"Feud: Bette and Joan" Is Must See TV

"Feud: Bette and Joan" Is Must See TV

Ryan Murphy's latest creation makes an old story about old women relevant and enthralling

It was while watching "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" with a friend the other day that I found myself having trouble explaining the duality of its status. It is a quality film inextricably linked to a legacy that undermines its seriousness. To be sure, it is an amazing movie from start to finish, full of clever camera techniques and, of course, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, who by that point in their careers knew how to command the camera. But to most modern day viewers, unfamiliar to the legacies and acting styles of the two women, the full grotesque effect of Bette Davis' shrieking harridan holds little to no artistic merit while Joan Crawford's nuanced performance, when compared to Davis' lack of abandon, seems flat and dull. Still, watch closely and you'll see two pros and near lifelong rivals waging two simultaneous wars: as onscreen sisters fighting for survival, and as aging stars desperate for the one movie that can kickstart their career.

The real Davis and Crawford

The lives and characters of Davis and Crawford are enshrined in the cultural lexicon not as iron-willed actresses who fought a larger-than-God studio system to claim parts they wanted and deserved, but as jokes. "Mommie Dearest" derailed any chance of a positive legacy for Joan Crawford, while nearly every modern portrayal of Davis is parodic, with emphasis on her cigarettes, voice, and walk. Ryan Murphy's latest limited series, "Feud: Bette and Joan," is the latest and greatest in his star-studded line of anthological series. The eight episode season follows the making of the 1962 classic "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?," and finds Davis (played by Susan Sarandon) and Crawford (Jessica Lange) pitted against and forced to work with one another during low points in their lives and careers. Superb writing, fantastic acting, fascinating subject matter, and production value all coalesce, creating a show not content to simply write off the two legends as the monsters they've come to be seen as, but as real women who lived and felt and fought.

Sarandon as Davis with Lange as Crawford

I mention their legacy because, while the first episode offers slightly forced exposition in their backgrounds (the 1978 interviews with Catherine Zeta-Jones' Olivia de Havilland and Kathy Bates' Joan Blondell, while entertaining, seemed unnecessary), and its focus is on the difficulty older women in Hollywood have obtaining decent roles (in one scene, Crawford turns down playing Elvis' grandmother - a slap in the face to the Academy Award winner), it carries the Herculean task of giving the public something vital and relevant from two women who hit their professional peak seventy years ago. Murphy could have made the choice to play into the long-established stereotypes, but instead he (and Lange and Sarandon) offer raw, genuine introspection into these icons. The sight of Crawford lounging around her house almost seems like sacrilege (she famously insisted on staying camera ready at all times) and the visible loneliness that Davis feels is contradictory to her persona of independence and that time-honored New England patrician inner strength. That isn't to say that these women are unrecognizable; the plastic slipcovers on her living room furniture are a light jab at Joan's well-documented germophobia, while Davis reaches for a cigarette before opening her eyes in the morning. But this show, unlike other representations of Crawford and Davis, goes beyond "chainsmoker" and "neat freak." The women depicted in this show are real.

The scenery, meticulously made to look like the early 1960s, is spacious enough to grant each of the leads a chance to seem dwarfed in comparison, isolated in a sea of pseudo-sycophants. This same scenery drives an aesthetic wedge between the two. Crawford prefers icy blues, sterile whites, and her home can best be described as "postmodern antiseptic," while Davis' home is full of warm, inviting earth tones. Something so ostensibly innocuous as the decorations in a woman's home only adds fuel to the fire: here are two entirely different women (though similar in many, many respects) facing oblivion with one final chance to shine, and their major differences are comprised of such inconsequential details as their choice of liquor (Crawford never strays from vodka, Davis prefers Scotch) and upholstery.

Ageism is the show's primary target. It displays two Oscar winning actresses with real talent who desperately want to work, yet are - in their 50s - deemed too old for decent roles by the same men who made them stars. This tale as old as time could have been written about any two actresses, but only Crawford and Davis were audacious and talented enough to make a fifty year old rivalry-cum-footnote in history must-see TV.

"Feud: Bette and Joan" airs Sundays at 10 PM on FX.

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8 Reasons Why My Dad Is the Most Important Man In My Life

Forever my number one guy.

Growing up, there's been one consistent man I can always count on, my father. In any aspect of my life, my dad has always been there, showing me unconditional love and respect every day. No matter what, I know that my dad will always be the most important man in my life for many reasons.

1. He has always been there.

Literally. From the day I was born until today, I have never not been able to count on my dad to be there for me, uplift me and be the best dad he can be.

