The creator of Bridget Jones has admitted she finds it difficult to stomach the "shocking" levels of sexism featured in the eponymous films – but is pleased by the progress made in the workplace.
Helen Fielding recalled how she and her two children watched one of the hit Hollywood adaptations, which she co-wrote, starring Oscar-winner Renée Zellweger as the 30-something singleton.
The 62-year-old said she was "staggered" by the sleazy behaviour of Bridget's male colleagues, especially at the fictitious TV show Sit Up Britain, where the heroine is told: "No one ever gets sacked for shagging the boss."
"You couldn't write that now," Fielding said.
"The level of sexism Bridget was dealing with, the hand on the bum in so many of the scenes, [Sit Up Britain boss] Richard Finch, "Let's have a shot of the boobs."
"I mean, in the end she turned round and stuck it to them but it was just part and parcel of her life. It was quite shocking for me to see how things have changed."
Fielding, who first wrote about Bridget in a 1995 newspaper column, said her approach would be different in the post-MeToo era.
In an interview for today's BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs, she said: "I think the social circumstances surrounding Bridget then are different from now. I think it wouldn't have been possible to write it in that way now. Things have changed – happily."
Bridget – after leaving the publishing world following her affair with Daniel Cleaver, played by Hugh Grant – found love with Colin Firth's character Mark Darcy. For years there have been claims that her hero was inspired by the current Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, who at the time was also a human rights barrister.
However, Fielding appeared to dismiss that by saying she was "amazed" at the link. She said she drew on real life to create Bridget, adding that when the books were released "it was a little confusing that I suddenly had this alter ego that was sort of me and not me. People used to expect me to behave like Bridget and still do. And I very often do".
She also described how Covid-19 has caused her to reflect on lost loved ones, including her former partner Kevin Curran, a writer for The Simpsons who died in 2016, and her father, who was killed in a car accident when she was in her 20s.
"This sounds really corny but to me they don't go away," she said. "They are still there in my mind and in spirit. It's part of the ride we are all on. During the epidemic I have felt it very keenly. So much loss around brings your own losses back and just makes you feel all those people and all that sadness and pain."