Saturday, May 9, 2009

Julie James: Why I Love A Good Comeuppance

In yesterday’s blog, I focused on men and why I love the way they love their cars. Today I thought I’d spent some time talking about women, specifically two ladies who, in their own ways, inspire my writing.
Jane Austen and Drew Barrymore.
Probably not every day that you see those two linked in a sentence, right? I’ll explain.
Six or seven years ago, I was toiling away as a trial lawyer, working hard toward my goal of making partner. The desire to write was just a glimmer in my eye—something I thought I’d do “one day.” I was (and still am) an avid reader and a film buff, and I started a book club with some lawyer co-workers and several other riends. At one of our book club meetings, I mentioned that I hadn’t read anything by Jane Austen, and said I was curious to read Pride and Prejudice. I still recall my tough, no-nonsense-lawyer-friend Ami’s reaction:

“Ahh... Mr. Darcy.” Ami sighed, her face taking on a dreamy, far-away look.

“Um, I don’t really know who that is,” I said.

“Oh, you will. You will.”
Uh-oh. I just realized that I’m focusing on the men again, or at least one man in particular... Darn it.
Anyway, with great anticipation after my friend’s cryptic lead-in, I dove into Pride and Prejudice and, not surprisingly, was instantly enthralled. I loved the book from the beginning, but it was The Scene—that scene where Elizabeth Bennet gives the arrogant Mr. Darcy a whole lot of what-for and tells him exactly where he can stick his marriage proposal—that had me:

You are mistaken, Mr. Darcy, if you suppose that the mode
of your declaration affected me in any other way, than as it spared
me the concern which I might have felt in refusing you, had you
behaved in a more gentleman-like manner.”

She saw him start at this, but he said nothing, and she continued,

You could not have made me the offer of your hand in any
possible way that would have tempted me to accept it.”

Again his astonishment was obvious; and he looked at her with an
expression of mingled incredulity and mortification. She went on:

From the very beginning, from the first moment, I may
almost say, of my acquaintance with you, your manners impressing me
with the fullest belief of your arrogance, your conceit, and your
selfish disdain for the feelings of others, were such as to form that
ground-work of disapprobation, on which succeeding events have built
so immoveable a dislike; and which I had not known you a month before
I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever be
prevailed upon to marry.”
Go on, girl. Oh, Mr. Darcy— did you ever have that coming. (P.S. I realize the above picture is not the actual proposal scene, and also sadly is not from the brilliant BBC version, but it was the only image I could find of Lizzie and Darcy in conflict.)
That scene between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy not only moved and entertained me, but it got those writerly wheels in my head spinning... and I realized how much I love a good comeuppance.
Okay, now don’t laugh at me here, but another example that comes to mind of a good comeuppance is in the movie Ever After with Drew Barrymore. (Yes, I’m a total sucker for this movie.)
There’s a great scene where the heroine, played by Drew Barrymore, tells off the hero—gasp—the Prince of France (who happens to be ridiculously arrogant) in front of his entire court. And he’s stunned, of course, because he’s probably never had anyone speak to him that way before, but we also see this amused expression on his face, and we know that he kind of likes being sassed by the heroine. Hey, it’s refreshing.
And again, those wheels in my head started spinning, faster this time... Hmm... an arrogant hero who thinks he owns the world... a saucy heroine that could care less... A couple years later, when I finally put pen to paper and wrote my first screenplay, a romantic comedy about a lawyer from Chicago who catches the eye of the biggest movie star in Hollywood, that was the theme I went with. (That screenplay ultimately turned into my debut novel, Just the Sexiest Man Alive.)
I continued the comeuppance theme in Practice Makes Perfect. Actually, the book has several comeuppances. Here’s one where the hero has to apologize—most reluctantly—to the heroine, who he *thinks* he doesn’t like:

J.D. cleared his throat and pushed the button on the intercom.

“Uh, Payton, hi. It’s J.D.”

Dead silence.

Then another crackle.

“Sorry. Not interested.”

Cute. But J.D. persisted. Again with the button.

“I want to talk to you.”


“Ever hear of a telephone, asshole?”

Okay, he probably deserved that.


“Listen, I’ve been standing out here for fifteen minutes.
What took you so long to answer?”


(Annoyed sigh) “I was about to get in the shower.”

J.D. raised an eyebrow. The shower? Hmm... he liked the sound of
that. Wait a second— no, he didn’t.

Bad J.D.
Now, in fairness to both genders, the heroine in Practice Makes Perfect is just as strong and confident as the hero, and she makes her fair share of mistakes, too. Which means, well, you know what they say: what’s good for the goose... I won’t say anything else, except that the battle-between-the sexes leads to a certain mishap in a courtroom with some high-heeled shoes and is probably the scene I had the most fun writing.
I think my affinity for comeuppances is that I like strong characters, but often those characters think they have everything in life all figured out. How much fun is it to see them thrown completely off their game; to realize that no matter how invincible and confident they appear on the outside, on the inside they have the same vulnerabilities and fears and uncertainties as everyone else?
But enough from me... I’d love to hear what you think. Do comeuppance stories work for you? Got any recommendations of other books or movies that involve this theme? Or how about a favorite comeuppance scene (either in a film or a book)? One random commenter will win a $10 gift certificate to either Borders or Barnes & Noble (of his or her choosing.)
And since this is my last day here with the DIK Ladies, I just wanted to say how much fun I’ve had! Thanks again for inviting me!


