Feud: Bette and Joan is more comfortable than most shows with depicting older women as sexually active.
On Feud: Bette and Joan, Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon have gotten to express their sexuality in ways that women their age often aren't able to. Playing Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, respectively, the two acting legends act as bitter rivals who aren't afraid to use their feminine wiles to get what they want.
For executive producer Ryan Murphy, showing Lange's Crawford and Sarandon's Davis as sexual beings was important, especially considering this was integral to their lives.
"They were sexual in that they did have romances, they did sleep with men in their 50s," Murphy told The Hollywood Reporter in a new interview. "They weren't just actresses and mothers, they had a completely other thing going on, as everybody does. But you don't often get to see that in movies or TV shows in regards to women over 40, particularly women over 50. So we spent a lot of time talking about that, the romantic and sexual lives of Bette and Joan and making sure that we documented it."
It was necessary for Murphy, Lange and Sarandon to show that women over the age of 40 could still have desires and be depicted as sexually active, even if Hollywood rarely wants to show this message.
"Joan Crawford and Bette Davis were in their 50s when they made 'Baby Jane' and in our culture, after the age of 40 women are no longer sexualized - they no longer have desires, they no longer have needs," Murphy said. "It was important to me and to Jessica and Susan to show that side of Bette and Joan."
The first two episodes of Feud: Bette and Joan have featured both Crawford and Davis being sexually intimate, particularly Davis getting cozy with her What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? director Robert Aldrich.
Feud has focused significantly on the role of older women in Hollywood, casting Crawford and Davis as victims of a toxic culture desperate to pit them against each other. Based on the promos for what's to come, this negative energy will only exacerbate, though the series has painted both actresses as indomitable yet sympathetic figures.
Feud: Bette and Joan airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on FX.