Mrs. America hits all the right notes

Cate Blanchett stars in the FX/Hulu drama leads the luminous female ensemble of Mrs. America. 

I sincerely believe that social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook are some of the most harmful inventions of the 21st Century. Sure, they let you keep up with family and friends and make it easier to share clips of cats doing stupid things, but the detrimental aspects are legion as well—disinformation, depression-causing comparisons and cyberbullying, to name a few. The most insidious feature of social media, however, is the minimization of people and complicated issues into bite-sized bits. 280 characters are not enough to contain an entire person, nor can they convey every facet of a complicated issue. We are, simply put, reduced to the most rudimentary forms of the stances we take. But while social media has certainly exacerbated this practice, it by no means invented it—historians have done this too often as well. Mrs. America, a new FX miniseries and Hulu exclusive, attempts to subvert such oversimplified approaches by exploring one such complex issue, the 1970s struggle to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, as thoroughly as it can. The resulting nine hours is a superbly acted explosion of style that is not only guaranteed to entertain, but also enlighten.  

The perpetually incredible Cate Blanchett leads the equally wonderful ensemble as Phyllis Schlafly, famous conservative spokeswoman and the ERA’s staunchest opponent in the 1970s. Blanchett presents Schlafly as much more than her beliefs, however, and gives the real-life historical figure the nuance that all real-life people deserve. When interviewed by People Magazine, Blanchett stated that her “function was not to judge [Schlafly], it was to place her as well roundly as [she] could, so that she could be a foil for the other people and that you get a sense of what it is to be a female in the 1970s or 2020.” In this, the entire cast succeeds, as there is not a single weak link in the acting to be found. Perhaps more importantly, the show itself does not pick sides—instead of taking the easy route of casting one group as the heroes and the other group as the villains, it illustrates the good and bad on both sides of the issue and lets the viewer come to their own conclusions. This is important, as the topics explored are some that are still relevant and hotly debated today—gender roles, abortion, and the role of family in society, to name a few—and understanding opposing viewpoints is vital to civilized debate. Schlafly and Gloria Steinem (here played by Rose Byrne) are presented as more than 280 characters.  

Accompanying the excellent acting is a whole lot of style. Mrs. America pops with vintage visuals and authentic ‘70s tunes, giving the admittedly slow-burn story a lot of personality. I would be a liar if I said that I understood all the political speak and maneuvering, but I was also never bored. For a mini-series all about politics, this is an impressive feat.  

So log off of Facebook, put down your phone, and pick up your phone again to watch Mrs. America. Empowerment awaits.  

Mrs. America is now available on Hulu.