Bridget Jones and more of the most relatable pop culture heroines

Has it already been two decades?! In celebration of the 20th anniversary of “Bridget Jones’s Diary” on April 13, 2021, is taking a look at the most relatable heroines in popular culture… starting with Bridget herself. Just like any woman struggling to find her place in the world, what we love most about Bridget is the fact that she doesn’t have it all figured out — nor does she claim to. She has the same insecurities as everyone else — be it her weight or pining over someone who isn’t worth her attention. As we watch the English TV reporter and producer both thrive and endure amidst a series of ups and downs, one thing becomes clear: She’s human, she’s imperfect and she’s trying her best. Keep reading for more…

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Angela Chase, “My So-Called Life”

While we could seriously go on about how much we adore “My So-Called Life,” we’ll spare you and cut right to the chase. Claire Danes’ depiction of moody adolescent Angela Chase is arguably one of the most refreshing portrayals we’ve ever seen on television — and that’s because of her relatability. Angela navigates coming of age just like many of us have — she dyes her hair a bright color, argues with her mom, cuts class to make out with a terrible guy in the boiler room… In no way are these the most rational decisions, but isn’t that what your teenage years are for? It’s always been clear that Angela has a good heart — the show, refreshingly so, explores her flaws and the common mistakes young girls go through and grow through.

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Felicity Porter, “Felicity”

So maybe we all can’t relate to the ways in which Felicity Porter grew up privileged in Palo Alto, California… but it’s her irrationality that resonates with us. At the start of “Felicity,” Keri Russell’s character is driven to make the most ridiculous decision ever — to forego her entire college plan and follow a longtime crush across the country to his university, with the belief that they’ll eventually date. Major yikes. The thing is, we can’t entirely fault her for that decision — what makes Felicity so relatable is the fact that she, like many of us, had such an idealized perception of romance. She expected it to go one way, completely uproots her life for it to happen, and comes to realize reality couldn’t have been further from her fantasy. It’d be a lie to say we’ve never made a stupid choice because of how deeply we wanted someone we liked to like us back.

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Mary Fiore, “The Wedding Planner”

It’s a pretty universal feeling to have been hurt so badly in the past that you can’t fathom opening your heart up again. Jennifer Lopez’s Mary Fiore in “The Wedding Planner” is a prime example of someone who completely isolates herself romantically after suffering a major heartbreak. Sure, her career as an ultra-successful wedding planner is flourishing, but when it comes to love, she remains alone — which isn’t a problem if that was what she actually wanted, but we come to realize it’s not. The fear of dusting yourself off and getting back out there isn’t a unique one, and Mary’s hesitancy to feel for someone again is incredibly relatable.

Brooke Davis, “One Tree Hill”

There are a lot of reasons why we love Sophia Bush’s Brooke Davis on “One Tree Hill,” but among the most prominent? The way she defied stereotypes. For most of her high school career, she was pegged as an unintelligent, vapid popular girl with no interest in anything other than guys and partying — but as the series progresses, we witness her immense growth. She’s fiercely loyal and has aspirations of her own — and she doesn’t let the way others define her muddy up her self-perception.

Summer Finn, “(500) Days of Summer”

“(500) Days of Summer” is an interesting film in that it seems like your understanding of it changes the older you get. Upon rewatch, however, we can now say that we better understand and empathize with Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel). Sure, Tom has this intense crush on her — but what he ultimately does is project his unrealistic ideas of what love and romance are onto her. Summer’s an independent woman — she’s made herself clear from the beginning that she wasn’t looking for anything serious, yet is entirely faulted when she (surprise!) doesn’t want anything serious with Tom. It seems many 20-somethings can empathize with that — feeling guilty or at fault for not living up to someone else’s expectations of you.

Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, “Lady Bird”

While not everyone can relate to what it’s like to attend a super-religious high school, the feeling of needing to break free from a monotonous life and routine is one that we’ve all experienced at one point or another. Saoirse Ronan’s Lady Bird exemplifies what it means to want desperately to explore beyond all that you known — in a way, it’s a bit of a “grass is greener” complex, but also bear in mind that she’s just 18. Everything seems more exciting than the bore of Sacramento, California, where she was born and raised. And whether moving out to New York City was the best decision for her, it was something she felt she needed at that time.

Elle Woods, “Legally Blonde”

As womxn, our abilities are often doubted and diminished in comparison to men. What Reese Witherspoon’s Elle Woods does in “Legally Blonde,” however, is annihilate that glass ceiling. While her decision to apply to law school was initially driven by her desire to get back with her (awful) boyfriend Warren, she comes to realize that he doesn’t determine her worth. We’ve all been there — changing ourselves and doing things because we want someone so badly.

Buffy Summers, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”

OK, hear us out on this one. Yes, Buffy Summers loses relatability points for the mere fact that she’s a vampire slayer… but there’s so much more to her than that. What much of the series “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” conveys is that she’s a lost girl who wants nothing more than to be accepted and feel normal. Her calling, while heroic, is incredibly isolating. And whether you’re willing to admit it or not, feeling lonely is a universal emotion. Loneliness, in Buffy’s case, is all but unfamiliar.

Liza Miller, “Younger”

On “Younger,” Sutton Foster’s Liza Miller conveys the complexities of wanting to be accepted for who you are, but realizing that isn’t always going to happen. Liza wants desperately to land a job in the publishing world, but after realizing that it’s an industry in which ageism is rampant, she crafts a facade, presenting herself as a mid-20-something. She’s entirely relatable in that she’s afraid to be who she really is — she’s been scared into believing this idea that she is less than because of her age and has resorted to deception as a means of bypassing that.

