Spoilers for Mrs. America ahead.
The Equal Rights Amendment was, without a doubt, one of the most critical times in the history of the United States. Every woman should be equal and respected in the same way that men are. Each of us should know the course of such a crucial moment, that’s why Dahvi Waller refreshes the memory of viewers with Mrs. America.
An FX Original Series that’s exclusively available on Hulu possesses an incredibly empowering, astonishing cast: Cate Blanchett, Rose Byrne, Sarah Paulson, Uzo Aduba, Tracey Ullman, Elizabeth Banks, Melanie Lynskey, Margo Martindale and more. After releasing three episodes on April 15th, it will now premiere one episode every Wednesday. Each one has a specific title that displays the story of one particular female character.
The first three, Phyllis, Gloria, and Shirley, were amazingly directed portrayals of three fierce women in U.S. history.
“How long are we supposed to wait? “
Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (directing duo of Captain Marvel) directed the first two episodes. When Gloria Steinem (Rose Byrne) leads women to fight for their rights to equality and legal abortion, the last thing she expects is a female opponent. Phyllis Schlafly (Cate Blanchett) is a die-hard conservative who believes that a woman’s place is by her husband and kids, baking pies and making sure that the family is taken care of.
In the first episode, the viewers have a chance to learn more about Schlafly’s background. She ran for Congress for the Republican party but lost to Charles Melvin Price. From the start of the series, the viewers can see that Mrs. America’s aim is not to villainize Schlafly, but rather present her life. She is portrayed as an unbelievable force that contributed to the shift of U.S. politics. Blanchett‘s portrayal is utterly brilliant; she delivers a first-class performance.
Schlafly knows how to manipulate men around her, and when she discovers the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment), she strongly opposes its beliefs. She gathers the group of like-minded women who call themself Phyllis Schlafly Eagles, and battles against the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
But, Gloria Steinem and second-wave feminists Betty Friedan (Tracey Ullman), Shirley Chisholm (Uzo Aduba), Bella Abzug (Margo Martindale), and Jill Ruckelshaus (Elizabeth Banks) don’t give up easily. In the second episode titled Gloria, we see how strongly Steinem felt about the issue of abortion. Although we all know that the Supreme Court decriminalized abortion nationwide in 1973, it’s amazing to see Steinem’s fight for all of us.
Rose Byrne‘s selection as the legendary feminist was an absolute bull’s-eye. Large, shaded aviators, long brown hair, and the vision of a better world, where women are able to decide what to do with their bodies, are all the qualities that characterize Steinem. Byrne excellently embodies them all. Just like in real life, Byrne‘s Gloria stands firm when it comes to abortion and women’s rights. She will do anything to help any who risk dying on the table during one of the most brutal procedures. When Bella wants to put the abortion issue in the second place, Gloria responds in a passionate monologue:
How long are we supposed to wait? How many more women are going to die from botched abortions while we wait for men to feel comfortable with us having control over our own bodies? How many women are going to be forced to give birth to babies they can’t afford to feed while we wait for housewives who have no idea what it’s like to have to work to survive to feel comfortable with women having power? How long do we give people to adapt to change? Am I the only one who’s so fucking tired of waiting?
It’s necessary to notice that the quote holds a great power that fits even in current times. Fifty years after political ground shifted significantly, the United States still struggles when it comes to abortion laws. It’s good to reflect on that while watching Mrs. America.
In the third episode of the series’ premiere, directed by Amma Asante (Belle, A United Kingdom), we learn more about Shirley Chisholm. This empowering woman portrayed so wonderfully by Uzo Aduba was the first black woman elected to the United States Congress. When we join the story of Chisholm, she is running for the president of the United States. She’s popular amongst young people, and her views align with Steinem’s. However, she’s asked to give up her delegates for George McGovern (John Bourgeoisand) and other “more electable” candidates. Imagine all women and how tired they are of that? It also sounds very, very familiar. The most frustrating thing about it is that Chisholm ran in the ’70s, and today, in 2020, women are still considered less eligible candidates for the presidency. Aduba as Chisholm is unquestionably phenomenal as she flawlessly displays her frustration and strength.
The third episode is also an episode where we see division in the group of women fighting for their rights. The group doesn’t believe that Chisholm can win. It makes things worse that she not only battles the outside but also has to fight for herself inside the group of feminists. When Bella tells her that they cannot be divided, she says, “We are divided.” The episode hurts more than the others. It’s emotional to see women divided when power is in play.
“You got into this race to get us out of the war. This is our Vietnam.”
While these three episodes solely focus on Phyllis Schlafly, Gloria Steinem, and Shirley Chisholm, we also get to know other characters like Alice (Sarah Paulson), Schlafly’s friend. Her role is entirely fictionalized, but it’s so crucial that Waller added her to the cast. Paulson is, as always, astonishing, especially in her chemistry with Blanchett. They previously worked together on Ocean’s Eight and Carol. It will be an exhilarating journey to see Alice’s evolution.
As each episode focuses on a different character, we will see their development, beliefs, and more. It’s so refreshing to see such an empowering cast of women who are compelling, multi-dimensional, and utterly delightful. It doesn’t matter if it’s a conservative woman like Phyllis Schlafly, free feminist like Gloria Steinem or conservative feminist, Jill Ruckelshaus. The series shows that we don’t have to be one to be a woman. Waller also made sure that Mrs. America doesn’t pick a side, at least not in the first three episodes.
As much as it’s frustrating to see America’s most challenging period of political turmoil, we cannot stop but reflect on the visible division of women. It’s sad to see them fight amongst themselves, but that also poses the question of whether this is normalized.
Mrs. America surely makes us think about the past, present, and future of women and women’s rights. Dahvi Waller did an excellent job with writing and casting of the series. The miniseries will undoubtedly be considered for awards during awards season.
What did you think about the premiere of Mrs. America? How do you rate the cast?
Mrs. America streams every Wednesday on FX on Hulu. You can stream the first three episodes on Hulu.
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