2. He learned to adapt and suffer through girly trends to make me happy.

I'm sure when my dad was younger and pictured his future, he didn't think about the Barbie pretend pageants, dressing up as a princess, perfecting my pigtails and enduring other countless girly events. My dad never turned me down when I wanted to play a game, no matter what and was always willing to help me pick out cute outfits and do my hair before preschool.

3. He sends the cutest texts.

Random text messages since I have gotten my own cell phone have always come my way from my dad. Those randoms "I love you so much" and "I am so proud of you" never fail to make me smile, and I can always count on my dad for an adorable text message when I'm feeling down.

4. He taught me how to be brave.

When I needed to learn how to swim, he threw me in the pool. When I needed to learn how to ride a bike, he went alongside me and made sure I didn't fall too badly. When I needed to learn how to drive, he was there next to me, making sure I didn't crash.

5. He encourages me to best the best I can be.

My dad sees the best in me, no matter how much I fail. He's always there to support me and turn my failures into successes. He can sit on the phone with me for hours, talking future career stuff and listening to me lay out my future plans and goals. He wants the absolute best for me, and no is never an option, he is always willing to do whatever it takes to get me where I need to be.

6. He gets sentimental way too often, but it's cute.

Whether you're sitting down at the kitchen table, reminiscing about your childhood, or that one song comes on that your dad insists you will dance to together on your wedding day, your dad's emotions often come out in the cutest possible way, forever reminding you how loved you are.

7. He supports you, emotionally and financially.

Need to vent about a guy in your life that isn't treating you well? My dad is there. Need some extra cash to help fund spring break? He's there for that, too.

8. He shows me how I should be treated.

Yes, my dad treats me like a princess, and I don't expect every guy I meet to wait on me hand and foot, but I do expect respect, and that's exactly what my dad showed I deserve. From the way he loves, admires, and respects me, he shows me that there are guys out there who will one day come along and treat me like that. My dad always advises me to not put up with less than I deserve and assures me that the right guy will come along one day.

For these reasons and more, my dad will forever be my No. 1 man. I love you!

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From One Nerd To Another

My contemplation of the complexities between different forms of art.


Aside from reading Guy Harrison's guide to eliminating scientific ignorance called, "At Least Know This: Essential Science to Enhance Your Life" and, "The Breakthrough: Immunotherapy and the Race to Cure Cancer" by Charles Graeber, an informative and emotional historical account explaining the potential use of our own immune systems to cure cancer, I read articles and worked on my own writing in order to keep learning while enjoying my winter break back in December. I also took a trip to the Guggenheim Museum.

I wish I was artistic. Generally, I walk through museums in awe of what artists can do. The colors and dainty details simultaneously inspire me and remind me of what little talent I posses holding a paintbrush. Walking through the Guggenheim was no exception. Most of the pieces are done by Hilma af Klint, a 20th-century Swedish artist expressing her beliefs and curiosity about the universe through her abstract painting. I was mostly at the exhibit to appease my mom (a K - 8th-grade art teacher), but as we continued to look at each piece and read their descriptions, I slowly began to appreciate them and their underlying meanings.

I like writing that integrates symbols, double meanings, and metaphors into its message because I think that the best works of art are the ones that have to be sought after. If the writer simply tells you exactly what they were thinking and how their words should be interpreted, there's no room for imagination. An unpopular opinion in high school was that reading "The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne was fun. Well, I thought it was. At the beginning of the book, there's a scene where Hawthorne describes a wild rosebush that sits just outside of the community prison. As you read, you are free to decide whether it's an image of morality, the last taste of freedom and natural beauty for criminals walking toward their doom, or a symbol of the relationship between the Puritans with their prison-like expectations and Hester, the main character, who blossoms into herself throughout the novel. Whichever one you think it is doesn't matter, the point is that the rosebush can symbolize whatever you want it to. It's the same with paintings - they can be interpreted however you want them to be.

As we walked through the building, its spiral design leading us further and further upwards, we were able to catch glimpses of af Klint's life through the strokes of her brush. My favorite of her collections was one titled, "Evolution." As a science nerd myself, the idea that the story of our existence was being incorporated into art intrigued me. One piece represented the eras of geological time through her use of spirals and snails colored abstractly. She clued you into the story she was telling by using different colors and tones to represent different periods. It felt like reading "The Scarlet Letter" and my biology textbook at the same time. Maybe that sounds like the worst thing ever, but to me it was heaven. Art isn't just art and science isn't just science. Aspects of different studies coexist and join together to form something amazing that will speak to even the most untalented patron walking through the museum halls.

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