“...I believe in the right to free speech, but it certainly must not be abused by using it to protect published falsehoods or to improperly benefit from the use of someone’s name and reputation without their consent. Fox crossed both of these lines with ‘Feud,’ and if it is allowed to do this without any consequences, then the use of lies about well-known public figures masquerading as the truth will become more and more common. This is not moral and it should not be permitted."
When I watched Feud last year, I remember wondering how much of it was fact and how much was fiction. I was surprised it wasn't based on a book, though in hindsight, I'm not sure why I made a point of that. Maybe because it was television? Not sure. Regardless, Feud had the air of authenticity to it.
The real ODH has portrayed famous people in her career: Charlotte Bronte in Devotion; Elizabeth Bacon Custer in They Died With Their Boots On; Queen Elizabeth II in a TV movie about Prince Charles and Lady Diana (ironically, the subjects of Murphy's next Feud installment).
|Catherine Zeta-Jones as ODH in Feud|
Her own feud with her sister Joan Fontaine was common knowledge for a long time, therefore, when her Feud character calls Fontaine a bitch, that didn't strike me as odd. Then again, my knowledge of the private lives of celebrities past and present is limited, by choice.
Still, I don't wanna come down on her. I have total respect and admiration for ODH. The fact that her reputation and her self-respect mean so much to her that she's willing to go to court over her portrayal in Feud says much about the person she is and the era she forged her career in. I sympathize with her situation, and I sincerely hope she doesn't leave this world with the matter unresolved.
|ODH (right), with Bette Davis|
There's a distinction between that and what we call a "docudrama": one purports to present the facts as is (emphasis on the word purports), the other dramatizes them, presents the facts in a narrative that resembles fiction, and both are legitimate forms of storytelling, practiced in media other than film and TV. Yes, there are exceptions in both cases, and yes, it's annoying when they get the facts wrong, but in general, I believe audiences are able to tell the difference between 20 Feet From Stardom and Dreamgirls, to pick two examples.
Was there intent to damage ODH's reputation on Murphy's part? That's for a court to decide, but what motive would he have? Was he secretly a Fontaine fan out for revenge? I can't imagine.
This is a case to watch, for its long-term implications lay beyond the realm of film.