REVIEW: Mrs. America
I was listening to the For Scores podcast interview of Kris Bowers who recently scored Mrs. America and was instantly interested in watching it. I went right home and bingewatched all nine episodes of the show which streamed on FX on Hulu. And I'm really glad I did because I simply loved this show.
Mrs. America is about the fight for the Equal Rights Amendment during a time when the women's movement was at its peak in the 70s. It's created by Mad Men writer Dahvi Waller and featured an all star cast including Cate Blanchett, Rose Byrne, Uzo Aduba, Elizabeth Banks, Margo Martindale, John Slattery, Tracey Ullman, and Sarah Paulson. It follows the lives of both sides of the issue. On the pro-ERA side, we see Bella Abzug (Martindale), Gloria Steinem (Byrne), Shirley Chisholm (Aduba), Betty Friedan (Ullman) and Jill Ruckelshaus (Banks).
These women walked a precarious tightrope of politics to keep the momentum goimg. There were times of argument, such as the movement ultimately choosing not to support Chisholm's run for presidency and there was a rivalry between Steinem and Friedan. There were disagreements, such as whether to support the gay rights movement or not. Yet, they managed to stay unified in their work which continues today.
On the other side, the show focused on conservative housewife Phyllis Schlafly (Blanchett). I thought it was interesting how much time they spent on this figure who fought so virulently against the ERA. But, instead of just painting her as a villain, we see a fully formed figure driven by passion and resolute against any setback. She may have fought against the modern women's right movement, but, as Martindale's Abzug says, “she is a goddamn feminist. She may be the most liberated woman in America.” She just doesn't see herself that way.
It was her movement that staved off ratification of the ERA. It's amazing to think that while the ERA was passed in 1972, it still awaits ratification into the US Constitution. Virginia just ratified it becoming the necessary 38th state, but there is still doubt as to whether it will be added to the Constitution yet due to expired deadlines and five states having revoked their ratification. Schlafly's work also ignited the culture wars which still plague our country today.
While Mrs. America is based on true events, there are some parts that are fictionalized for drama sake. For example, Paulson's character Alice Macray did not actually exist. She is an amalgam of several people in Schlafly's circle. But, wow what a story it is and deserves to be watched.
The show commands outstanding performances by the cast. You almost feel like you are in the middle of the action working among these remarkable women. The era is captured beautifully in terms of art direction and music.
While this show is intended for mature audiences, it is mostly for language. While most children may find it boring, history driven teenagers might find it interesting if not inspiring to see how women fought so hard on both sides of the ERA.