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Feud - More, Or Less - Review: "Let's Hear It For the Girls"

Feud may be subtitled Bette and Joan this season but it's about more than these two fighting Hollywood icons. This is no better illustrated than Sunday night's episode, which showcased two other incredible women (and one man!). Here's my review of "More, or Less". 

Episode 4 brought us the beginning of the end. Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? has been released, both stars are back in the gutter, and even director Robert Aldrich (Alfred Molina) wasn't having the greatest of times. What's perhaps most interesting is that the film was a success, though the aftermath obviously doesn't reflect this. You would expect after a Hollywood hit that the two women would be the hottest thing to employ, but they weren't. This is a completely different environment than nowadays. Give Jennifer Lawrence a box-office hit and she gets another one. Give Jessica Lange a successful show and she gets another one. The entertainment industry has changed, and the show rightfully exposes the almost fickle nature of Hollywood back in the era of Baby Jane.

Although Crawford and Davis were back to a Pilot-like state of unemployment and lack of job offers, they were not the only vulnerable characters this week. Perhaps the one who strikes the most sympathy is Pauline Jameson (Alison Wright), Aldrich's assistant. First things first, Jameson is a fictional character. She shares her name with a British actress of the time, but the character herself is fictitious. According to Wright though, there are elements of her storyline and personality which are inspired by Aldrich's real-life assistant, Geraldine Hersey. In the show, Jameson is the highly competent, determined and lovable right-hand woman to Aldrich. We've seen her week-after-week supporting the director and showing a willingness to stand up against the movie's stars, even if the men around her are perhaps a little intimated by Crawford and Davis. 

This week however saw Jameson in a somewhat different capacity: her determination was ramped up; she showed a vulnerability within the industry; and for once, she couldn't stand-up against those around her. Having written a script which she hoped to direct Crawford in, Jameson approached the actress but with heartbreaking results. Crawford rejected the offer, not on the basis of her gender being a problem (so she claimed) but because Jameson was a nobody. It does somewhat make sense, that Crawford, possibly looking at her last chance to shine, would want and need to be surrounded on her next project by others who could bring in viewers. Though as a fan of Jameson, I couldn't help but feel terribly for her, especially after Aldrich dropped her too. The director had originally planned to support his assistant's transition into directing but later seemed to prioritise his own new project instead of the woman who had supported him throughout Baby Jane (he could "never have done it without" her, he previously said!). Jameson, last night, exposed another side to Hollywood misogyny. Not at the highest level as Crawford and Davis have shown but lower down. The assistants, and behind the scenes women who were trodden all over and never given ample opportunity to dream big themselves. Jameson admitted that she was lucky to even have escaped the confines of stereotypical domestic responsibility, but equally, that doesn't mean being stuck as an assistant is fair. 

Jameson's struggle also gave us an insight into another behind the scenes lady, Mamacita (Jackie Hoffman). Crawford's maid showed great intelligence this week with her analysis of the future of Hollywood. She explained to Jameson that with the female population now outweighing that of males, women's time in the spotlight would come soon. Hollywood would have to employ women directors to make women pictures, in order to appeal to the large female population. Whilst she may not be right regarding the immediate aftermath of Baby Jane, I would say her point reflects 21st century, somewhat. Fifty Shades, one of the biggest movies of the decade was directed by (and the book written by) a woman. Rom-Coms primarily targeting the female demographic are plentiful, and the most paid people on American TV are quite often women. Things have tilted more in favour of women, but that doesn't mean the transition is over - there are of course some ways we can do better! That's a conversation for another time though. 

Instead let's end on the beauty of last night's episode. Not only was it another entertaining, visually lavish and dramatic episode, but it widened the focus onto the industry, and society, as a whole. Murphy reminded us of the climate of gender relations and how that impacted on everyone, including assistants who felt appreciative for not being in domestic roles yet longed for more importance. I would say it was a triumph of an episode for still retaining focus on the two stars, whilst giving us an insight into the struggles of misogynistic, fickle and cruel Hollywood through Jameson, Mamacita and Aldrich. 

What did you think of Pauline Jameson in this episode? Let me know in the comments below.