Carrie Bradshaw, “Sex and the City”

While we can’t exactly relate to her need to spend money she doesn’t have on designer shoes, Carrie Bradshaw — who was often praised for being a cosmopolitan woman — is far from perfect, which makes her deeply relatable. If you’ve watched the entire series of “Sex and the City,” you know that the woman is far from a saint — she isn’t always the greatest friend, has a tendency to act selfishly and cheats on a man who adores her. We don’t condone her behavior, but if you think about it, you’ll begin to see that Carrie’s more lost than anything else. That’s something we’ve all experienced at one point or another — a poor decision (or 20) that results from feeling adrift.

Kayla, “Eighth Grade”

Growing up is tough — especially in a technological age. In “Eighth Grade,” Elsie Fisher portrays awkward teenager Kayla, who struggles to fit in. During the final week of the school year, we get an inside look at just how difficult is it to find one’s place in the world. From meticulously watching YouTube videos to learn how to put on makeup to being socially exiled by the popular kids in school, coming of age has never seemed harder. A YouTuber herself, Kayla produces videos on wholesome topics like being yourself in hopes of inspiring other teens on the internet to stay true to who they are. She alienates herself at times but ultimately wants nothing more than to be accepted.

Mindy Lahiri, “The Mindy Project”

What we particularly love about “The Mindy Project” protagonist Dr. Mindy Lahiri? The fact that she does not have it together! What makes on-screen Mindy (who’s played to perfection by Mindy Kaling) such a refreshing heroine are the ways in which she seems confident and collected when it comes to carrying out her job as an OB/GYNbut somehow has a personal life that’s basically in shambles. She struggles with her self-confidence romantically and as a result makes terrible decisions (like hooking up with the resident bad boy at her practice). Deep down, however, she’s just a hopeless romantic who yearns for a long-lasting connection — and maybe it’s this romanticization of falling in love that’s her biggest downfall… but regardless of all that, we applaud her for dreaming.

Veronica Mars, “Veronica Mars”

Veronica Mars — the former popular girl-turned-social outcast on “Veronica Mars” played by Kristen Bell — isan embodiment of what it means to be resilient, technologically savvy and secure with who she is. We empathize with her, though, especially since it seems her entire social life was turned on its head following a traumatic incident (the death of her best friend). Veronica doesn’t claim to be perfect — she doesn’t claim to be without any flaws. She exhibits an endearing sense of self-awareness and we also can’t help but feel for her when she searches for answers pertaining to her sexual assault.

Kat Stratford, “10 Things I Hate About You”

Julia Stiles’ Kat Stratford in “10 Things I Hate About You” is a stellar female heroine for many reasons — namely the fact that she relentlessly speaks her mind and isn’t afraid to call out those she feels are deserving of it. She’s intelligent and witty, yet due to a bad experience with Joey Donner — her self-absorbed classmate — she’s essentially vowed to keep her distance from all guys. Ultimately, she’s misunderstood — she’s branded as this unapproachable girl, when she’s really just trying to get through high school as best she can.

Gretchen Wieners, “Mean Girls”

We don’t know about you, but we completely empathize with the Gretchen Wieners of the world! Played hilariously by Lacey Chabert in “Mean Girls,” Gretchen embodied what it meant to be “second best,” if you will. She was always spotlight-adjacent and was never given the opportunity to fully shine — she constantly had to shrink herself in order to remain popular (and in Regina’s good graces). And as any middle or high schooler can attest, wanting to maintain an elite social status isn’t exactly something that comes without sacrifice.

Rebecca Bunch, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”

It seems Rebecca Bunch must’ve taken a page out of Felicity Porter’s book! On “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” Rachel Bloom’s character is driven to make the incredibly rash decision of foregoing a promotion to partner at her New York City law firm to instead move her entire life to West Covina, California, in an effort to reconnect with an old boyfriend. As ridiculous as it sounds, that tunnel vision and irrational decision-making isn’t atypical for someone completely smitten. Admit it, while maybe (probably) not to the same degree, you’ve been there too!

Rory Gilmore, “Gilmore Girls”

It seemed we all had a special place in hearts for Rory Gilmore during the original run of “Gilmore Girls.” As for the reboot, though? That’s an entirely different story. What’s we’ve known since the beginning, though, is just how ambitious she is. With that ambition, however, seems to come an insurmountable pressure to succeed. She’s often worrying herself into a frenzy and pushing herself beyond her limits — all because she’s concocted this idea that being anything less than academically perfect is unacceptable. That type of pressure, be it in academics or in other areas of life, seems to be pretty universal for many adolescents.

Juno MacGuff, “Juno”

In “Juno,” after finding out she’s pregnant with longtime friend Paulie Bleeker’s baby, 16-year-old Juno MacGuff (played by Elliot Page) finds herself in the difficult position of trying to figure out what to do about it. She decides that she’ll put the baby up for adoption, and during her pregnancy, we witness a bunch of her ups and downs — from pushing Paulie away to wanting to be with him. Like any teenager, she struggles not only to find her place in the world but to do it with the added pressure of carrying a child.

Nadine Franklin, “The Edge of Seventeen”

Coming of age is no easy feat, and Hailee Steinfeld’s Nadine Franklin makes that abundantly clear in “The Edge of Seventeen.” While there are many things that make her relatable, what stands out is how childish she actually is. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it seems to be a clear indicator that she doesn’t have it all figured out. She’s 17, feels betrayed by her best friend and acts like a brat as a result — to say that we’ve never had experiences like that? Well, that’d be a lie. Nadine is imperfect, but what 17-year-old isn’t? She makes mistakes and grows from them, ultimately becoming better in the process.

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