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Feud: Bette and Joan is a 2017 series on FX, developed by Ryan Murphy.

The eight-episode first series chronicles the uneasy relationship between Hollywood icons Bette Davis and Joan Crawford (played by Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange, respectively) during the filming of their 1962 film What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?. Stanley Tucci, Alfred Molina, Sarah Paulson, Kathy Bates, and Catherine Zeta-Jones also star in supporting roles.

The series had a troubled post-production. Renewed by FX shortly before the first season began airing, production on Feud’s second season (intended to focus on the relationship between Prince Charles and Princess Diana) stalled due to a lawsuit from actress Olivia de Havilland over her portrayal in the series. The lawsuit indefinitely shelved plans for the season with Ryan Murphy jumping ship from FX to Netflix for future projects seemingly yielding a death knell to the series. In 2022, however, it was announced that FX would air a second season based off the book Capote’s Women: A True Story of Love, Betrayal, and a Swan Song for an Era by Laurence Leamer. Jon Robin Baitz will be the season’s writer and showrunner, with Naomi Watts starring as socialite Babe Paley and Gus Van Sant directing all eight episodes.

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Feud contains examples of the following tropes:


Bette and Joan contains examples of the following tropes:

  • A-Cup Angst: Joan Crawford is revealed to wear falsies, Bette jokes that those falsies are hard as rocks.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Bette's take on the Baby Jane make-up looks far more appealing than it does in the actual film. Compare and Contrast.
  • Affably Evil: Beneath all of Hedda's professed camaraderie is a vicious opportunist who will throw anyone under the bus in order to advance her career. Joan learns this the hard way when all her years of friendship with Hedda go out the window after Hedda hears a rumor that Joan performed in a stag film early in her career, and instead of trying to protect her old friend, she tries to get Joan to publicly admit to it so that she can get an exclusive scoop.
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  • The Alcoholic: Joan hits the bottle pretty hard after becoming convinced that she's not going to see any further roles.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees:
    • Joan Crawford really did find out that she'd been recast in Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte by hearing it on the radio.
    • Bette's Baby Jane wig really was one that Joan Crawford had worn in an earlier film.
    • Mamacita's nickname is real. The story goes that around the time she was first hired, Joan had recently done work in Brazil, and she went to call for her, forgot her name, and ended up calling her Mamacita instead. The nickname simply stuck after that.
  • Animated Credits Opening
  • Armor-Piercing Response: When Bette insists that abandoning Joan and Mamacita at the ranch was somehow a way to "help" Joan reach her potential, Joan has a reply that stuns Bette into silence for several seconds:
    Joan: Well, let me give you some advice: the answer to feeling unattractive isn't to make yourself even uglier!
  • Artistic Licence – History:
    • What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? is shown being developed by Joan as a way of creating a new role for herself. In reality it was Bette who spear-headed the production. Producer William Frye was the one who discovered the book and looked into adapting it. They actually tried to get Alfred Hitchcock to direct too. Robert Aldrich did also not write the screenplay himself - Lukas Heller did.
    • Bette is seen maliciously wearing a wig from one of Joan's old films during Baby Jane - with the stylist saying it hasn't changed at all. In reality neither woman recognised the wig because it had been re-groomed.
    • In the series Mamacita quits due to Joan's abusive treatment but returns and eventually watches her to her death. In reality she continued working for her until 1970, and was dismissed because Joan couldn't afford her.
    • Bette claims to have lost her virginity at 25. In an interview with Dick Cavett, she publicly said she lost it at 26 when she married.
    • The series lends credence to B.D.'s abuse being true. In reality her tell-all book was debunked as fabrication.
    • In the last episode of season 1, a montage is presented at the Oscars for all the stars who died the previous year - in 1978. They didn't start doing this until The '90s.
  • Bad "Bad Acting": B.D.'s acting; the best Bette can say about the girl is that she doesn't look directly into the camera, she read her lines clearly and looks great on camera. It's so bad Bette asks for B.D. to be billed under her husband's last name so there is less of a chance people know they're related.
    B.D.: I'm awful, aren't I?
