Outward

With Ryan Murphy’s Feud, the Gay Agenda Might Be Complete

A scene from What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
Joan Crawford and Bette Davis in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? One of the campest feuds of all time. 

Warner Bros.

In his recent politico-philosophical analysis of the rise of Donald Trump, Andrew Sullivan reiterated in passing his view that, after the victory of marriage equality, the gay community has not displayed the “magnanimity” that our culturally vanquished foes deserve. Normally I’d find that questionable; but then, Ryan Murphy and FX announced on Thursday a new entry to the gay impresario’s growing body of “anthology” shows—and, you guys, it’s such a deliciously violent imposition of gay sensibility onto mainstream television that I wonder if Sullivan might be right. With Murphy’s forthcoming Feud, the Gay Agenda might be going a step too far—and I won’t do a single thing to stop it.

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As the title suggests, each season of Feud will, in the style of American Crime Story, explore an infamous rivalry. And—I can hardly type the words from palpitations of giddiness—the first entry concerns just about the gayest battle I can think of: Joan Crawford vs. Bette Davis, on the set of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? in 1962. And then, the casting: Jessica Lange as Crawford and Susan Sarandon as Davis. Dear God. Add to that Stanley Tucci as studio boss Jack Warner, Alfred Molina as director Robert Aldrich, and Judy Davis as the gossip columnist Hedda Hopper. Bless my soul. If you noticed your gay friends going silent while staring, glassy-eyed, at their phones on Thursday afternoon, now you understand why.

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It’s difficult to understate the genius of this choice, especially under Murphy’s hand. Not only is WHTBJ? itself one of the key texts of the camp canon; the animosity the two struggling stars seethed at each other during filming is the stuff of bitter diva legend. Brian Moylan has an excellent sampling of what’s in store over at the Guardian:

On the set of Baby Jane, Davis had a Coke machine installed in her dressing room because at the time Crawford was married to the CEO of Pepsi. For a scene where Davis had to drag Crawford across the floor, Crawford stuffed rocks in her pockets. Their hatred carried on until the end of their days. When Davis heard that Crawford died, she reportedly said: “You should never say bad things about the dead, only good. Joan Crawford is dead. Good.”

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The brilliance of Feud’s format has already led to inspired speculation about which death matches future installments might address: Mariah vs. J-Lo? Nicki vs. Miley? Harding vs. Kerrigan? Bob the Drag Queen vs. Derrick Barry? Justice Black vs. Justice Frankfurter? (That last one comes, naturally, from the legal mind of Mark Joseph Stern.) The possibilities make one needful of a fainting couch. Even if the show only makes it a season, covering Crawford v. Davis will definitely have been worth it. But assuming it’s as good as the set-up promises, I suspect we’ll all be writing letters to daddy Murphy asking for more.

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