Mrs. America, on Disney+Hotstar… A riveting story about women fighting for and against the Equal Rights Amendment

Posted on July 18, 2020

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T his lockdown has been a very busy time for us at work. I wasn’t actively looking for a new series to watch, because I didn’t know if I had the time and energy to commit to endless episodes. But on Facebook, I stumbled on a small video promo — a snatch of a “conservative” speech by Cate Blanchett from Mrs. America, a speech about how a bunch of elite feminists in the coast cannot dictate how the rest of American women are supposed to feel. I looked up the Wikipedia page. It was only nine episodes. I felt I could make the time. Now. after watching the show, I’m glad I did.

This is a story about women fighting for and against the Equal Rights Amendment, with real-life figures like Phyllis Schlafly (that’s the Blanchett character), Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem and Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to the United States Congress. I can’t say how true the events are — but then, as readers may know, the “truth” has never been a big concern for me. Is this version of the truth well-told, well-acted? Is it a solid piece of cinema? Mrs. America checks all these boxes with a resounding “yes”.

I suppose the events ring truer today than they did in the time period Mrs. America unfolds in, the 1970s — because the liberal/conservative split is possibly even sharper now. Anyway, if you are interested in recent political history and women’s issues and how internalised patriarchy can coexist with professional ambition, you should give this show a shot. There’s no demonising of the Right, and not everyone in the Left is an angel. Everyone’s hurting, human, and even if your position on the issue is clear, your position about these people may keep shifting from episode to episode. In other words, in the midst of all the blue and red, there’s a ton of grey.

Copyright ©2020 Baradwaj Rangan.