was in slang
terms for the most part, so I wasn’t sure how insulting they were in the culture, or if they were
just normal phrases that didn’t have much of an impact or insult attached to them.
I have heard from friends that the slang differences have cause problems with language misunderstandings, but I think given enough time I could learn my way around them and that the accent would not be as confusing. I know that the UK, and in London alone, there are a number of different accents that are hard to follow, like the Cockney accent. The accents used in Bridget Jones Diary were much more refined, while the accents in Trainspotting were a little harder to understand, but much more interesting as a cultural comparison.
Overall, I wasn’t too surprised by any cultural differences. Since it is a Western country, there were more similarities than anything else, and I could relate to the main characters from a cultural standpoint, even if I didn’t like particularly like the main characters as people, or agree with their decisions. The drug culture in Trainspotting was the biggest ‘culture’ shock for me, but that isn’t something I would want to experience, even if I did move to the UK. I would much rather deal with the working class, which was shown in Bridget Jones Diary, over heroin users who suffered through a number of terrible events because of their addictions.
Beer, B. (2001). Anthropology of friendship. Retrieved March 20, 2017 from http://www.bettinabeer.info/pdf/Beer_2001.pdf
Belner, B., Fellner, E., Cavandish, J. and Maguire, S. (2001). Bridget Jones Diary. United Kingdom: Miramax Films.
Hodge, J., Boyle, D., & Welsh, I. (1997). Trainspotting. United Kingdom: Miramax Films.