REVIEW: ‘Mrs. America’ unapologetically captures the political landscape of the ’70s fight for women’s equality

first_imgFor everyone else, urban hippie looks abound. Specifically, the feminists introduced at the end of the first episode, namely Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan —  who Schlafly rallies against — were dressed in more free-spirited looks, alluding to their more liberal political beliefs and values. Episode two mostly revolves around Steinem, the ’70s glamorous, career woman who gets pressured into becoming the face of the women’s liberation movement by Rep. Bella Abzug. Aviators, T-shirts, embroidered prints, polka dots, beaded jewelry and anything that the antifeminists would never dare to wear define the style and characters of Steinem and Friedan.   The thing about Schlafly is that she defies what you’d think every woman during the women’s liberation movement of the ’70s would embody. She strongly believes in a woman’s duty to the household, her children and her husband. Set on her conservative beliefs, Schlafly doesn’t believe in women’s abortion rights (a hot topic in the second episode) and wants the Equal Rights Amendment of 1972 abolished. Her radical thinking and opinions lead to tension and debate in the political landscape.  The remaining six episodes will be airing every Wednesday following this week on the FX channel on Hulu. FX’s much awaited “Mrs. America,” an American drama television series based on actual events, premiered Wednesday on Hulu with the first three episodes of the nine-part series. The show captures the political landscape of the ’70s, when the struggle and debate over the equal rights amendment was on the uproar. Told through the eyes of the women from the era, the show chronicles the fight between supporters of the women’s liberation movement and antifeminists. A stellar cast of actors, magnificent cinematography, a fantastic concept, setting and dialogue make this an exceptional watch. Several aspects of the show, including the aesthetics, make it so both sides of the political fence are distinguishable. Groovy tunes, typewriters, rotary phones and vintage color palettes of deep blues, oranges and yellows bring us directly into the style of the ’70s. “Mrs. America” presents a remarkable cinematic experience through its effective writing, production design, costume design and cinematography. Leather and suede textures, platform wedges and funky patterns characterize the fashion of the ’70s. When it comes to producing a period piece like this, costume design can make or break the show.  The concept for “Mrs. America” was developed by Emmy award-winning writer Dahvi Waller, who also wrote “Mad Men.” In the first episode, which takes place in 1971, we are introduced to the antifeminist and central conservative figure of the show, Phyllis Schlafly (Cate Blanchett). An Illinois housewife and mother of six, our first introduction of Schlafly comes as she’s modeling an American flag bikini in a political fundraiser for Rep. Phil Crane.  Soft colors and grainy, faded hues of green and blue fill the screen. Episode three, “Shirley,” is written to put you through an emotional rollercoaster. Shirley Chisholm (Uzo Aduba) gives an incredible performance that effectively delivers the frustrating and fierce emotions of a Black woman not only running for president but fighting against discrimination as a matter of survival. Facing opposition from all angles, she is compelled to make a change. Working tirelessly, viewers can feel Shirley’s emotions straight through the screen. Episode three is a politically complex episode. center_img The first episode takes us through various settings, landscapes and character dimensions of Schlafly. Inspired by one of the most divisive woman figures in American history, Blanchett brilliantly emanates Schlafly’s canny, willful personality from the get-go. Scene three showcases Blanchett’s incredible ability to achieve the tone of this character. The scene takes place in a dressing room when the handsy Illinois congressman Crane enters and invites her to come to Washington D.C. to meet with Sen. Barry Goldwater. Schlafly is excited about the invite, as it could potentially be an opportunity to gain support for her congressional run, but when she gets to D.C., Goldwater unexpectedly inquires about her perspective on the Equal Rights Amendment and whether or not she supports it. Her response is telling of her ideals and personal morals that will be present throughout the series. She says to Goldwater, “I think some women like to blame sexism for their failures instead of admitting they didn’t try hard enough, so good for you for opposing it.”  Rose Byrne stars in ‘Mrs. America’ as Gloria Steinem, a prominent figure in America’s second-wave feminist movement. (Photo courtesy of IMDb) Cast-wise, “Mrs. America” delivers. The list of powerhouse performers is refreshing and ingenious: Aduba, Elizabeth Banks, Blanchett, Rose Byrne, Margo Martindale, Niecy Nash, Sarah Paulson, John Slattery, Jeanne Tripplehorn and Tracey Ullman. An all-star team in front of and behind the lens, “Mrs. America” is a tribute to the past and can teach a new generation of women how to do the right thing and get others to do the same.  For the antifeminists, costume designer Bina Daigeler deliberately chose a soft style, dressing them in pastels, knit sweaters, aprons and A-line skirts. Their costumes accurately present the traditional American housewife look of the ‘70s. You never see them dressed in pants or the bohemian looks iconic to the ’70s. Schafly’s character was meant to look put together and in control at all times.  Each episode’s title is named after a central character highlighted as the key figure in the episode. Writing polarizing characters into a script that leaves viewers on the edge of their seats is challenging, but this series achieves it splendidly. last_img

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