Binge Break: Mrs. America, a master class in acting and hair

Hulu’s latest show sheds some light on a period of women’s history essential to know that some today may be more unfamiliar with — the fight both for and against the Equal Rights Amendment.

Binge+Break%3A+Mrs.+America%2C+a+master+class+in+acting+and+hair

Kayli Reese, Managing Editor


Anything attached to the name Cate Blanchett is going to be something to watch. Adding names like Rose Bryne, Uzo Abduba, Margo Martindale, Tracey Ullman, Elizabeth Banks and Sarah Paulson make a project a textbook in great acting.

This cast of seven — who have nominations for 45 Emmys, 22 Golden Globes, and 18 Screen Actors Guild Awards between them — are the center of Hulu’s latest show Mrs. America, which premiered April 15. The show will have a new episode each Wednesday.

After watching the first three available episodes, there can be no doubt that the award nominations for this cast will only grow come award season.

The show follows the groups of women who rallied both for and against the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s, placing women on both sides of the argument for gender equality.

Blanchett leads as Phyllis Schlafly, a Slytherin of a woman who figures out that she can only be taken seriously as a political force if she champions a women’s issue. After a few failed runs for Congress, she still wants to make a splash in what she has been told is a man’s game. So, Phyllis begins the STOP ERA campaign, made up of housewives fearful of change to the social order they’ve always known.

Blanchett’s cold tone and stepford smile make her character both chilling and sympathetic, a further example of her genius. You can see the gears in Phyllis’ head constantly turning as she calculates how to stay ahead of the game in order to win. However, the moments where she stands out the most are those when viewers can watch her anger simmering when she is not being taken seriously by men in the political power she so desperately wants. Even as she fights to stop the ERA, she’s no less affected by the issues the women fighting to ratify the ERA want to solve with the amendment.

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Each episode of Mrs. America is centered around a different character, the first being Phyllis. The second episode features Gloria Steinem (Bryne), the journalist who began Ms. magazine and becomes a hesitant face of the women’s movement. Not only is Bryne’s wig fabulous, but the depth she gives to the woman who was worried about being perceived as just a famous, pretty face breaks your heart when it’s revealed why Steinem was so invested in this fight.

The third episode follows the historic presidential campaign of Shirley Chisholm (Abduba), who definitely deserves a miniseries just focused on her. She was the first black woman elected to Congress, the first black candidate for president on a major ticket, and the first woman to run for the Democratic nomination. If that’s not something that needs to be explored further, I’m not sure what is.

That perhaps is the one downside to the first few episodes of Mrs. America — so much is happening and so many big names are included that a longer season or more character-focused narrative might have made things feel less rushed. The story misses most of Chisholm’s campaign itself, and both Chisholm and Abduba deserve more than that.

Speaking as a woman who was fairly unfamiliar with the details of the ERA discourse, it’s an important piece of history to familiarize oneself with, and the Mrs. America actors cannot be beat. We’ll definitely be seeing them discussed again when Emmy nominations role around.

And, as I mentioned, the wigs and clothes in this are just something to behold.

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