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Olivia de Havilland's Feud Lawsuit Took an Amusingly Clintonesque Turn

How offensive is the phrase "dragon lady" to you?

Liam Mathews

Last June, 101-year-old Hollywood icon Olivia de Havilland sued Ryan Murphy, FX and the Fox 21 television studio over her depiction in Murphy's limited series Feud: Bette and Joan. She was not consulted by producers, and since the show was supposed to seem like a realistic retelling of true events, her lawyers argue that Catherine Zeta-Jones' gossipy depiction of her was inaccurate and defamatory.

The suit is rolling along, and it took an interesting turn on Tuesday during appellate arguments when attorneys argued about whether the terms "dragon lady" and "bitch" are interchangeable, according to The Hollywood Reporter. In real life, de Havilland recently called her late sister Joan Fontaine the former in an interview, but on the show, Zeta-Jones called her the latter. The linguistic analysis is not unlike Bill Clinton parsing the definition of "is."

The defense argues that Feud's depiction of de Havilland was free speech and that docudramas are allowed to take creative license. They also argue that the show's depiction of de Havilland was without malice and in fact mostly positive. The dragon lady/bitch switch was to simply make the language more relevant to contemporary audiences, they claim.

In September, a judge ruled in favor of Feud being protected speech, and de Havilland is currently appealing that ruling.

Kathy Bates and Catherine Zeta-Jones, Feud: Bette and Joan

Kathy Bates and Catherine Zeta-Jones, Feud: Bette and Joan

Ali Goldstein/FX