Readers Write In #71: Musings on ‘Good girls revolt'”, an Amazon Prime original series

Posted on March 24, 2019

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Like another enjoyable Amazon prime original TV show, “The marvellous Mrs Maisel”, “Good girls revolt” too has a period setting in the late sixties/ early seventies  and a theme of women trying to overcome inequalities while making a career. Based on events that actually happened, which inspired the book “The Good Girls Revolt : How the Women of Newsweek Sued Their Bosses and Changed the Workplace”  by Lynn Povich, this series shows the everyday life of a newsroom buzzing with scoops and relationships. However all is not well beneath the glitz, because the girls are only underpaid researchers, and despite the fact that the women are often smarter, more educated, better qualified, intelligent, efficient and in many cases better writers than the men, the news company does not allow them to be writers. To begin with the girls are all happy with their status. But a new girl joins : Nora Ephron who had initially applied there as a writer, but when told that they did not hire women writers, she accepted a position as a mail girl.  She soon quits because she was not allowed to write, and in real life (not shown in the series) she goes on to become a  journalist, writer, and filmmaker, best known for her romantic comedy films and nominated three times for the Academy Award for Best Writing: for Silkwood(1983), When Harry Met Sally… (1989), and Sleepless in Seattle (1993). But before she resigns, Ephron opens the eyes of the girls and begins the process of sensitising them about how they were being discriminated against, which motivates them to file a complaint against the magazine for sexual discrimination.

The reason I found the series so addictive is that in addition to the main story being a cause that resonates with me, the quality of production is very good, the acting is realistic, the visuals are pleasing to the eyes, and most importantly as the story progressed and their arcs developed, I began to care for the characters, at places I even teared up.

Watching this series also made me introspect. I thought about how content many of us are when conditioned to accept things as they are, as in the case of the girls in this TV series, before they become sensitised to their status, despite the fact that these are very bright and smart women. We see this all the time around us, as in women working in a job as hard as their husbands, but coming home and happily doing the lion’s share of the house work and child care too, because that is how they and their partners have been conditioned.

I also thought about how much easier gender equality is for us who came later, and how thankful we must be to these pioneers who fought the tough fight which makes our lives easier : I am fortunate to have been able to choose a profession that I both love, and where I do not face any professional discrimination at all, where my gender is possibly even an advantage. But I also realise that there are still miles to go. One example of this is that according to the 2017 American Society of News Editor census, women comprise just 38.9 percent of newsroom leaders. Further, men receive 62 percent of bylines and credits in print, online, TV and newswires, and hold 84 percent of the Pulitzer Prizes over the last century.

Finally, it was frustrating to know that such a good show, with an IMDb rating of 8.2/10 did not get an extension after its first season. Amazon Studios’ then-chief, Roy Price, decided to discontinue the series soon after its October 2016 release, causing a furore then, with the series’ stars and crew leading a charge with a #SaveGoodGirlsRevolt tagline on Twitter, and audiences crying out for the series to continue. The purported reason for the cancellation was poor performance and in cases of series made specifically for Netflix, or Amazon, performance apparently is measured not in ratings, but in completion and contribution to platform subscriptions, which is how many viewers watch the series all the way through and whether new customers sign up in order to watch them. Since Amazon and Netflix do not publish viewing statistics, there is no way for the public to know why they make particular programming decisions, apart from official statements. It was rumoured that Roy Price  did not care much for the  show. About one year later, Roy Price, resigned from his position amid allegations that he sexually harassed Isa Hackett, a producer of one of the company’s most high-profile shows, “The Man in the High Castle.” Her description of the 2015 encounter is disturbingly similar to what happens in an episode to one of the girls in the series, when her chief harassed her sexually, and it changes her mind and leads to her joining the other girls, when earlier she was holding off. So it seems like things have come full circle and we are left not very far from where we began.

(by Aparna Namboodiripad, who writes here as ‘tonks’)