by Kyle Arango
People like to say we are in the “golden age” of television, and it is hard to argue against that. Every television show that is celebrated is anywhere from good to great and it makes you excited to always take a dive into something new. Hulu and FX have recently teamed up to do their own version of the streaming game and have had a terrific start, but Mrs. America might be their best. Mrs. America is an enriching and exhilarating experience that both entertains and educates us to what the times were like during the ERA movement and the fights these women went through to stand for what they thought was right.
Mrs. America takes place during the 1970’s where the Equal Rights Amendment was trying to be ratified by congress. This bill would have granted women equal access in opportunities as the men but mostly, it would give them the respect they deserve. On one hand you have these women who are fighting for this but on the other, it is not just the men fighting against this, there are also some women. That is what makes this show so fascinating. You see that all these women are trying to do is fight to be equal to the men, so it is mind blowing that there are women on the other side fighting just as hard not to be equal to them. This worked to the show’s credit so well because through every episode I became increasingly more and more frustrated at how hard these radical conservative women were pushing to not be equal to men. You would think in today’s age with what we know that it would be such a clear choice. That of course men and women are equal. However, history shows that was not the case and this show puts that on full display.
Something that works so incredibly well in Mrs. America is how they make the politics of the 1970’s relevant to today. Watching this show through the lens of 2020 just angers you at how poorly women were treated, especially those who were trying to make a difference. Unfortunately, that is still true today. One of the things that is so frustrating about anything in politics is that no matter how good the cause you are fighting for is, the other side will always jump to the extreme to try and shut you down. The conservative side would argue that the ERA would send your daughters to war when it is so far from a likely possibility, but it made them relevant. Same issues go for today. Something like wanting more thorough and responsible gun reform turns into the other side saying they want to take your guns away so the government can take over. It is just foolish rhetoric meant to discredit a good cause. This show does this in an entertaining and very educational way to where I could not wait to get to the next episode to see where this timeline goes and learn something new.
Major props need to be given to the creative team involved with this show. Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck got unfair criticism after people weren’t huge fans of Captain Marvel, but they rebounded extremely well with this show. They focus on the characters and make their interactions feel both natural and modern. Cate Blanchett as Phyllis Schlafly is so haunting in this role. They put her in the lead as the head of the anti-ERA group and the maniacal way she carries herself is something special to watch. You hate her but can’t help but be intrigued by her which is what made Phyllis so appealing to those who were on her side. Everyone is excellent in this show including Elizabeth Banks, John Slattery, Uzo Aduba, Sarah Paulson, and Margo Martindale but one person truly stands out above the rest. Rose Byrne as Gloria Steinem is absolutely astounding. Rose Byrne has always been a terrific comedic actress but in this series, she takes a turn towards a more serious route that is so captivating that you want more and more. She nails everything about Steinem from her speech pattern to her stance and is able to bring what made the real-life figure so appealing to the role she plays in the show. If she does not get an Emmy for this, something is wrong.
Hulu and FX have been on a tear with their new shows lately with Dave, Devs, and The Great to name a few but Mrs. America is their finest offering. This program offers everything you could ask for from any show to the best possible form from great characters to a captivating story. It is very hard sometimes to get people to engage with political entertainment, but this show makes it look easy, especially with how relevant they make it feel. If I can be entertained and educated for nine hours and still want more by the end of it, you are doing something right Mrs. America.