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Feud is an anthology series on FX, developed by Ryan Murphy.

The first season, Bette and Joan, 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.

Renewed by FX shortly after the first season, development on further seasons of Feud eventually ran into an extended period of development hell due to a lawsuit from actress Olivia de Havilland over her portrayal in the series, as portrayed there by Zeta-Jones. Original plans for a second season would have depicted the fraught relationship between Prince Charles and Princess Diana, but the aforementioned lawsuit effectively caused its cancelation. The series would remain on hiatus until 2022, with a retooled second season announced for a different topic.

The second season, Capote vs. The Swans, is based upon the book Capote’s Women: A True Story of Love, Betrayal, and a Swan Song for an Era by Laurence Leamer, which chronicles the fallout between Truman Capote and his social circle after learning their lives had inspired much of his fictional work. All eight episodes of the season were written by showrunner Jon Robin Baitz (Brothers & Sisters) and directed by Gus Van Sant. Tom Hollander stars as Capote himself, with Chris Chalk as James Baldwin, while the titular women include Naomi Watts as Bebe Paley, Demi Moore, Kathy Bates, Chloë Sevigny, Diane Lane, and Calista Flockhart.

Feud contains examples of the following tropes:

    Bette and Joan 

Bette and Joan contains examples of the following tropes:
"Feuds are never about hate. Feuds...are about pain. They're about pain."

