I’m not sure if we’ve ever been gifted television like Feud: Bette and Joan before. Within Ryan Murphy’s new epic universe, we get not only the telling of a legendary Hollywood feud, but we have two of its most iconic and relevant contemporary stars serving it up for us. Jessica Lange acting out Joan Crawford acting and Susan Sarandon doing the same of Bette Davis, was beyond meta, it was chilling. It was art. And if you watch Feud and can still call television a lesser art form, DM me, and I’ll let you know the abandoned school yard you can meet me in for a fight.
Beyond the dazzling sets, perfectly recreating the golden era of cinema, and the age of vicious, glorious, drunkenly classical movie houses, the disturbingly good performances all around, and the attention to detail – the best part of Feud was Sarandon and Lange getting into the meat of what it means to be a woman in the spotlight.
It’s no secret that to be an aging woman in this world is one of the most cruel things the fairer sex endures. It’s of course often glossed over, like most issues women face. But we’ve all seen the lone, older disheveled woman ambling through the aisles of a grocery store who gives us pause, and reminds us to moisturize later and call our moms. And we’ve all also seen the gorgeous senior woman, full glamour, full wisdom, full confidence, and zero fucks vivaciously working her way through an airport or down the street who reminds us that like hell is it ever going to be over. But regardless of which mood you might find yourself in, beauty unfortunately is still the most valuable currency for women. It’s not right and it’s not fair, and we’re crumbling that stifling social construct one exasperated blow at a time, but it’s still the god damn patriarchal truth. And boy did Bette Davis and Joan Crawford suffer for it.
It’s painful to be a woman, but it was downright excruciating in the age of Crawford and Davis. No one has maybe ever brought that feeling more vividly to the screen than what Sarandon and Davis performed. Fuck the Globes, give them Oscars.
But what was most poignant about the show, once you pushed past the thrill of the high drama, and the giddiness of reliving a time few in our age are still alive from, was the sisterhood. Davis and Crawford did die still on sore terms, but the understanding between them, the bond of being cast aside just for enduring the human agony of getting older, realizing the forced resentments that were goaded out of them for publicity, that was the real magic of Feud. As usual, leave it to a gay man to point out to the world just how cruel it can be to women.