Sassy Sashays, Terminator Speeches
and the Crisp, Clear Notes of Southern Baptist Hymns
Julia Sugarbaker, who serves as the head of Sugarbaker's Design Firm, can best be described as a left-liberal feminist with a very outspoken point of view. She is very quick to speak her mind, sometimes without even knowing all the facts. One thing can be said for sure, Julia is very passionate and stands by her convictions.
One of the main outlets for Julia's remarks is the shallow and hopelessly frivolous life of her baby sister, Suzanne Sugarbaker. She is never at a loss for the perfect words to articulate her opinion on the ridiculous way her sister engages in day-to-day living. Julia is a devout feminist, while Suzanne believes beauty and femininity are commodities used to attract wealth and happiness --- a constant source of irritation and confusion to Julia since it goes against everything she believes in. Despite this --- and an age difference of twelve or fourteen years (depending on whom you ask) --- the sisters are quite close and love each other dearly.
Julia was raised in the aristocratic affluence of Atlanta's high society. She fondly recalls being taken to the Governor's mansion many times as a child and also remembers that at least a couple of her mother's husbands were members of the incredibly elite Beaumont Driving Club. As the series progresses, we learn that her father has been deceased for quite some time and that her mother, Perky, has been married five times -- twice to Julia's father. During the Sugarbaker's first marriage, Julia was born. A few years later, Mr. Sugarbaker had a dalliance with a Radio City Music Hall Rockette named Dee Dee who became pregnant. Mr. Sugarbaker then divorced Perky and married Dee Dee -- at least long enough for their son Clayton Sugarbaker to have a legitimate birth. Shortly after, Mr. Sugarbaker divorced Dee Dee the Rockette, remarried Perky, and Suzanne was born. During the first season Perky visits for Thanksgiving, but soon after moves to Japan and is never seen on the show again.
In Julia, Dixie Carter creates a bold, independent, self-confident, sassy, no-nonsense Southern lady. Her passionate beliefs and rapid-fire speeches earn Julia the nickname "The Terminator." Dash Goff, a writer and one of Suzanne's ex-husbands, describes Julia as coming from "a time before flirting became extinct, when letter writing was an art, stationery was engraved and dinner was an event."
Donald Stillman, a high school chum of Julia's remembers her as a cross between Jennifer Jones and Veronica from the Archie comics. He recalls how she would roar on to the high school campus in her grandfather's Aston Martin and was probably the only person in their Speech 101 class that came out for Hubert Humphrey. Still the rebel, Julia attended Chapel Hill University where she was kicked out of the Tri-Delt sorority for refusing to wear a girdle on campus. She marched for civil rights in Selma, Alabama, and was arrested for protesting so many times that, according to Suzanne, it almost turned their mother's hair white. Julia also studied for two years at the Sorbonne.
It was not easy for Julia to recover from the loss of her husband, Hayden McIlroy, who died after suffering several heart attacks. However, the dramatic barrister, Reese Watson, himself a widower, is able to show Julia that loving each other did not mean they have to love their former spouses any less. A powerful and well known attorney, Reese knows how to handle Julia and can push her buttons right back, which makes their onscreen chemistry quite entertaining and amusing. Julia and Reese enjoy a volatile, tempestuous and completely fulfilling relationship until Reese also dies of a sudden coronary in Season Five. Reese's death leaves Julia feeling completely alone. Temporarily caring for Randa Oliver, the ultimate "poor little rich girl" and daughter of a client, helps Julia move on with her life.
Julia and Hayden had one child, Payne McIlroy. Payne was named after Julia's maternal great-grandfather. During the course of the series, Payne graduates from Vanderbilt University, marries his college sweetheart, Sylvie, and starts a career in publishing in New York City. Motherhood is the only thing that ever intimidated Julia Sugarbaker.
As the series progresses, Julia's personality softens. She seems less dramatic and not as easily fired-up, but becomes somewhat more self-righteous and seemingly more superior --- definitely not a "laugh-a-minute gal". She often finds herself annoyed with the immature antics of her co-workers, tending to act as though she is the teacher at an elementary school recess. She eventually re-enters the world of dating --- just about the same time she is forced to go through the "change of life". All of this makes Julia a little wilder and her dramatic lectures a little less realistic.
Basically, Julia usually plays the straight man to her partners' silliness, but she does have her center-of-attention moments too --- after all, they don't call her "The Terminator" for nothing.
Designing Women Online, Designing Women Tribute, Women of the House Magazine
and Belled Online ©1998-Present. All Rights Reserved.