The Reel Review
Cate Blanchett stars in this FX/Hulu series based on the 1970s women’s rights movement, told from the perspective of the feminists who supported the Equal Rights Amendment and the conservatives who fought against it. Blanchett plays Phyllis Schlafly, the Illinois Republican housewife who spearheaded the anti-feminist movement – a movement that helped ignite the ugly, divisive politics and culture war that persists in modern day America.
The nine episode series from creator Dahvi Waller (one of the writers of Mad Men and Desperate Housewives) has a fun, kitschy 70s vibe and an all-star lineup that includes Rose Byrne as Gloria Steinem, Margo Martindale as Bella Abzug, Uzo Aduba as Shirley Chisholm and Tracey Ullman as Betty Friedan. The women playing the feminists do a great job, as does Blanchett, who masterfully captures Schlafly’s skillful media manipulation and brazen lies – all set to a backdrop of fascinating archival footage and period music.
But don’t let the wigs, tinted sunglasses and groovy bellbottom jeans fool you – while fun, this flashy (and yes, sometimes fictionalized) recap of the women’s movement tackles some heady issues – racism, abortion rights, and gay rights – and for the most part, does them justice.
• Phyllis Schlafly’s manifesto for Barry Goldwater helped him secure the Republican presidential nomination in 1964. Her last book, “The Republican Case for Trump,” was published shortly after her death at the age of 92 in 2016, selling six million copies.
• In 1972, Shirley Chisholm, America’s first black woman to serve in Congress, became the first black candidate from a major political party, and the first woman in the Democratic Party, to run for president.
• Mrs. America, about the women’s feminist movement in America, was filmed in Toronto, Canada.