It’s ironic that Mrs. America stars two Aussies, Cate Blanchett and Rose Byrne in principal roles. But they are captivating in their roles.
The new FX-produced drama is one of those shows that you can expect to hear much about come awards season. It is full of solid performances by a formidable female ensemble.
Set from 1971 it is divided into two camps: the outspoken Equal Rights Amendment and the conservative women who gave rise to the Moral Majority.
Best-selling author Phyllis Schlafly (Cate Blanchett) is as comfortable with cooking muffins as she is with her interest in American politics. Appearing on talk shows, exerting influence with politicians, she is unimpressed with feminist causes when there are issues of national security at hand. And she is encouraged by friend and housewife Alice Macray (Sarah Paulson) to lead the way.
“You’re never just a housewife. But there’s no more important job for a woman,” Phyllis insists.
Her strong views come at a time when men still make all the decisions both at home and in Washington DC -she and husband Fred (John Slattery) even have an African American housemaid. Yet she isn’t about to let her gender suppress her ambitions.
“Some women like to blame sexism for their failures,” she reveals.
But she will also gather a fiery troupe of conservative women opposed to the Equal Rights Movement.
Journalist Gloria Steinem (Rose Byrne) is one of several radical feminists making noise in America. Dismissed as abortion empathisers, they draw attention to their views and suppression through the corridors of Washington -even if they are at odds over how best to achieve their aims.
Views and strategies fight to be heard including from activists Bella Abzug (Margo Martindale), Betty Friedan (Tracey Ullman) and black rights leader Shirley Chisholm (Uzo Aduba).
Episodes in this miniseries created by Dahvi Waller will highlight the women at various junctures. This leads to some firebrand performances by the talented cast, dressed immaculately in period costume. There are also some lengthy scenes that allow for acting chops and subtext.
The production is also punctuated with a funky ’70s soundtrack which helps transport the viewer to a time of vast change.
Phyllis Schlafly may be America’s answer to Britain’s Mary Whitehouse (previously portrayed on screen by Julie Walters) but at a time of Trumpism, it’s important to put context on how the Moral Majority took shape.
Mrs. America airs 8:30pm Tuesdays on FOX Showcase.