At the beginning of March, ABC televised the eight-hour LGBTQ+ miniseries When We Rise. At that length, it would have been a commitment even if it was good. But it was not good.
I love gay history. In the '90s, I couldn't get enough of Eric Marcus, Martin Duberman, Randy Shilts, or Allan Berube, so I know all the stories and characters in When We Rise. It charts the progress of gay activism through the lives of Cleve Jones, Roma Guy and Ken Jones, three fairly dull characters played by six fairly dull actors. Every scene is devised to MAKE A POINT. There is much victimhood, shouting, and gnashing of teeth. If I couldn't stand it, then what would your average mid-Western heterosexual TV viewer make of it? When We Rise was made by the same people who made the movie Milk, which was an excellent film, but When We Rise is so full of itself that it's as tedious as an actual activist.
So thank God for Feud, Ryan Murphy's new miniseries about the legendary acrimony between screen goddesses Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. Both women were big stars in the early '30s. They fought over men, roles, awards, and backstabbed each other even as their careers dwindled in the '50s. Then in 1962 they made a gothic horror film called Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? that revived both of their sagging careers.
Feud features Jessica Lange as Crawford and Susan Sarandon as Davis. It was created by Murphy along with Michael Zam and Jaffe Cohen. I've known Cohen since the early '90s when he used to tour with Bob Smith and Danny McWilliams as The Funny Gay Males. Jaffe's like a male Joan Rivers, and just as witty. His memoir, The King of Kings and I, is still one of the funniest books I've ever read. Now he's helping to revive one of the greatest actress battles of all time. Go, Jaffe.
There is more gay energy in the first episode of Feud than in all of When We Rise. There is more joy and anger as well. Feud, a laugh riot, just flies by while Rise plods and sinks. Gay history shouldn't have to be as torturous to watch as Canadian history, and When We Rise does us no favours. Do yourself a favour and watch Feud instead.