‘Mrs. America’ Tells the Story of the Women’s Movement from the Dark Side of the ForceBreaking News
tags: feminism, popular culture, womens history, ERA, Equal Rights Amendment, television, Phyllis Schlafly, antifeminism
“Mrs. America,” FX’s invigorating, infuriating and only faintly inspiring dramatic miniseries about the near-passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, tries to accomplish a lot of things at once. For any viewer under the age of about 40, it’s meant to be a compelling recap of the women's liberation movement of the 1970s, as seen mostly through the rise of a conservative backlash that very nearly stamped out feminism in mainstream politics. That's a lot of territory to cover in nine episodes....
That also means “Mrs. America” (premiering Wednesday exclusively on Hulu) will probably soon join the ranks of “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” and “Chernobyl” in the sometimes grueling process of being fact-checked as it airs. Brace yourselves for the scholarly op-eds and expert essays that will tendentiously remind us that what we’re seeing in “Mrs. America” is a distorted version of truth — never mind that the series is quite upfront about that, in boilerplate text preceding each episode. For narrative purposes, some characters are real, a few fictional, and whole swaths of dialogue have been imagined....
There’s no mistaking that “Mrs. America” is Schlafly’s show, giving her everything she lacked as a media caricature: shape, complexity and even some empathy for her personal struggles and her own experiences (whether she acknowledges them or not) of being discriminated against as a woman. Blanchett turns someone many people would like to forget into someone who is wickedly unforgettable.
Yuck, is one understandable reaction, but you also have to admit: It’s much more interesting to figure out what made Phyllis tick than watch nine episodes of veneration for the women’s rights movement. “Mrs. America” brings plenty of that, especially in the second half of the series, but who can resist such a consistent malevolence? It’s as if all nine Star Wars movies really had been about Darth Vader, instead of just being ostensibly so.
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