Gender and the Law Prof Blog

Editor: Tracy A. Thomas
University of Akron School of Law

Friday, April 17, 2020

New Series "Mrs. America" Showcases Feminist Leaders and the 1970 Fight for the ERA, While Featuring Staunch Opponent, Phyllis Schlafly

NYT, "Mrs. America Review: The Voice of an ERA"

FX on Hulu’s breathtaking “Mrs. America,” from the “Mad Men” writer Dahvi Waller, picks up in 1971. . . . The story of the fight for and against the Equal Rights Amendment, it’s not a sequel, either literally or in format: It’s a nine-part series following real historical figures.***

 

Like “Mad Men,” “Mrs. America” finds a fresh angle on a much-observed age of revolution by focusing, first, on a counterrevolutionary: Phyllis Schlafly (Cate Blanchett), the cold warrior who, in Waller’s telling, seized on the culture war over women’s rights to raise her political profile and advance a broader conservative agenda.***

 

The insight of “Mrs. America,” in the punchy words of Representative Bella Abzug (Margo Martindale), is that Schlafly “is a goddamn feminist. She may be the most liberated woman in America.” She just chooses not to see herself that way.***

 

Parallel to Schlafly’s story is an ensemble series about the 1970s feminist movement. Its principals aren’t introduced until the end of the first episode: among them, Abzug, Gloria Steinem (Rose Byrne), Representative Shirley Chisholm (Uzo Aduba), Betty Friedan (Tracey Ullman) and some less-celebrated E.R.A. warriors, including the G.O.P. activist Jill Ruckelshaus (Elizabeth Banks).***

 

The decade-long fight that unfolds is epic and swaggering, bubbling with cultural ferment and bouncing along on a soul-laced soundtrack. There is an “Avengers Assemble” feeling here, both in the gathering of historical figures — a young Ruth Bader Ginsburg even appears, briefly — and the bumper crop of acting talent. Waller is producing feminism’s most ambitious crossover event, and she relishes it.***

 

While Schlafly is the driving force of the series — it is not, after all, called “Ms. America” — the show spotlights one character at a time. The third episode, about Chisholm’s 1972 run for the presidency, rings familiar not just in the story of an outsider fighting what she calls a “rigged” party machine, but in the intra-movement clashes over whether race and gender are equal priorities. (Chisholm, whom Aduba gives a fierce magnetism, gets this from black politicians, too, who see her more as a “women’s” candidate. “I don’t look black to you?” she asks.)

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/gender_law/2020/04/new-series-mrs-america-showcases-feminist-leaders-and-the-1970-fight-for-the-era-while-featuring-sta.html

Constitutional, Legal History, Pop Culture, Women lawyers | Permalink

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