Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange are the headlining stars in the FX production of “Feud: Bette and Joan,” respectively. The program explores the problems of ageism and sexism in Hollywood, which continues to be an issue.
In an interesting coincidence, the pilot aired the first Sunday of National Women’s History Month, March 5, 2017. “Feud: Bette and Joan” use the biography of the two actresses to demonstrate the personal battle between them. Using dramatic comedy to examine the issues pertinent to women in the 1930-40s reminds viewers of the hot-button topics remaining today, in and outside of entertainment industry.
‘Feud: Bette and Joan’ Debut Set in the 1960s
The program centers around the filming of “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane,” released in 1962. Joan Crawford is desperate to find work, she is only offered parts appropriate for older women, at the time she was in her early-to-mid-fifties. Crawford had not worked for three years.
Bette Davis is approached by Crawford about the movie project. Begrudgingly, she agrees to do the film, the dramatized story “Feud: Bette and Joan,” hits the bricks running.
‘Feud’ Creator Focuses on Ageist and Sexist Hollywood
Ryan Murphy, the program’s creator clearly conveys the disparity actresses experience. “Hollywood was lousy with ageist, sexist thinking back in the day,” according to Huffington Post. Another commentary comes from one of the studio bosses, Jack Warner, played by Stanley Tucci. Warner quipped that scotch becomes smoother as it ages, but “broads just sour.”
Unfortunately, the idea that an aging actress is not desirable continues to be held true in 2017. Ageism and sexism are clearly defined by the adage; men grow more distinguished as they age but women simply get old.
Male to Female Ratio of Hollywood Directors
In another telling scene, Crawford’s housekeeper/personal assistant discusses the future of women in Hollywood. Mamasita, played by Jackie Hoffman, encourages Alsion Wright, as Pauline Jameson to continue pursuing her directorial dream.
Jameson is Robert Aldrich’s assistant, who is the director of “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” in “Feud.” Mamasita explains her seemingly logical assumption that even though men dominate the field, they die younger than women, and, eventually, the majority of Hollywood directors would be female.
Manohla Dargis, a New York Times writer, states it is startling how similar Hollywood’s discrimination today and those in “Feud: Bette and Joan” are. She offered the following details about the number of female directors.
Women directed 17 percent of episodic television in 2015-16 (white women directed 14 percent), which looks like a feminist triumph compared with the numbers of female filmmakers, who directed 7 percent of the top-grossing 2016 titles.
‘Feud: Bette and Joan’ Is the First Season of the ‘Feud’ Anthology Series
Season One of “Feud” is about the Davis-Crawford saga includes eight episodes. Sarandon and Lange are joined by many stars, women being in majority. The ratio of those in five shows or more is nine female to three male performers.
- Catherine Zeta-Jones, as Olivia de Havilland, and
- Kathy Bates portrays Joan Blondell.
- Judy Davis, as Hedda Hopper, and
- Mamasita is played by Jackie Hoffman.
- Crawford’s daughter, Cathy and Cindy, are played by Chelsea Summer and Brooke Star, respectively. They are seen in three episodes.
- Audrey Moore portrays an older Cathy Crawford in one show.
“Feud’s” first season on FX is available on cable and FX Now online. The second season was picked up for 2018; viewers will be thrown into the contentious relationship between Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana of Wales.
Support Anti-Ageism and Anit-Sexism in Hollywood
The idea of equality in Hollywood is merely a whisper and fantasy in “Feud: Bette and Joan.” In reality, the program’s sexist exploitation of the intense ill-will and viscously bitter interactions between the stars falls along typical anti-female stereotypes.
An interesting note Sarandon and Lange are still working and are 70 and 67 years old, respectively. They are older than the characters they portray in the series. While this might appeal to those who are anti-ageist parts for older men far outnumber those for women.
There are several ways a person could help women gain ground in Hollywood. One is to attend female directed and produced films.
Another is to support a non-profit organization whose motto is, films by and about women. Women Make Movies, was founded in 1972. The Amazon Smile program allows consumers to choose a charity and a portion of the proceeds are donated to that organization.
Opinion News by Cathy Milne
IMDb: Feud: Bette and Joan
IMDb: Whatever Happened to Baby Jane
Huffington Post: ‘Feud’ Reminds Us 50-Year-Old Struggles For Hollywood Women Are Still Exhaustingly Relevant
The News York Times: ‘Feud’ Asks, Again: What Ever Happened to Roles for Women?
WOMEN MAKE MOVIES: E-NEWS JANUARY 2017
Featured Image by FX Courtesy of Wikimedia – Public Domain License
First and Fifth Inset Images Courtesy of David Shankbone’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Second Inset Image by Mark Garten Courtesy of UN’s Flickr Photostream – Creative Commons License
Third Inset Image Courtesy of Kate Gabrielle’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Fourth Inset by Warner Brother’s Studio Courtesy of Wikimedia -Creative Commons License
Sixth Inset Image Courtesy of Marat Assanov’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License