A word you don’t hear a lot of on television made its presence felt during Sunday’s premiere of the FX series “Feud: Bette and Joan.” The Hollywood Reporter’s Live Feed reports that the series used the “c-word,” or “c–t.”
In the unlikely event that you don’t know the word we’re referring to, click on the link in the previous sentence to THR, where the word is spelled out.
The limited series, the first cycle of Ryan Murphy’s “Feud” anthology series, delves into the notorious rivalry between Joan Crawford, played by Jessica Lange, and Bette Davis, played by Susan Sarandon.
In a scene that aired Sunday in which distribution is being arranged for Warner Bros.’ 1962 classic “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?,” studio chief Jack Warner, played by Stanley Tucci, calls Davis the c-word.
“Feud” showrunner Tim Minear told THR: “We felt that it wasn’t gratuitous. It was gratuitous coming from the mouth of the character but it wasn’t gratuitous in terms of the story that we’re telling. One well-placed epithet like that is like a bracing, toss of cold water in the audience’s face and it says something. Not if you’re dropping it every five seconds. So that’s why it’s there; it’s there because that’s the ugly soul that we’re exposing a little bit.”
While the FCC regulates the words that are allowed on broadcast, basic cable has more leeway. Even so, the c-word is far more common on premium cable services such as HBO and streaming services including Netflix than it is on ad-supported cable.
FX wasn’t commenting, but the report notes that the program’s 10 p.m. time slot — when standards are more relaxed than they are earlier in prime time — would have been a factor in getting the network’s OK for the use of the word. Additionally, the episode carried a TV MA-L rating, indicating strong or coarse language.