MRS. AMERICA – Review by Susan Granger

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It’s fascinating how many young people have never heard of Phyllis Schlafly and how many older folk have forgotten her grassroots opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment back in the 1970s.

Svelte, ultra-conservative Phyllis Schlafly (Cate Blanchett) was an ambitious, politically-savvy suburban Illinois homemaker, wife of a lawyer (John Slattery) and mother of six children, who vehemently opposed all aspects of feminism, pointing out its potential dangers – like unisex bathrooms, women being drafted into the military, and the eradication of the Girl Scouts.

Schlafly’s persistent lobbying led to volatile conflicts with Ms. magazine’s glamorous Gloria Steinem (Rose Byrne), outspoken Feminine Mystique author Betty Friedan (Tracey Ullman), pragmatic Rep. Bella Abzug (Margo Martindale) and crusading Rep. Shirley Chisholm (Uzo Aduba), who lost to George McGovern in a trailblazing Democratic bid for the Presidential nomination in 1972.

In this nine-part mini-series, created by Mad Men showrunner/writer Dahvi Waller and co-directed by Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck, Cate Blanchett (who also serves as executive producer) vividly embodies cleverly compelling Mrs. Schlafly as an impeccably tailored, influential female anti-hero with her blonde upswept bun, prim pearls and bread-baking skills.

“Love her or hate her, you cannot take away that she was extraordinary,” says Waller, extolling Schlafly’s cunning activism psychology. “And if you find yourself rooting for her and hate yourself for it, that’s also fun.”

Sarah Paulson plays Schlafly’s (fictional) best friend Alice Macray, who timidly serves as her conscience when they’re forced to work with and placate vocally racist Louisiana delegates. And Jeanne Tripplehorn is pitiful as Schlafly’s spinster sister-in-law.

It’s also dauntingly relevant to realize that – a century after female suffrage became the law of the land – there’s still no constitutional ban on discrimination against women. Just this past January (2020), Virginia became the 38th state to finally ratify the still-controversial E.R.A. – nearly four decades after the Congressional deadline.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, Mrs. America is a sprawling 7, streaming on FX/Hulu with new episodes debuting on Wednesdays.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.