Character Study: “Baby” Jane Hudson

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“Baby” Jane Hudson

bette-davis-baby-jane

Name: “Baby” Jane Hudson
Film or Book: Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
Role: Villain

What I learned about characterization:

  • Jane is an anomaly. She is both intensely villainous and tragic at the same time. While her unbearably cruel treatment of her invalid sister, Blanche, is reprehensible and makes viewers cringe with the lengths she goes to in order to make this poor woman suffer, there is a sense of sympathy with the revelations that she’s unwanted by the previously favourable film industry that would go on to chew her up and spit her out.
  • The narrative and events of the movie play with the reader’s head, convincing us for almost the entire movie that we’re on the right side to the point that we have no doubts that our sympathies have gone to the right place, to Blanche.
  • Part of what makes Jane have such an impact (apart from Bette Davis’s strikingly phenomenal performance) is her ferocity. She is determined not to let anyone help her sister, Blanche, and to be the opposing force at every turn. This is one of the most dangerous kinds of characters–one for whom no amount of torture, no amount of inflicting suffering and pain will ever be enough against the person they feel has wronged them. Jane is the definition of a person who cannot “let it go.”
  • joan crawford baby jane
    Joan Crawford as Blanche Hudson
  • Jane infuriates viewers because her cruelty knows no bounds. And for what? In this female interpretation of Cain vs. Abel with Jane constantly questioning why it has fallen to her to take care of her ailing sister, Blanche (which she barely does), both sisters are guilty of the same sin: wanting to best their sibling and come out on top. Jane wants a killer career revival even though she refuses to accept that not a single key influencer in showbiz is even remotely interested in helping her while all Blanche wants is to live in dignity and to be taken care of, having enjoyed the fruits of a successful career and adulation from her fans.

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? is an important film to watch not only for a study in the subtle nuances of psychological horror, but also for the way it plays with the sympathy of viewers and its narrative shifts, the way it balances moments of unbearable tension with the plot moving forward, and to confirm the essential truth of all villains, which is that they do not ever think what they’re doing is wrong or evil or amoral. They’re doing what they want to do and Lord help whoever they feel is getting in their way.

jane doll 1
this is one of *the* creepiest dolls from movies

Social Media Break Update: I’m still in an “ants in the pants” sort of state at times during the day, and although it seems I have replaced social media logins with computer games, sort of a placebo effect if you will, I’m finding that ignorance is bliss and that it’s sort of refreshing not to feel the pressuring urge to keep up with what’s going on.

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