    Bette: (a very long pause) You'll get better.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: For the Academy Awards, Olivia De Havilland flies out to Hollywood to loan Bette moral support, because earlier in her career, Bette taught her to stand up for herself.
    • Same with Hedda/Joan, at least from Joan's perspective until Hedda turns on her in "Hagsploitation".
  • Big Eater: Victor Buono eats a lot, especially when he is nervous.
  • Billed Above the Title: Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon are listed before the title in the main credits, with their billing alternating each episode (Lang comes first on the odd numbered episodes, Sarandon on the even).
  • Bittersweet Ending: Joan Crawford is dead, with no chance to make amends with Bette and become friends like she originally wanted to. Furthermore, Christina Crawford's book Mommie Dearest will damage her reputation. Victor Buono will die of a heart attack at just 43 years old and Bette will spend the last years of her life with serious health problems (cancer and four strokes which ultimately left her face partially paralyzed) and the scandal of B.D.'s tell-all book looming over her. Only Pauline, who found her calling doing documentaries, and Robert Aldrich, who will finally make his great movie in 1967 with The Dirty Dozen, have a happy ending, and even that is tainted by the fact that Pauline isn't a real person but a composite character created explicitly for the show.
  • Boarding School of Horrors: Joan and Bette were sent to those (not that they would have thought of it that way). Joan was sent to a Catholic one where she was beaten while Bette went to one ran by "Yankee Puritans" who made the students do things like bathe naked in the snow. They credit those years for making them tough.
  • Broken Aesop: It's illustrated that Hollywood is phasing Joan out because she's gotten too old. While that is a problem to an extent, the narrative seems to ignore that the reason Joan didn't get more work is primarily because she was frequently drunk, abusive to her co-stars and generally difficult to work with. Even in that era plenty of other actresses managed to enjoy success in their older years - such as Katharine Hepburn, Barbara Stanwyck, Eve Arden and many more. It seems to be more the case that the only reason people put up with Joan was because of her looks and popularity.
  • Brutal Honesty:
    • Bette has a knack for saying exactly what she thinks and does it in the bluntest way possible.
    • Victor has his moments as well.
    • Bob asks Jack Warner for a straight answer on if he thinks Bob has the potential for greatness. Jack flatout tells him no. Even though Jack is a manipulative asshole, it still stings quite a bit to both Bob and the audience. But at least he proves Jack wrong in the end.
  • Camp Gay: Victor Buono cheerfully introduces himself to Bette Davis as a flaming gay man.
  • Classically Trained Extra: The first episode portrays Bette as playing the third most important character in a Broadway play - bordering on Spear Carrier.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Or much more precisely, Precision F Strikes and Precision Country Matters happen in the pilot of Bette and Joan alone.
  • Costume Porn: The clothing worn by the women in particular in the series is absolutely gorgeous. Take note of Joan Crawford's outfits in particular. It garnered them a nomination for a Primetime Emmy, in fact. It didn't win, but they did win for hairstyling and makeup.
  • Coordinated Clothes: Joan's twin daughters have this, where the clothing designs are either the same (but in different colors) or different designs (but same color scheme).
  • Death Glare: A major one when Bette comes to the Green Room at the Oscars and finds out Joan took it over. Joan makes it worse by walking over, offering a crocodile smile, and offering her hand and saying, "Good luck."
    • After Joan walks off with Anne Bancroft's Oscar, the other winners all shoot daggers at her because they all know that she doesn't deserve the award.
    • When Joan looks down at their Baby Jane contracts and sees that Bette is getting six hundred more dollars in expenses than her, she shoots the mother of all glares at Bob, who quickly realizes he's fucked up.
  • Disappeared Dad: Joan and Bette had those and their respective children don't seem to have father figures in their lives.
  • The Dog Bites Back:
    • Mamacita and Pauline both do this to Joan in Abandoned.
    • Bob also gets one in at Jack Warner when he takes Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte to Darryl F. Zanuck and 20th Century Fox.
  • Dramatic Irony: Most people watching the series know that Bette Davis was indeed nominated for an Oscar for her role of Baby Jane, but did not win. Even with that knowledge, it's still crushing to see her lose, especially since she was unfortunately right—she does not receive another Oscar nomination for the rest of her career. Baby Jane really was her last chance.
