By Charlotte Hollingsworth
It’s Sunday night at 10:00pm. I, being a young and lively woman of 30, would normally be well in bed by now. But, for the last 6 weeks I have been drawn out of my bedroom at this obnoxious hour because of one thing and one thing only: Feud
Feud, airing on FX, stars Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange as Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, respectively, and chronicles the notoriously bitter rivalry between the two Hollywood mega-stars as their age (oh lord, they were in their 50’s) forces them to work together in order to get a job. The result? The surprise smash hit “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane,” which, if you haven’t seen it, is worth stopping whatever you’re doing to watch. I’ll wait.
Good, I’m glad you watched it. The filming of the movie, with all its head kicking and backstabbing, took up only a handful of episodes, which has given way to a more in-depth exploration of what happened after the run-away success of the production. While Davis took anything she could get her hands on to try and keep herself in business, Crawford sank back into alcohol and anger, furious over the hotly contested Oscar Nomination given to Davis and in denial over the true nature of the business. For all the money they made, the studio still couldn’t back a project starring a woman over 50.
Which brings us to the best part of the show (and no, it’s not the costumes, even though ohmygodthecostumes.) Sarandon and Lange, two brilliant actresses with long and illustrious, not to mention award winning, careers, have seen their fare share of Hollywood ageism. Every week, my roommate and I sit on the couch and roll our eyes, saying “yeah, but that’s still how it is,” and “I mean how many times do you think Susan’s heard that excuse.” Leading roles for women are hard enough to come by, let alone roles for older women that aren’t grandmas, shut-ins, or sexless neighborhood ornaments. Even when they are given a sex life, it’s almost always played out as a joke (see: the last two decades of Diane Keaton’s career.) The emotional damage done to women within this system is seen as impossibly exaggerated in Feud, but that’s the thing, it isn’t.
Davis and Crawford are just two of many Hollywood duos bent on each others destruction. But what Feud carefully and consistently points out, is that the women are constantly being played by the men in charge. Whether it’s the director, the studio, or reporters hungry for a story, the real decisions affecting the lives of our two heroes are being made by men. And even when the women are very aware of that fact, and in some cases use it to their advantage, the fact of the matter is never far from their minds; Hollywood, and by extension the American people, do not give a shit about old women.
And now, nearly six decades later, the landscape is finally beginning to change. Feud stars two women near 70, Frankie and Grace stars two women over 70, and everyone is completely nuts about Betty White again. It’s still disgustingly rare, but the opportunities for women in Hollywood “of a certain age” are starting to crop up in more interesting and diverse ways. And, by proxy, so are general perceptions of the value of women after they can’t make babies.
I recommend you go to the FX website and get caught up lickety split as the season promises to end in top notch style.
Starting with Episode 6: ... And The Winner Is, I hope to give you some sweet weekly recaps and viewpoints that only I, your trusty house-coat wearing, gin sipping, pop-culture obsessed editor could offer. Stay tuned!!