Caregivers in Context: Fued – Capote vs. the Swans

Fued Capote vs. the Swans

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.

Naomi Watts plays Babe Paley, a wealthy New York socialite. Treat Williams portrays Bill Paley, her husband, who was 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 with regular chemo treatments, he consults her doctor on new treatment options. He becomes involved in decision-making fights over pursuing emerging treatment options.”Feud” captures these intense moments vividly, making viewers reflect on similar real-life situations. The themes in “Feud” resonate deeply with the struggles many family caregivers face today.

Caregiver’s Dilemma: Navigating Relationships and Self-Care

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 many family caregivers struggle with. A family member with a contentious relationship may need care. This happens when facing a chronic or terminal diagnosis.

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. Many of them are eventually pushed 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. “Feud” illustrates these complex dynamics, shedding light on the emotional toll caregiving can take.

Caregiving Themes in “Feud: Capote vs. the Swans

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?

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

By: Chance Browning, Director of Partnerships