A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
Iffy messages about women, aging, and stardom permeate this series ("men age, they get character, women age, they get lost," women should "just look pretty and keep their mouth shut"); parents may want to point out to young viewers that these types of ideas are antiquated (or are they?), and that Bette Davis and Joan Crawford are both rare examples of women who had long Hollywood careers. By showing us the pain of those who are passed over, Feud is a powerful argument for putting these notions to rest.
Positive Role Models
Bette and Joan are both tough and sophisticated women who gossip about others, joust for power, and are not above using deception or aggression to gain their ends. They are also great artists with a passion for their work, who care about their fans, and who worked very hard to maintain their successes.
Violence & Scariness
Casual violent language ("If I make another sandals saga, put a bullet in my head"); Bette and Joan sometimes scuffle physically. The movie Baby Jane contains shocking death and abuse; it's seen being filmed.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Graphic and vulgar commentary on women's body parts; Joan says she won't play a "Sapphic" role' subtle sex jokes (someone tells a landscaper "it's an honor to prune Joan Crawford's bush"); a man is unfaithful to his wife and enlists his coworkers in keeping his secret; a man and woman kiss and then fall into bed before the camera cuts away.
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Strong language includes "f--king," "bulls--t," "hell," "c--t," "goddamn," "ass," "b---h," "s--t," "tits," "Jesus," "crap," "screw." During some scenes, characters hurl insults at each other: "broken-down has-been," "viper," "drunk."
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Products & Purchases
Joan Crawford was in real life a spokesperson for Pepsi, which is described here as "s---y sugar water" but its logos are shown numerous times. The trappings of movie stardom are everywhere: expensive furniture, servants, elegant clothing.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Joan Crawford is an alcoholic who conceals her drinking but often explodes emotionally, berates others, slurs, stumbles. Both Joan and Bette smoke cigarettes nearly constantly; vintage cigarette packs are shown prominently as are packages for other vintage products (some are still sold). In one scene, Bette grabs for her cigarettes the minute her alarm goes off in the morning.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Feud is a series about the making of the 1962 movie What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? and the women who starred in it. Besides the incessant smoking (in one scene Davis reaches for her cigarettes the second her alarm goes off) and constant drinking (every adult drinks at every social occasion; Crawford is an alcoholic who slurs, stumbles, explodes), the chief concern for parents will be the many concerning messages about women, particularly older women. Crawford and Davis are often called "washed up" or "has beens," with no worth because of their age. Parents may wish to talk about these statements with young viewers -- does the phenomenal and long-lasting success of Baby Jane show them to be untrue? Strong language includes "f--k," "f--king," "bulls--t," "hell," "c--t," "goddamn," "ass," "bitch," "s--t," "tits," "Jesus," "crap," "screw." There are graphic jokes about women's body parts, references to infidelity; a man and woman kiss before falling into bed (the camera then cuts away). In real life, Crawford was a spokesperson for Pepsi, which is described here as "s---y sugar water" but it's a plot point, too, with its logos and bottles shown frequently.
Is It Any Good?
With lush sets and clothes, ironic feminist subtext, and gossip even Baby Jane fans haven't heard, this series is a positively enthralling treat for vintage vultures. Ryan Murphy, a big Baby Jane fan himself, is clearly relishing unpacking the meta behind the 1962 mega-hit that launched the mini horror genre known variously as "psycho-biddy," or "hag horror," i.e. movies about older women. These movies seemed to view aging women as repulsive monsters, and carried with them a "good news/bad news" message: good news, there are parts for both Bette and Joan! Bad news, Bette's going to be a terrifying madwoman, Joan a faded, helpless wraith.
But at home, off the set, Sarandon and Lange play these outsized stars as vibrant, yet vulnerable women, tragically warring with each other instead of with the system that put them out to pasture. Still, what a pasture! The elegant furs, vintage evening wear, and designer furniture is enough reason to pause to admire every painterly shot -- particularly the ones that reveal Crawford's furniture covered in custom-made plastic protectors, just like in real life. Fans may be pausing, too, to look up period details: Did Crawford really upstage Davis when signing the movie's contracts? Did Davis really kick Crawford in the head accidentally on purpose while shooting? Feud is the rare show that works both on a guilty-pleasure level and on a deeper one, with the Crawford-Davis rivalry digging into questions about stardom, regret, and the value of older women in a culture that doesn't always recognize their value.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.