  • Everybody Smokes: Since it takes place in the 60s (and has some flashbacks to the 40s and 50s), this trope is firmly in play, but most notably with Bette Davis. It has a lot of Truth in Television as there is a rumor that Bette Davis could smoke as many as one hundred cigarettes in a day. If you watch, she basically has one in every scene unless she's on camera, and as soon as the director yells cut, she reaches for one.
  • Exact Eavesdropping: Subverted. Joan approaches the hotel room where Bette is seemingly mocking Joan's performance in the first scene she's just shot for Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte... what Joan doesn't realize is that Bette is trying to replicate the complicated staging of the scene (paying the taxi driver while looking up at the house and saying her dialogue) because she's impressed with how Joan managed to effortlessly pull it off.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: In Joan's final scene, she's shown with Messy Hair to portray just how far she's fallen from her Glory Days.
  • Fallen-on-Hard-Times Job: Bette's many failed TV pilots and, most depressingly, Trog is this for Joan.
  • Fag Hag:
    • Bette gets on famously with Victor Buono, even bailing him out when he gets in trouble with the police.
    • Subverted in the finale, when Joan Crawford is confronted with her gay fanbase at a book signing. She's not thrilled at all and walks away from her book signing table. In reality while Joan wasn't happy with the camp following of her later pictures, she was friends with the Gay men of Hollywood like George Cukor and William Haines who left the movies to stay with his partner.
  • Female Misogynist:
    • Bette has shades of this; she sees almost all other actresses as competition and doesn't socialize with other women if she can avoid it. This comes back to bite her in the ass when Joan gets Hedda Hopper to spread stories about her behavior on the set. It also comes back in a truly gut-wrenching reveal that her mother, whom she felt was her best and only true female friend, regularly complained to others about her behavior, destroying how she thought their close relationship had been when she was alive.
    • Olivia De Havilland and Joan Blondell discuss this in the documentary about whether or not that, as a result of Women's Liberation Movement, that anyone would put up with the press pitting Jane Fonda and Dyan Cannon against one another. Blondell cynically clucks that women will always go against their own.
    • Joan falls under this, saying she won't trust a woman director.
    • Along with "queers" and "Reds", Hedda gloried in ruining the careers of "whores". She also shows no sympathy for Bette and Joan regarding their lives as single mothers.
  • Foreshadowing: Bette stating that Joan belongs in an institution if she truly thinks Hedda Hopper is her friend. Lo and behold, what happens? Hedda hears a rumor that Joan did a stag film and tries to blackmail her to get the exclusive story. It's implied that Joan knows what a snake Hedda is, but may have underestimated just how low she would sink for a story, betraying their steady alliance over it.
  • Framing Device: The series shows snippets of a 1978 documentary production, with people discussing Davis and Crawford backstage during the 1978 Academy Awards ceremony.
  • Gay Best Friend: Victor becomes this to Bette.
  • Germanic Depressive: Mamacita gives off this vibe, and never seems to smile, but in "More or Less", she reveals an optimistic streak when she tells Pauline that by 1970, women will be a majority in the United States and the movie industry will have to cater to them.
  • The Ghost:
    • Katharine Hepburn, who is referenced at various points in the series as a sort of Big Bad that Joan and Bette both despise for being snobby and arrogant. Hepburn refuses to show up at the Oscars in 1963 (or anytime the Awards are held, as noted by Hedda Hopper) and in the season finale refuses to do a photo shoot with Bette Davis, due to her considering Bette "beneath her." The snobbery takes on even more angst for Joan and Bette (the latter in particular) in that Hepburn's career never really suffered in the 1950s and 1960s, whereas Bette and Joan ended up slumming in horror films and TV.
    • Faye Dunaway is also depicted as such, though largely as a Take That! against her portrayal of Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: At one point, Olivia De Havilland discusses her poor relationship with her younger sister, Joan Fontaine. The relationship and rivalry between De Havilland and her sister Joan Fontaine alone would produce enough material for an entire season of the show, which has been hinted as a potential future season.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: A big part of the feud is they are each jealous of the other, Bette for Joan's beauty, Joan for Bette's talent.