Chris said...

Comeuppance scenes definitely work for me! That said, none are coming to mind at the moment, darn it. But I know it's a good comeuppance scene when I'm inspired to say "Ha! You had that coming and how!" while I'm reading.

Shannon said...

Ugh! I give up!


I love a good comeuppance. Lord of Scoudrels. Jessica and the gun. I shall say no more.

Julie- the more I get to know you, the more frightened I am by the similarities in our tastes. Ever After is one of my all time favorite go-to feel good movies. I can't even guess how many times I have watched it.

KT Grant said...

I adore the movie Ever After! I really need to read Pride and Prejudice *bad kate*

I loved how JD would tease Payton and then his thoughts would turn into something more sexual. Total guy.

Julie James said...

Hey everyone! Aww... my last day on the island. :-(

Chris: glad you like the comeuppances, too. Those "Ha! You had that coming and how!" moments are always fun.

Shannon: Scary... the similarities. What's even scarier is that you mentioned Lord of Scoundrels, because I'm currently reading that book. Just got to the part where they kiss for the first time in the rain. [sigh]

Julie James said...

Hi Katiebabs: Oh, you must read Pride and Prejudice! Definitely. You'll be smitten with Darcy-- trust me.

Funny-- and here I thought I was going to be in the minority on Ever After. Glad to see so many fans!

Mari said...

My favorite story where the bad guy gets his comeuppance is the Count of Monte Cristo. The old movie is great too but I REALLY like the one with Jim Caviezel in the lead. He is smoking hot and he has the most evil penetrating gaze!

What I like about it is also after he gets his revenge and he realizes that he can't live with hate in his heart for the rest of his life.

Kim said...

I definitely like a good comeuppance scene. Have you tried the contemporary romance, Paradise, by Judith McNaught?

The characters, Matt and Meredith, had a history together that ended badly. They're both invited to a benefit and see each other for the first time in 10 years. Matt decides he'll let bygones be bygones and goes over to say hello. As Jane Austin would say, Meredith gave him "the cut direct" right in the crowded hotel ballroom. From there he wants revenge. It's a terrific book and love story.

Julie James said...

Mari: You know, I've been meaning to read the Count of Monte Cristo forever. Haven't seen the movie, either. Hmm... must add this to the list. Thanks for the suggestion!

Kim: Funny-- I own Paradise, just haven't gotten around to reading it yet! But good comeuppance = moving up in the TBR pile. Love a good "cut direct."

Karen W. said...
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Karen W. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Karen W. said...

Sorry, I'm going to try again and maybe I can think and type properly all at the same time now. :)

I think most people love a good comeuppance story, including me.

A classic that pops into my mind is the movie "9 to 5." Who didn't love the evil boss getting his?!?

Julie James said...

Hi Karen! I love the movie "9 to 5"! Yes, the boss definitely gets a comeuppance. And then some.

The Brunette Librarian said...

Happy weekend Julie! I hate to steal what someone has already said, but I totally agree with Shannon..the best comeuppance scene has got to be "Lord of Scoundrels!" Fabulous!

Unknown said...

One of the big comeuppance stories that stick with me is Gena Showalter's Nymph King. There's a whole lot of backstory about the nymphs and how no one can resist them, and now that the king of nymphs has found the love of his life, she wants nothing to do with him. He's sexy and WAY too arrogant and it's so much fun watching him get knocked down a few pegs. It's not so much a comeuppance scene as a comeuppance book. :)

I absolutely fell in love with Ever After and Pride and Prejudice. Mr. Darcy is my ideal tall, dark, and brooding male fantasy. Austen had that man pegged to a T.

kim h said...

the movies are good
loved the notebook did not read the book love the movie

briget jones movies

wuthring heights

Bridget Locke said...

The comeuppance scene in both movie versions of P&P are probably my favorite, just because, at the time Mr. Darcy DID deserve the set down. :)

I like scenes like that if they fit the story. I've read ones where I actually scratched my head over them b/c they just didn't fit the storyline.

In my current WIP (ack!), my heroine has a bit of a to-do w/ the hero, but she's the one who gets chastised. Yes, it surprised me. :D

Bridget Locke said...

Oh and I love Ever After, esp. the scene where she carries the Prince away because she's told she can only take one thing. LOL! Man, I need to watch that movie again. :)

Caffey said...

Oh I love a good comeuppance!! I loved the book Pride & Prejudice I just re-read it again since HS!! But I didn't see the A&E version with Colin Firth since its not captioned for the deaf, but so loved the one from 1940 with Sir Oliver Lawrence!

Erika said...

I know I'm late, but I just had to say that I love the movie Ever After, it's one of my all time chick flick favorites. I'm gld to hear I'm not the only one.

Julie James said...

And the winner is...


Congrats! Please email me your snail mail address at, and also let me know if you would like a gift certificate for Borders or Barnes & Noble.

Thanks to everyone who came by and posted! I had a great time!

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