This week’s edition of “For Your Consideration” features Ryan Murphy’s latest Emmy nomination powerhouse, Feud. Season one, subtitled Bette and Joan, follows the infamous drama surrounding the production of the 1962 film, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? The film starred Hollywood legends Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, portrayed in the show by modern-day icons Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lang.
Joan Crawford is struggling to find quality roles for herself in the film industry. Wanting to regain some of her former glory, Crawford pitches the novel Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? to director Robert Aldrich (Alfred Molina) to adapt it to film after the success of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Joining her as a co-star is her long time rival, Bette Davis. The series then catalogues the film’s troubled production, the surprising success and drama surrounding its release, and a subsequent attempt to once again capture lightning in a bottle with a new film starring the dramatic duo.
Bette and Joan also features Judy Davis as the legendary gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, Stanley Tucci as the head of Warner Bros., Jack L Warner, and Jackie Hoffman as Crawford’s housekeeper/assistant/confidante, Mamacita.
Why You Should Watch
Bette and Joan isn’t only enjoyable television, but a discussion piece on misogyny and ageism in the film industry today. During the filming of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, both Davis and Crawford were in their 50s, struggling to get good roles. They, by Hollywood standards, had peaked years prior.
While there are supposedly more roles today for women in their 50s, ageism and misogyny are still an issue. In a recent analysis conducted by the The Washington Post, it was found that there are significant age gaps between the male and female acting categories for the Academy Awards, notably that there is an 8 year age difference between winners of the Best Actor and Best Actress awards. Additionally, many films cast female leads significantly younger than their male costars. For example, Bradley Cooper is about fifteen and a half years older than his Silver Linings Playbook costar Jennifer Lawrence.
Bette and Joan not only raises awareness of the issues that “older” women in Hollywood face (why is 50 considered old?), but gives a place for modern day women that face similar challenges to Davis and Crawford. Both Sarandon and Lang take Davis and Crawford’s legacies and make them exciting for modern audiences. Plus, it’s incredibly captivating to watch. Bette and Joan makes campy drama feel like must-see TV instead of a lunchtime soap opera.
Feud: Bette and Joan is nominated for ten Emmy Awards. Season two, which will chronicle the relationship between Prince Charles and Princess Diana, is expected to air in 2018.