Feud, FX’s newest Ryan Murphy creation, debuted this Sunday. Feud chronicles the legendary battles between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. The plot is centered on the difficulties of making What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? with two divas steering the ship. The show casts two real life divas to play the pair, Susan Sarandon (Davis) and Jessica Lange (Crawford.) The costumes, arching eyebrows and elaborate sets can be overwhelming, so much so that your brain feels like a bowl of fish aspic. In a series that is meticulously obsessed with the look of the 1960s, the opening credits set the tone for the series. You can see it for yourself here:
Hopefully, you are picking up on the Hitchcockian vibes. The opening credits also set the tone for the what the show will represent (as it should!) but it can also be a tool we use to predict what Feud has in store for the audience as well.
Unlike today’s feuds between celebs like Taylor Swift and Katy Perry the rancor between Crawford and Davis was strategically fought and fascinating. Olivia de Havilland, played by Catherine Zeta Jones, states, “Feuds are never about hate. They are about pain.” The first five minutes of the series completely spoils the plot. These women don’t hate each other. They are just in pain and are making their rival suffer because of it. The sentiment is sad. The result is an interesting TV show with fabulous dresses and too much cigarette smoke.
Women as Puppets
The re-up of the feud of “biblical proportions” has launched 1,000 think-pieces about the role of women in the movies. Feud has already been deemed an “important show” and rightfully so. It is necessary and good for people to be reminded of what women were perceived to be in the past and to remind us all of the perceptions we still face today. The image of the movie producer literally pulling the strings of their careers is not as archaic as some of the other throwbacks from the show (voice recorders, landlines, aspic jelly, calling your maid “mamacita,” etc.) Hopefully, the show will inspire creators to imagine more diverse stories to tell.
Just go ahead and prepare a space in your head for the “I’ve Written a Letter to Daddy” earworm. Feud is obsessed with making the audience relive all of their favorite/disturbing memories from What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? I look forward to seeing the frightening face of the Baby Jane Murder doll, pet birds dressed as dinner, Blanche dressed all in black at the beach and all of my other favorite parts of the film. The whole show is one big homage to the plastic covered couches and fancy daytime hats of the 60s.
Go ahead and engrave Susan Sarandon’s Emmy for Feud. I’m in love with her as Bette Davis. In the final scene of the pilot, she carries herself like just like Davis would. Her makeup looks like it has been applied and reapplied for weeks. Her eyes are like Bette Davis eyes, but with the soul of a demented child. She so good I’m not entirely sure she’s acting. Someone should check on Jessica Lange and see how she is handling it.
Whether you are #TeamJoan or #TeamBette hopefully we can all agree on this, Feud is a fun, campy romp that might mess around and make the world a better place.