  • Grew a Spine: This trope is part of Bob's journey from a bumbling failing director who could barely assert himself to a more successful director who can tell off two movie divas and a studio mogul.
  • He Who Must Not Be Seen: Christina Crawford. Due to the series serving as a rebuke of Mommie Dearest, Christina is never seen and is only sporadically mentioned, and Joan pointedly claims that Christina lied with her book while talking with daughter Cathy.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: The final episode has a scene where Bette and Joan reconcile at a party in Joan's house, where Joan suggests they could start again. It turns out to be an Imagine Spot and Joan dies a few days later.
  • Heteronormative Crusader: In "Hagsploitation", Hedda remarks that looking back over her career, her proudest accomplishment was the fact that she destroyed the lives and careers of countless "reds" and "queers" in order to keep Hollywood wholesome.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade:
    • BD Merrill is portrayed as a sympathetic character, the miniseries implying that she was abused by Bette. In reality her Mommie Dearest style book was debunked as mostly fabrication. The miniseries chooses to ignore the fact that Bette supported BD's family financially for many years - even preventing them from becoming homeless. Her brother Michael Merrill actually disowned BD after the book came out.
    • Some of Joan Crawford's nastier behaviour is downplayed, most notably the miniseries showing Bette as the instigator of many of their arguments. It also implies that Mommie Dearest's stories about her abuse were false, when many colleagues confirmed some of Christina's stories. The show also downplays her diva behaviour on Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte, leaving out that she forced the wardrobe mistress to iron all her dresses in the 100-degree weather and refused to talk to Robert Aldritch after a while - only communicating through her make-up artist.
  • Hollywood Old: A key factor of the pilot has various studio execs wanting twenty-somethings to play the roles meant for Crawford and Davis.
  • Hostility on the Set: In-universe, it covers the rivalry between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford during the filming of Whatever Happened To Baby Jane.
  • Hypocrite: Bette sneers and calls Joan a "pathetic old drunk" when she calls to tell Bette not to call her an old broad while quite drunk and belligerent, but note that Bette says this with a drink in her hand. Bette definitely doesn't have the same alcoholism problems as Joan, but if you pay attention, she has a drink in her hand at nearly every opportunity. She just knows when to stop, it seems.
  • Inferiority Superiority Complex: It is revealed in the penultimate episode that their feud at its very root is because of their own complexes and insecurities, Bette got her start on Broadway, while Joan worked her way up from dancing at clubs. While Bette, with her rather large eyes, wasn't as conventionally beautiful as Joan.
  • It Will Never Catch On:
    • Everyone at the studio expects Baby Jane to be a flop. Instead, it's a hit and Bette Davis is nominated for a Best Actress Oscar.
    • In "More Or Less", Joan dismisses Pauline's offer for a role, claiming that no studio will ever accept a movie written and directed by a woman.
    • In the penultimate episode, Bette suggests that B.D.'s marriage to Jeremy will fail within a few years. The marriage of Barbara Davis and Jeremy Hyman lasted for more than 50 years until the latter’s death in November 2017.
    • In More, or Less Jack definitively states that Bob doesn't have it in him to be a great director. Robert Aldrich would later find success with Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte and went on to make The Flight of the Phoenix (1965), The Dirty Dozen and The Longest Yard.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: As cruel and harsh as it was to Pauline, it was understandable why Joan would be unwilling to put herself in the hands of a newbie director, especially a woman in a time when the idea of a woman director would be mocked and would have a hard time with production and getting distribution.
    • After Bette's incredibly cruel "prank" of leaving Joan and Mamacita at the ranch all alone, Joan rightfully calls her out on her behavior, constantly acting superior to Joan because she's the "better" actor and acting as if Joan needs to be "helped" to reach her acting potential rather than trusting that she works hard at her craft. Joan also has a similar moment with Bob when she confronts him about allowing Bette a producer credit so she can have free reign to smart off to Joan with no consequences despite the fact that Joan is working her ass off in the role.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Bette can be this, especially in the scene where Joan confesses to her that her stepdad molested her at 11 (not that Joan would have thought of it that way), Bette's snarkiness and hostility freeze for a moment and she quietly says that Joan's mother should have kicked him out. Shows this again when she discovers Robert crying because his wife is leaving him.
