Caregiving in Context: Feud: Capote vs. the Swans

Caregivers in Context: Feud--Capote vs. the Swans

By: Chance Browning, Director of Partnerships

The recently concluded season of FX/Hulu's "Feud: Capote vs. the Swans,"  in addition to being chock full of zingers, quips, and high fashion from the '60s, '70s, and '80s, the Ryan Murphy-produced series effectively threaded through several different themes of family caregiving that carry authentic and genuine parallels to family caregivers today.

First and most central, the series chronicles Babe Paley (played by Naomi Watts), a wealthy New York socialite married to Bill Paley (played by Treat Williams), the then President of CBS. At the beginning of the series, Bill and Babe's marriage is highly fraught and contentious. He has a series of infidelities—including with, reportedly, one of Babe's best friends.

When Babe is diagnosed with what turns out to be terminal lung cancer, her wealthy and powerful husband changes course. He leans into the role of family caregiver, accompanying her to regular chemo treatments, consulting her doctor on new and emerging treatment options, and ultimately becoming embattled in shared decision-making fights over whether or not to pursue emerging treatment options.

When Bill steps up to help support Babe, it is unclear whether he's doing so out of obligation or because of genuine love and adoration for her. This is a theme that many family caregivers struggle with when a family member with whom they may have a contentious relationship is confronting a chronic or terminal diagnosis and needs care.

The series also heavily delves into Truman Capote's (played by Tom Hollander) battle with addiction and mental health struggles. You see a range of chosen family members who try to support him over the years through his struggles, but many of whom he eventually pushes away when he relapses. Truman's long-term partner and friend, Jack Dunphy (played by Joe Mantello), struggles with finding a balance between helping and supporting Capote and enabling him. You see how Jack has to eventually put on his own oxygen mask and focus on taking care of himself first—a move that doesn't sit well with Capote.

In both instances, you see the toll taken on these family caregivers and their struggle to find a balance in their lives, just as each of the more than 90 million family caregivers across the country struggle with balancing every day.  

If any of these themes or scenarios resonate with you, Caregiver Action Network is here to help. Check out the following resources or contact the Caregiver Help Desk, where you can speak with a caregiving expert for free who can listen and point you towards local resources that can help you.

How to Hold a Family Meeting

◦ Learn more about Patient-Centered Goals and Shared Decision Making

◦ When your loved one isn't very lovable

◦ Are you caring for a loved one with cancer? HelpForCancerCaregivers.org

◦ Are you caring for a loved one with mental health issues? See our Blueprint for Families of Loved Ones with Mental Health Issues