Susan Sarandon goes head to head with Feud co-star Jessica Lange in FX’s final Emmy category placements. But is this the best option for all involved?
FX finally released the 2017 Emmy categories for their major series. Everything aligned as expected – no one in American Horror Story: Roanoke is going lead. Despite an increased presence for Emmy-winer Louie Anderson in Season 2, Baskets will push only Zack Galifianakis in the Lead Actor in a Comedy Series category. But it’s the Feud: Bette and Joan category placements raising eyebrows. Will FX miss out on some key Feud nominations come July?
The final Feud acting category placements look like this:
Actress – Jessica Lange, Susan Sarandon
Supporting Actor – Dominic Burgess, Alfred Molina, Stanley Tucci
Supporting Actress – Judy Davis, Jackie Hoffman, Kiernan Shipka, Alison Wright, Catherine Zeta-Jones
The heated debate over which actress gives the better Feud performance could spawn a future season of Ryan Murphy’s anthology series. Initially, screen time felt fairly balanced between Jessica Lange’s Joan Crawford and Susan Sarandon’s Bette Davis. Where one actress dominated, the other would receive the spotlight in the next episode. Many viewers faulted Sarandon for failing to approximate Davis’s distinct voice. But they ignored how cannily she captured Davis’s look and carriage. Similarly, many felt that Jessica Lange delivered the Jessica Lange-iest performance of her career, completely foregoing any attempt at capturing Crawford. In my opinion, each actress did exactly what they needed to do. If they’d tried to literally impersonate those infamous actresses, then the pitchforks would have been raised.
The issue with Feud comes in the overall imbalance of the material. Once we hit Episode 5 (the 1963 Oscars episode), Lange just dominates everything. As we near the end, Bette Davis becomes more and more of a tertiary character. The events of Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte are realized nearly entirely from the Lange perspective. Bette Davis exists only to comment on Crawford’s state.
Given that, the smart move would have been to campaign Susan Sarandon in the Supporting Actress race. She won’t win in either category. The hot competition from Big Little Lies will see to that, but she stands a better chance competing again Lies‘s Laura Dern or Feud‘s own Judy Davis than against the massive Lead Actress category. Jessica Lange. Nicole Kidman. Reese Witherspoon. Oprah Winfrey. Felicity Huffman. Sanaa Lathan. Any one of those performances would warrant a win. It’s not that Sarandon doesn’t deliver the goods – I’m actually a big fan of her take on Davis – but she doesn’t have the material to compete.
As it stands, FX put her into Lead Actress where, best case for Feud, she doesn’t even get nominated and, worst case, she’s nominated and draws votes away from Jessica Lange’s career-best performance. That’s how a Nicole Kidman or an Oprah Winfrey sneaks in for the win despite everyone predicting a Jessica Lange domination. Of course, an actress of Sarandon’s stature was never going to be campaigned in Supporting Actress, sure. Plus, there’s a bit of poetic justice in having both in Lead Actress given their placement in the title and in relation to the history with What Ever Happened to Baby Jane. It’s as if FX is correcting that bit of controversial Oscar gossip.
FX also missed an opportunity to perhaps take home other trophies for their actors. Alfred Molina, playing Robert Aldrich, gives one of the best performances of his career in a role that is arguably a lead role. Stanley Tucci chews scenery as Jack Warner in the more traditional supporting role. FX campaigns them in the Supporting Actor category where they will likely cancel each other out. However, had FX campaigned Molina in the less competitive Lead Actor race, then perhaps Dominic Burgess’s catty turn as Victor Buono would have merited a nomination. Don’t tell me that Molina wouldn’t have gotten into Lead Actor either. The Television Academy loves Ryan Murphy productions. Just as American Horror Story: Freak Show, which received at least 3 nominations it didn’t deserve in the acting races.
What do you think? Should Sarandon have gone into Supporting Actress? Will she even get the nomination? Sound off in the comments!