    • It's very difficult to pinpoint if Joan counts. The show does not skimp on showing her often childish behavior, which is a result of having a huge ego (which, to be fair, was bestowed on her by Hollywood itself) yet an intense inferiority complex. She is shown as being her own worst enemy, engaging in self sabotage rather than cooling her temper and taking an easier path to whatever the solution is. However, she does genuinely love her children and she does genuinely love to act. Her unwillingness to let go of her own vanity is often what causes her to come across as a frigid bitch who has to have everything go her way.
  • The Loins Sleep Tonight: In a scene we probably could have lived without, we see Bob can't hang onto an erection due to his massive amounts of stress and doubt related to the film he's directing. His wife manages to be sympathetic about it, at least.
  • Mama Bear: The 3rd episode features a scene where Hedda needles Bette about what is going on set and gets her goat when she dares to make the comment that B.D.'s Bad "Bad Acting" is ruining the picture and implies making B.D. the subject of her column. Bette shouts in outrage that B.D. isn't ruining the picture and her role is rather too small and insignificant for that to happen, unfortunately B.D. overhears and Bette realizes that it came out the wrong way. Later Bette serves this when she comes to bail Victor out from jail.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Joan, in spades. Most of it has to do with her alliance with Hedda Hopper. The two of them are constantly scheming to get Joan more noticed than Bette, to badmouth Bette in the papers, and famously, lobbying against Bette Davis when she's nominated for the Oscar for Baby Jane. Joan also tries (but fails) to manipulate Bob Aldridge into sympathizing and sleeping with her when she thinks Bob and Bette are sleeping together, which means Bette would have more sway over Bob than her.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": At the Oscars, everyone suddenly falls silent after Bette steps into the green room and discovers that Joan has taken it over.
  • Mirror Character: The series plays on the fact that Crawford and Davis were far more alike and had more in common than either wanted to admit and it was just their egos that kept them at odds.
    Bette: What was it like, being the most beautiful girl in the world?
    Joan: It was wonderful. The most joyous thing. And it was never enough. And what about you? What was it like, being the most talented girl in the world?
    Bette: Great. And it was never enough.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal:
    • In the penultimate episode, Mamacita gets tired of Joan's abuse and self-aggrandizement and walks out on her.
    • Pauline is a fan of Joan and sees her as a role model; in the penultimate episode, Abandoned, she gives Joan advice so she wouldn't destroy her career and give Robert and Bette a reason to sue or worse. Joan belittles her as a lowly secretary "nipping" at her feet and then Pauline announces she is already going to quit her job after Joan threatens to have her fired.
  • My Beloved Smother: Joan is this to her twin daughters, part of it is her wanting to raise her children to be proper and disciplined citizens.
  • Nice Girl: In "And The Winner Is...", Geraldine Page and Anne Bancroft both agree to let Joan collect their Oscars on their behalf if they win, out of a sincere desire to help her when it looks as though she's being shut out of Hollywood.
  • The Oner: A well-executed example during the Oscars ceremony; after Joan and Best Picture winner David Lean (for Lawrence of Arabia) exit the stage; we get a nearly two-minute tracking shot of Joan sauntering from one side of the wings, through the labyrinth of the theatre, pointing David to the press room for photographs and interviews, back into the green room, and ending up on the other side of the stage where Bette and Olivia await just in time for the announcement of Best Actress.
  • Only Sane Man: Robert, Pauline, and Mamacita are this being the only reasonable people usually and having to deal with the big egos of everybody else.
  • Playing Gertrude: Inverted — Lange and Sarandon are both older than the people they're playing by at least a decade each. Though Matthew Glave and Salvator Xuereb in their cameos are ten-ish years too young for their cameos as (Dr. Phibes costars) Joseph Cotten and Vincent Price.
