“Revolutions Are Messy. People Get Left Behind.”Rose Byrne, Mrs. America
Airs: FX on Hulu | Air Dates: 2020 | Number of Seasons: 1
Mrs.America follows the liberal and conservative sides behind the fight for (and against) the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). The show follows Phyllis Schlafly, a conservative author who is staunchly against the ratification of the ERA and the rest of the Anti-ERA ladies who lobbied against the amendment. While Schlafly’s name might not be as well-known as some of the Pro-ERA ladies in the show (such as Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, and Bella Abzug) her story is one that deserves to be told as it has shaped American politics by influencing presidential campaigns and striking up conversations that led to incorporating rights for the LGBTQA+ community and BIPOC community.
This is a hard show to make and subsequently a hard show to write about. The reason that it is a hard show to make is because the show has to equally balance the views of the pro-ERA and anti-ERA groups without villainizing either. This is traditionally (in my experience) really hard to do in historical television shows. This is because many TV shows want to portray history as being clear-cut; there has to be a good side and an evil (or wrong/morally incorrect) side to the story. Here, neither side is morally wrong. Each side brings up valid points that represent varying populations in the United States. Something that the show does really well is trying to educate its audience on both sides of the issue equally. This serves to eradicate this idea of good and bad. There is clearly a side that a specific audience member will resonate with and they will be given a chance to see the outcome of those beliefs as well as attempt to understand the other side. This is a show that serves to educate, not to validate and I think that when trying to make a TV show about a topic as sensitive as this one, educating is better than validating.
Since many of the key figures in this show are based on people who are still alive, it’s incredibly difficult to cast a show like this. Quite honestly, I am not intimately familiar with the historical figures within this show. I did manage to search up pictures of the original figures and I can honestly say that appearance wise, the casting was done fairly well. Any issue with the casting would come with the portrayal of ideologies and mannerisms. Since I can’t comment much on accuracy, I do want to talk about the quality of acting. This is a superstar cast by any means: Cate Blanchett, Rose Byrne, Margo Martindale, Sarah Paulson, Elizabeth Banks, Niecy Nash, and Uzo Aduba. These ladies bring this cast to life with a fervor that would almost convince the audience that they are watching history unfold. They portray the kind of passion that the actual people must have had. Not only that, each woman demonstrates range. In a limited series like this, a cast that has the ability to deliver performances with incredible range serves to handle a sensitive topic with great care. High quality acting furthers the idea that these are three dimensional people, not just names.
Overall, I think that this is an important story to tell. The show brings to life a sensitive topic while refraining from inserting morality into the conversation. The showmakers must have their opinions but they don’t thrust it on the audience. While the show is only nine episodes long, each minute feels used in an effective manner. Its balance between being educational and dramatic with a solid cast makes this a show that’s completely worth the watch.
P.S: As this is a historical show, I do want to link an article that discusses the fact and fiction of this show. While I find that watching a dramatized version of history is entertaining, it is absolutely vital to know the actual history behind any kind of historical show, especially one like this. Link for the article.