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By Amy Phillips Penn
“When someone is mean to me, I just make them a victim in my next book.” — Mary Higgins Clark

 

Revenge is a dish better served sang froid.

Then there’s Revenge, the TV series loosely based on Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo. Methinks the Count would not be amused.

Emily Thorne’s raison d’être is to seek revenge for the unjust imprisonment of her father, David, who is now deceased. What’s a Hampton’s girl to do, if she wants to keep her friends close and her enemies closer? Rent the mansion next door to them, of course.  Better yet, outbid your enemies and buy it.

Revenge is only a sands throw or toxic picnic away.

Not everyone can afford racy, rich revenge, but for those who have to ask the price tag, fantasize away, off-screen in a Lamborghini racing towards the “r” word.

There is nothing really new about revenge, but the TV series does soak the audience in a wretchedly nauseating amount of nouveau riche, from the hedge fund villains to all the clichés of the parvenu. Even the polo ponies seem overdressed.

Then there is “vintage revenge,” which was often more creative.

This brand is traditionally less of a cliché, but just as powerful as the up close and in your Botox variety.

One of the original Hampton’s more socially inclined families had cliquey clan wars a-waging: Deprivation is one slinky side of revenge, and one of the men built a barn for the single purpose of blocking his sister’s oceanfront view.

Then there were the more tried, true, and trite lawsuits over family money. Yawn.

How do you rid yourself of petty competition that could grow thorny? A New York wife put an end to a potential annoyance before it could blossom: One of her husband’s more attractive patients gave him a plant to remind him of her daily. The wife went the way of ‘silence is platinum,’ taking charge of the watering the plant. Instead of using h2o, she used poisoned.

Dissolve to…there are the tried (and tried again) clichés: the mother’s helper who seduces the ‘man of the mansion;’ the billionaire who executes a will that ‘screws everyone in it;’ having sex with your best frenemie’s mate; or writing a best seller tell-all and then some.

Children have revenge down to an atavistic tooth mark or braid in the inkwell.

One of the great revenge stories is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Bernice Bobs Her Hair, when Bernice retaliates for being cornered into publicly bobbing her own hair, and pulls a ‘Delilah’ on her cousin Marjorie.

Fitzgerald describes the luxury of Marjorie’s braids “like restive snakes,” a simile that gives Marjorie Gorgon-like qualities. Bernice realizes that Marjorie’s hair symbolizes power. There is a play on the story of Little Women: as Jo cut off her hair to raise money for the family, so Bernice sacrificed her hair to be accepted by Marjorie. There is also the allusion to the Biblical story of Samson. Bernice, in cutting off Marjorie’s plaits, ‘scalps’ her like an Indian. Throwing the plaits on Warren’s porch symbolizes Bernice’s rejection of him, and her glee is in ‘spoiling’ Marjorie.

As for great movie revenge moments, talk about Something to Talk About.

When Julia Roberts discovers that her husband (played by Dennis Quaid) has been blatantly cheating on her, one of her relatives suggests that Roberts “cook him dinner.”

She shares a recipe that explodes into toxicity, and Quaid wretches and groans all the way to the hospital.

Revenge has its own path — buyer beware.

 

“Fool that I am,” said he,”that I did not tear out my heart the day I resolved to revenge myself.”
— Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo

 

For the rest of us who are better off channeling our thoughts of deep, dark, revenge into our dreams, read the small print:  “Living well is, after all, the best revenge.”

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