    • Played straight in-universe, where the studio execs suggest casting younger actresses as the stars of Baby Jane.
  • Psychopathic Manchild:
    • In "More or Less", Frank Sinatra is portrayed as a spoiled brat with a god complex.
    • Joan qualifies as well, with "Hagsploitation" opening with Joan going off in a psychotic fit at having to lower herself to doing a film where she plays an ax-murderess.
      • Pretty much the whole cast, sans Bob, would qualify. Davis and Crawford are both divas who freak out and then some at the drop of a hat when things don't go their way while Hedda Hopper and Jack Warner go mental with tantrums whenever someone snubs them or tries to pull a fast one on them.
  • Pyrrhic Villainy: In "And The Winner Is...", all of Joan's maneuvering pays off and she walks off with an Oscar that everyone was sure would go to Bette, giving her the temporary satisfaction of publicly humiliating her old nemesis. On the other hand, much of Hollywood is disgusted by her behavior, and she's relegated to making B-movies until Bob decides to give her another role. Best summed up by a line from Joan herself.
    Joan: I admire her craft and her talent, and I will have her respect, even if I have to kill both of us to get it.
    • Historically, Crawford's Oscar theft also ended up being financially costly for her; she and Davis had agreed to forgo their usual salaries for the film in exchange for a cut of the profits. Had Davis won the Oscar, Joan would likely have made hundreds of thousands more dollars.
  • Protagonist-Centred Morality: Joan accepting the Best Actress Oscar is still given a sympathetic edge, with the actresses involved seeing it as a Pet the Dog moment for her - rather than a shallow attempt to upstage Bette.
  • Real-Person Epilogue: The first-season finale shows the real-life photos of Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, and the other major figures in the series.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • B.D. delivers one to her mother after the latter contemplates banishing her to Maine, accusing her of hypocrisy for complaining about being replaced when she spent years wishing for her contemporaries to retire so that she could take their places.
    • Robert gives a well deserved one to Jack Warner making it clear that Baby Jane was his and he doesn't have to put up with Jack's crap anymore and reclaiming his pride.
    • Pauline gives one to Joan Crawford after the latter dismissed her as a lowly secretary and threatens to have her fired. Pauline then fires back that she is quitting after working on Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte and states that Hollywood (most pointedly Joan) is full of narcissists and she doesn't want to stick around to find out if narcissists are born or made.
  • The Rival: More or less the premise for this show.
  • Sassy Secretary: Robert Aldrich's secretary Pauline is very snarky even without saying a word.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Famous!: The third episode has Bette going to bail Victor out of jail after he and several other gay men were arrested at an adult cinema. Unable to persuade the officer initially, she takes off her sunglasses, revealing her identity and causing him to relent.
    • Joan's hostile takeover of the Oscars' green room. She is immediately confronted and told it's not allowed, but due to her fame and flatout ignoring the rules, she still gets to take it over.
  • Servile Snarker:
    • Pauline gets away with all manner of snark towards Bob.
    • Mamacita can do this as well.
  • Set Behind the Scenes: Bette and Joan is this to the filming of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?.
  • Stage Names: Davis regularly needles Crawford by calling her by her actual first name, Lucille.
  • Stupid Evil: In "Abandoned!", Bette exploits her role as an executive producer on Charlotte to make Joan miserable. When Joan revolts and nearly shuts down production, Bob points out that the situation could have been easily avoided if Bette hadn't abused her power so frivolously.
  • Sugary Malice: Joan generally keeps her voice mellow and sweet, but that's just to keep one from realizing the jabs of her words.
  • Sure, Let's Go with That: A rough trade mistakes the unknown Victor Buono for movie star Charles Laughton. Buono, though also portly and gay, is about forty years too young to be Laughton, but he rolls with it anyway.
  • Take That!:
    • A huge chunk of the "Take Thats" in the series dwell on obscure and not so obscure movie industry lore. One of the most notable examples: Bette Davis refuting 20th Century Fox's desire to have Vivien Leigh as Joan Crawford's replacement on Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte - claiming she could not play a convincing Southern Belle. This refers to the bad blood Davis had towards Leigh for winning the role of Scarlett O'Hara, resulting in Davis starring in Follow the Leader Jezebel instead, a film Warner Brothers secured to placate her when talks fell through.
