Feuds are never about hate. Feuds are about pain. They’re about pain. – Catherine Zeta Jones as Olivia de Havilland in #Feud
When I got old enough to pick an interest in the Hollywood beyond the cameras and past the red carpets and gold-starred walks of fame, the names Joan Crawford and Bette Davis were just that to me. Names. The much I knew them was that they were (clearly) Old Hollywood, movie stars of the white-and-black movie screen era, and contemporaries of Audrey Hepburn and Marylin Monroe.
When Ryan Murphy’s making of Feud began getting media attention, that was the first time I got to know about anything titillating that happened in Old Hollywood: the rivalry between movie stars. Reports pegged it as legendary and I was psyched to see it. Especially when I saw who the cast was: the AHS series ushered in my love affair with Jessica Lange, but I’d always, always loved Susan Sarandon right from the days when she was a real bitch to Julia Roberts in 1998’s Stepmom.
Feud debuted yesterday. And both Lange and Sarandon play their larger-than-life characters with both sympathy and the cold, calculating nature necessary to survive as a woman in a difficult industry. Lange is more manic than her previous characters in the Murphy TV universe, while Sarandon inhabits Davis with a respectful homage to her down-to-business East Coast roots (and accent) without going over the top.
They’re not at each other’s throats (yet) in the premiere, but it’s made perfectly clear that the sexism and misogyny and ageism that both women have faced in their career will morph into weapons they’ll use against each other rather than turn them against the system that treated them so horribly.
Knowing that ultimately the feud will lead both women to deeply hurt each other both publicly and privately is sad — so is knowing that not too much has changed in the industry in the past half-century — but watching the women circle each other, just waiting for the right moment to release their inner petty bitches, is thrilling.
At least, I hope in upcoming episodes, they’ll get to those points that is the good stuff of their rivalry, because with the first episode, Joan is the sulking princess to Bette’s world class bitch. I want to see two women equally matched in wiles, devilry and cunning, not one constantly simpering to the other. That wouldn’t be a feud; it’d be a knockout even before the referee’s whistle.
So far though, it looks like Sarandon and Lange are having a blast. Feud might not necessarily make a statement about gender inequality in Hollywood so much as acknowledge its existence, but it gives two legendary actresses a chance to shine.
PS: Now, Ryan Murphy, I know Season 1 just debuted, but here’s some ideas for Season 2. How about airing all that nastiness that went down between Gwyneth Paltrow and Winona Ryder after Paltrow reportedly stole the script for Shakespeare in Love at Ryder’s home, and going on to win an Oscar for the role she allegedly stole from her BFF. (Juicy, huh?)
Or you could air all that business of what really went down behind-the-scenes of The Good Wife between Juliana Margulies and Archie Panjabi.
But oh wait, since it’s already been reported that season two will leave Hollywood behind for London, swapping Bette versus Joan for Prince Charles versus Princess Diana, I guess the legendary royal family squabble would have to make do.
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