Product Managers, What Ever Happened To Baby Jane…?

Product Managers, What Ever Happened To Baby Jane…?

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane…? is a 1991 thriller, starring real-life sisters Lynn Redgrave and Vanessa Redgrave as siblings entangled in a progressively-deranged codependent relationship. This melodrama carries an important lesson for Product Managers about setting expectations for themselves and others.

Key plot points of this grim, 32-year-old made-for-TV thriller are discussed below. You have been warned!

“Baby” Jane Hudson is a famous child star, dominating her sister Blanche, who serves as Jane’s understudy. Their happiest times as sisters are at the beach, without cameras, crews, or directors.

The movie skips ahead to the present, and time has not been kind to the aging sisters: Jane still dresses in kiddie clothes and makeup, and schizophrenically cares for and pranks her now-paraplegic sister.

What happened to Blanche? Word on the street is that Jane ran over Blanche in a fit of jealous rage once Blanche’s acting career took off and Jane’s career bottomed out.

Blanche and her physical therapist Dominick fear that Jane’s deranged pranks will become violent if Blanche discovers that Jane is trying to sell their house and move on with her life.

Unfortunately they don’t actually do anything about that concern… which eventually proves fatal.

Jane meets con artist / video store manager Billy Korn. He remembers Jane’s hit song, There Should Be Love, and offers to help her stage a comeback as a singer… in exchange for $1,000 cash which he’ll secretly and conveniently use to pay off an unsavory debt.

Back at home, Blanche calls her sister’s psychiatrist for help. But really she should have called 911 because Jane overhears the conversation, physically attacks her sister, and locks her upstairs without food, water, or means of communication.

While on the hunt for food and water, Blanche discovers that Jane has been forging her signature on checks to steal her money.

An outraged Jane ties Blanche to her bed and duct tapes her mouth shut.

During a house call, Dominik discovers Blanche, tries to free her, and is stabbed to death by Jane.

Jane slips further into madness when she learns in realtime that her big comeback special is actually a drag revue co-starring Korn dressed as Blanche. Their performance of There Should Be Love does not go well.

Jane rushes home. Korn follows her. He discovers Blanche half-dead, tied to her bed. Jane stabs him with a broken trophy.

Jane hauls the half-unconscious Blanche to the beach, to reminisce about happier days. Blanche confesses that she had been driving the car the night of the accident and had allowed a drunken Jane to take the blame. Jane skips off to get popsicles. The police rescue Blanche and arrest Jane.

“There Should Be Love”

So many of the issues in this movie stem from unvoiced, unrealized, or unwieldy expectations.

The lyrics to Jane’s song perfectly captures that unhealthy internal dialogue that gets expressed so horrifically as the drama plays out:

There should be love.
Love should be fair! (Ooh!)
Not being scared, 
Love! (Ooh! Ooh! Ooh!)
There should be you.
You should be there… (Ooh!)
With me to carry you through your fears.
Where have you gone?
What have I done to make you run away from me?
One night with you can make me see…
What I want, the one I need!
There will be love!
There will be love!
There will be love!

The expectation of “There should be…” is an easy refrain for anyone to fall into, including Product Managers. We have expectations of other people and groups, and they have expectations for us.

Many people think of product management as a one-way path to requirements execution and treat Product Managers as order takers.

Or maybe your situation is less about the product management function and more about dealing with annoying co-workers or shouldering the stress of unrealistic expectations. After all, 44% of employees claim to experience a lot of daily stress – and PMs are not immune from that.

So how do we handle those “There should be…” expectations? How do we give voice to them in a healthy way?

S.M.A.R.T. Expectations

When PMs create product requirements, we consider the specifics of who the user is, what they’re trying to do, when, and why, the intended business outcomes, and expectations for performance of that feature.

I tend to apply the S.M.A.R.T. method of Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant & Time-Bound to how I create and prioritize requirements.

And I’ve found that I can apply that same methodology to articulate and then set expectations for myself and others.


Suppose you’re interested in setting boundaries at work. Let’s apply the S.M.A.R.T. formula to articulate an understandable, clear expectation.

Specific – Take the broad statement about “setting boundaries at work” and focus on a specific aspect you can quantify. For example, if you’re bouncing from meeting to meeting all day long without rest, one boundary you could set is for yourself: Take a break during the day.

Measurable – How do you identify if you’ve achieved that specific goal? Quantify it. In the example above: Take at least one 15 minute break during each work day.

Achievable – Setting a goal that is realistic is critical to not getting demotivated. Maybe your workplace is so unpredictable that a solid fifteen minute break is not possible. In that case, revise: Take at least one 15 minute break during the work day at least 3 days per week.

Relevant – This is the “why” of the goal and only you can determine that. In our example, studies show that regular breaks lead to greater productivity and less stress. So if you’re feeling stressed at work and you’re not taking breaks at work, chances are this goal would be relevant to you.

Time-Bound – Set a deadline for the goals so you can stay focused and motivated. If you’re in the final hours of a major initiative, maybe now is not the right time to switch tracks. So select a realistic time to start and then hold yourself to it.

If you fail at your goal, remember to show yourself grace. The compassion you have for your customers and users can be applied to yourself as well.

Don’t beat yourself up because “there should be…” whatever. Your goal is there to guide you to success, not to lock you upstairs without food and water and then forge checks in your name.

Unless, of course, that is your goal. In which case — watch out for those broken trophies.

Bonus Content

Watch the film for free on Tubi — or enjoy comediennes Bridget Nelson and Mary Joseph Pehl riff What Ever Happened To Baby Jane…? by adding humorous audio commentary over the (melo)drama.

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