    • The entire season can be seen as a Take That! against Mommie Dearest, in that it portrays Joan as a good mother and someone who, while possessing a cruel streak professionally, is sympathetic in her private life. The film also takes jabs at Faye Dunaway (portraying her as unprofessional) and positions that Joan even knew about Christina's book but allowed it to be published, declining to read the manuscript when offered. She didn't want to spend her last days filled with rage over Chistina's lies - though her line of parenting, when shown, seems to give some credibility to the book, with strict and mostly out-and-out strange behavior.
  • Technician Versus Performer: Illustrated as the difference between Bette - a dedicated actress who throws herself into whatever part she gets (Technician) and Joan - a glamorous star more concerned with image (Performer).
  • The Unfavorite:
    • B.D. is this; her mother Bette much prefers her younger children Margot and Michael. Historically, B.D. Hyman would end up being disinherited after becoming a Born-Again Christian and publicly accusing Davis of abuse.
    • "Hagsploitation" reveals that Joan was this for her family; her parents favored her no-name brother over her
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: Invoked and deconstructed with Hedda Hopper and to a lesser extent, Joan Crawford. Moral busybodies like Hedda Hopper justified ruining the lives of writers, actors, actresses, directors, etc. who behave in "ungodly" ways (i.e. do drugs, whore around, are gay, communists, or behave in any sort of way considered "degenerate") by evoking a long held (going back to the Fatty Arbuckle murder scandal and the Clara Bow sex scandal in the 1920 and early 1930's, with the Hayes Code) theory of conduct held by Hollywood, and embodied by Joan Crawford: That Hollywood is only allowed to exist, if not continue to exist, by the public, in exchange for the directors, actors, actresses, writers all agreeing to live strict, moral, perfect lives of Puritanism. Actors like Joan Crawford live by this code of conduct and consider the unrealistic notion of moral purity to be the price one has to pay in order to be a movie star, which puts Joan into direct conflict with the next generation of Hollywood stars like Marilyn Monroe (who she denounces as being vulgar and immoral due to how her films exploited her sex appeal). Similarly, when health issues start making Hedda realize that her time as the self-appointed "moral guardian" of Hollywood is coming to an end with her impending forced retirement, she becomes much more bitter towards what she has "sacrificed" (her career as an actress, her marriage, and chances to have more than one child) in order to serve as Hollywood's arbitrary and self-appointed moral guardian. Ironically, Hedda and Joan ultimately are portrayed as rank hypocrites throughout the series, engaging in all sorts of illicit behavior while claiming to have the moral high ground over Bette.
  • Villain of Another Story:
    • Olivia De Havilland. While portrayed as Bette's best friend, the series makes occasional references to her own feud with sister Joan Fontaine.
    • Joan gets this as well, for those who take the Mommie Dearest accusations seriously. Apart from a reference to her being "perhaps too strict" when raising them (while discussing parenting methods with Bette), Joan's alleged abuse towards her oldest children is never explored.
    • Bette Davis would later be accused of abuse by B.D. Hyman. However, unlike Crawford, Bette was still alive when the book was published, and was able to refute the claims to such an extent that most feel B.D. made up her claims for exploitative purposes.
    • Hedda Hopper's rival Louella Parsons is mentioned. Their rivalry could provide a season's worth of material as well.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Bette and Joan have difficult relationships with their children. This is a version of the trope shown from the perspective of the parent.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: So, did Anne Bancroft ever get her Oscar back from Joan? Bette makes a half-serious joke that Bancroft has: "never even seen it!" and the show gives no indication as to whether Joan kept it or not.
  • WTH, Casting Agency?: In-universe. One studio executive suggests casting Audrey Hepburn and Doris Day as the stars of Baby Jane.
  • White-Dwarf Starlet: Bette and Joan (especially Joan) are slowly turning into this over the course of the series.
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: Bette's reaction to seeing long-time rival Joan Crawford visiting her backstage, coupled with a Precision F-Strike.

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