  • A-Cup Angst: Joan Crawford is revealed to wear falsies, Bette jokes that those falsies are hard as rocks.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: When Gary Merrill briefly returns to serve Bette divorce papers, they have an argument that ends with them laughing and sleeping together. You can tell they both thought each other's barbs were good.
    Gary: Oh, admit it. You don't want me, but you can't stand the thought of me being with anyone else.
    Bette: Who would have you, you broken down has-been?
    Gary: You viper.
    Bette: You drunk.
    Gary: Takes one to know one.
    (Gary and Bette glare at each other, then smile and start laughing)
  • 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.
  • The Alcoholic: Joan hits the bottle pretty hard after becoming convinced that she's not going to see any further roles. It's elaborated on by Ms. Blondell.
    Documentary Guy: So you're saying on the record that Joan Crawford was an alcoholic?
    Blondell: Oh, I'm not saying it, honey. Joan herself said it. Quote, "the twin curses of being a star are alcoholism and loneliness." End quote.
  • 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 a tip: the answer to feeling unattractive isn't to make yourself even uglier!
  • Artistic Licence – History:
    • The 'feud' between Joan Crawford and Bette Davis being portrayed as a lifelong one is actually a big stretch. The two had barely interacted for most of their careers, due to being under contract to different studios for their early days, and even when they were both at Warner Brothers the rumours of the feud were still just rumours. Bette herself even wondered openly in an interview where the stories were coming from (being quoted as saying "there's room for both of us on the Warner lot"). Even when Bette played an Expy of Joan in The Star, Joan's ire was directed at the writers of the film (especially as they had been friends of hers). And on the set of Baby Jane, the two got along cordially, despite minor creative disagreements. The infamous Oscar acceptance incident was in fact the first tangible piece of evidence for there to even be a feud after all.
    • 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.
    • Bette antagonistically calls Joan 'Lucille', seemingly as a dig for changing her name. This was a common practice in the Golden Age, which Bette herself also did to an extent, so it's an odd thing to make fun of her for.
    • Joan and Hedda Hopper conspire to campaign against Bette at the Oscars. Hedda Hopper was one of the gossip columnists who underplayed the feud in real life, and her own readership named Bette actress of the year.
    • 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.
    • Ryan Murphy admitted to not approaching Olivia de Havilland to verify any of the claims about her.
  • 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.
  • Big "NO!": Joan absolutely loses her shit upon finding out that Bette was nominated for an Oscar for Baby Jane and she wasn't. Mamacita goes as far as unplugging every phone in the house before Joan even wakes up since she doesn't want the papers calling up and asking her for a quote about being snubbed by the Academy when her costar has received an Oscar nomination, instead knowing she has to break the news to Joan herself.
  • Billed Above the Title: Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon are listed before the title in the main credits, with their billing alternating each episode (Lange 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.
  • 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.
  • Diagonal Billing: Jessica Lange receives top-billing on the odd numbered episodes, Sarandon on the even.
  • 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.
  • Establishing Character Moment: There are some very definitive ones for our main leads.
    • Joan Crawford is introduced sneering at Marilyn Monroe in jealousy as she accepts an award, stating, "I've got great tits too, but I throw 'em in everyone's face," and then bitterly drinking her alcohol, which she later insists to Hedda Hopper that she had not a drop of.
    • Bette is introduced as a side character in a three-man Tennessee Williams play. After the play is over and they get a standing ovation, Bette turns and walks out the second the curtain has come down past her face. She immediately grabs the cigarette and drink waiting for her that an assistant provides and she goes straight to her dressing room to change, showcasing her no-nonsense personality even further with the acidic meeting she has backstage with Joan.
    • Bob Aldridge is introduced as a kind, talented director, but with a vice—he routinely cheats on his wife Harriet, shown to us when Ava Braun keeps calling him on set and wants to be in the movie he's currently filming, and the scene implies she's one of the women he cheated on his wife with.
    • The first words out of Jack Warner's mouth when the audience meets him is "would you fuck them" while getting a back massage in his office. He's referring to Bette and Joan, as Bob has come along trying to pitch the movie to him, and he insists they're has-beens that he would never work with again...until Bob promises to pay him first if he decides to release Baby Jane in his theaters.
    • Hedda Hopper invites herself over to Joan's place the morning after the award ceremony and flippantly tells Mamacita, "she's had enough time to sleep it off; announce me" before barging into Joan's home like she owns the place.
  • 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. Cukor actually escorts her to the Oscars in this series, in fact.
  • The Fashionista: Joan, definitely. She never seems to wear the same outfit twice and is dressed to the nines at pretty much all times. Bette even mocks her before they go into the table read for Charlotte.
    Bette: You can go straight from day to night in that getup.
  • 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.
  • Kiss Diss: Two of them between Joan and Bob Aldridge. The first time is after Joan is angry when she sees Bette getting $600 more than Joan in her weekly expenses, so she tries to seduce Bob, but he outright rejects her. She gets even angrier and then demands $1,500 a week in expenses out of revenge for him rejecting her. The second time is after she engineers an argument between her and her husband to lure Bob to her place so she can try to seduce him again and win favor over Bette, whom Bob later sleeps with at the end of the third episode. It doesn't work then, either. Bob still isn't faithful to his wife, but he still is above sleeping with Joan just so she can feel she has more pull over him than Bette. It seems implied that he finds her attractive, but her personality—that of someone with a massive inferiority complex trying to cover it up with a superiority complex—makes her unattractive to him. He also knows she's actively trying to manipulate him and beats a hasty retreat when Joan's husband comes home in the middle of their argument.
  • 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.
  • Never My Fault: Joan has a huge problem with blaming everyone else for her problems instead of holding herself accountable. She engages in self-sabotage a lot due to her inferiority complex, but isn't self-aware enough to realize that's what she's doing. It's exemplified when she's mouthing off to her current husband about Bette, saying, "Do you realize that Bette Davis is responsible for one of my failed marriages? Personally responsible!" She accuses Bette of this because Bette once hit on her boyfriend when they worked on a role together and the boyfriend said no, then told Joan, so she married him out of spite and the marriage later fell apart, but she still blames Bette for it.
  • 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.
  • Pretty in Mink: Joan sports a couple of fur coats and stoles over the course of the series. It contrasts Bette's much more toned down looks.
  • 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.
  • Proud Beauty: Joan Crawford, in spades. Even at her age, she is still incredibly preoccupied with her beauty routines and her extravagant outfits, which include several kinds of fur coats and wraps. It's in contrast to Bette, who always dresses more functionally, except for events, and Joan's arrogance about her fading beauty also works Bette's nerves over the course of the series.
  • 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 Victory: 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 talent and her craft, 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.
  • Questionable Casting: In-universe. One studio executive suggests casting Audrey Hepburn and Doris Day as the stars of Baby Jane.
  • 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.
    • Bette and Joan have a knockdown drag-out argument after Bette and the crew of Charlotte play a prank on Joan and Mamacita by abandoning them at the set after they've all gone home for the day. Both of them finally just snarl their grievances at each other until finally they both reach the same conclusion: that as much as they fight, they both know that being a beloved actress "was never enough" even with all their accomplishments.
  • The Rival: More or less the premise for this show. Bette and Joan are at odds since Joan is jealous of Bette's talent and Bette's jealous of Joan's former beauty days and her brand ambassador deal with Pepsi (to a lesser extent).
  • 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?.
  • Sex with the Ex: Bette sleeps with her separated husband, Gary Merrill, in the pilot after he comes to serve her divorce papers. She reconsiders the relationship briefly, but ultimately decides her work comes first, so she does eventually grant him the divorce and they go their separate ways. She does later mention that he also adopted her daughter B.D. legally, so it's nice to know it wasn't as bitter a divorce as it could've been.
  • 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).
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Bette will dress up for press related things or events, but when left to her own devices, she is definitely a tomboy. She mostly wears pants and doesn't really wear glamorous outfits. It contrasts with Joan, who always is dressed to the nines since she considers herself a true lady.
  • Toxic Friend Influence: And how. Hedda Hopper spends the entire series until the last few episodes partnering up with Joan and enabling all of her diva behavior, even going far enough as to be the one to suggest she ask Anne Bancroft and Geraldine Page if she can accept the Oscar in their place so Joan can show up Bette after being snubbed by the Academy. Hedda is always at Joan's side to help her manipulate the public into taking her side and is hugely toxic the entire time. The only thing that stops this relationship is when Hedda hears a rumor that Joan did a stag film and tries to get Joan to 'fess up so she can write a story about it before she dies. Joan declines and Hedda later dies from her medical condition, presumably without gaining any proof for that story.
  • Underage Casting: In-universe. The studio execs suggest casting younger actresses as the stars of Baby Jane.
  • 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.
  • 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.