Don’t you love a good bicker?
As I wrote the dialogue between Darcy and Lizzie for Mister Darcy’s Honeymoon, the next book in my Mister Darcy series comedic mystery, it occurred to me that one of the delights of Pride and Prejudice is the universal theme of male-female bickering. When handled subtly it is an art form worthy of praise, a high-wire act deserving of our admiration.
Elizabeth Bennet, with her rapier wit, can deliver a debilitating ego-slice without drawing blood. The victim is often left clueless as to whether they have been insulted, merely put down, or perhaps, complimented?
Darcy prefers to deliver his jabs through body language and facial expression. No stranger to wielding a verbal stab, he is at his best using his legendary flashing dark eyes and semi-smirk.
My mental meanderings brought me to think of my all-time favorite bickering couples.
Moonlighting – Who doesn’t love a novel or a show with saucy bickering? Moonlighting, starring Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis provided some of the best bickering on television.
Moonlighting, a comedy created by Glenn Gordon Caron in 1985, centered on Maddie Hayes (Cybill Shepherd) a former top model who is left bankrupt through her accountant’s embezzlement. The show opens with Maddie attempting to close down one of her few remaining assets, a money-hemorrhaging detective agency called Blue Moon. Instead of closing the business, she teams up with David Addison (Bruce Willis) at his speed-talking, irritatingly charming best and together they run the agency.
Their fast-paced, overlapping dialogue harkened back to classic screwball comedy films such as Bringing Up Baby and His Girl Friday. (Katherine Hepburn with Gary Grant and Spencer Tracy.)
The Moonlighting couple’s one-liners were loaded with chemistry despite or perhaps because of David Addison’s cocky, chauvinistic charm. Does that not sound a wee bit like a certain Mr. Darcy?
The mounting sexual tension provided the whack to the verbal tennis balls the couple slammed at each other, until Maddie and David consummated their relationship in the third season. That seemed to be the kiss of death for the show..which brings me to the challenge presented to JAFF authors to create post-nuptial tension.
Yes, there can be excitement after characters wed.
Mr. & Mrs. Smith starring Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt takes the prize for explosive bickering with wallop and killer panache. Husband and wife super-spies working on opposite sides of the table are assigned to rub-out each other. They arrive with guns blazing and passions thinly hidden.
One of my favorite lines from the film~
John Smith: Careful, Jane. I can push the button any time you like.
Jane Smith: Baby, you couldn’t find the button with both hands and a map.
Not a line I could ever imagine Elizabeth Bennet delivering. 🙂
War of the Roses
But when it comes to no-holds-bared, all out bickering to the death, let’s visit the War of the Roses. A black comedy from 1989, Oliver Rose (Michael Douglas) and Barbara Rose (Kathleen Turner) take bickering to a new high or rather a new low. Directed by Danny DeVito, this film was a critical and box office success. Perhaps because it was the bunny-boiler of divorce films taking bickering to new highs…or lows.
Barbara Rose has had enough of Oliver’s controlling, self-centered behavior. She files for divorce and insists on keeping their house, a showpiece to which she has devoted their married years to sprucing up. The physical bickering from Oliver urinating in a gourmet dish Barbara has prepared for guests to Barbara running her Big Foot truck over Oliver’s prized possession, a classic Morgan sports car, makes mere verbal bickering small potatoes.
Aside from Pride and Prejudice, what’s your favorite bickering novel or film? Who Bickers Better? Best?