Mrs. America (FX 2020)

 Mrs America4 Kernels

Mrs. America is a series about a very controversial subject and period in American history that should not be forgotten. It focuses on a woman, who is titled here as Mrs. America. She was both loved and hated — Phyliss Schlafly.  It’s currently streaming on Hulu.

I want to first say that if you are screaming and kicking that you do not want to watch anything about Phyliss and you absolutely hate her guts, you’re going to miss out on the opposition in her life and the birth of the feminist movement, as well as the ERA.

In case you don’t know what the ERA is, it was a proposed amendment to the constitution – Equal Rights Amendment – which was drafted to guarantee equal legal rights for all American citizens regardless of sex.  Though written in 1923, it gained support in the early 1960’s by the women’s movement. However, not all women were pro-ERA.  In fact, there were many who saw the amendment as a threat to their lives as stay-at-home wives and mothers.  Some had irrational fears about the roles of women that today we wouldn’t think twice about, i.e. women fighting in the military.

Early in the series, the audience is introduced to Phyliss and her fight against the ERA. Phyliss was no ordinary housewife with six children. She was active in the political arena. Her Stop the ERA campaigns were ruthless, but so were the supporters of the amendment on the feminist side. This series gives equal and unbiased time to both pros and cons of the amendment and digs deep into what makes these individual women tick in real life.

Cate Blanchett is a Golden Globe contender for her performance. She plays a driven, staunch, singled-minded individual. Some called her anointed by God, while others thought her a devil.

If you have time, you should watch this series.  It’s educational for all women on both sides of the fence.  Frankly, I grew up during the 1960’s and heard nothing in my household about the ERA.  In fact, to my utter shame, I never heard about it until I watched this series.  My mother was a stay-at-home mom, and I grew up during that time period when it was a normal part of life.  I do remember, however, entering the workforce in 1970’s, during my early twenties, and the sexual harassment and passes received on the job.  Today, thanks to the changing attitudes, the boss who grabbed my breasts and the one who made a sexual comment about my pretty legs, would be on their ass out the door.

So, did the ERA ever pass and become an amendment to the Constitution?  Not, yet.  It’s taken years for all the states to ratify the ERA. It still languishes in litigation after all this time.  If you wish to read more about the ERA, visit good old Wikipedia.

I will caution you, however.  If you thought lines are drawn between Conservatives and Liberals nowadays, you will learn it’s been an ongoing battle long before you were born.  It’s a war.  A war for rights, beliefs, and winning government seats to have your ideals run the country rather than the other side.  Some viewers may be highly offended by the content and harsh words spoken. There is a lot of bigotry and nothing politically correct in the dialogue.  Be forewarned.  If you can handle it, then watch it.  It’s well worth the time.

Mad Men (TV AMC 2007 – Present)

madmen 5 Kernels
 Nostalgia at Its Best
July 19, 2007 – Present
AMC Television

Stars:  Jon Hamm, Elisabeth Moss, January Jones, and many others

Since I’ve exhausted many of the British television shows on Netflix, Mad Men caught my eye as soon as I read that it was set in the 1960’s.  Ah, the 1960’s. I was 10 in 1960; graduated from high school in 1968.  Watching this television show brings back not only my childhood, but my teenage years as well.  Everything from Selectric typewriters, to switchboards, phones with blinking buttons, eating raw hamburger, and living with parents that smoked and drank as a normal part of life.

Set in New York City in the heyday of advertising agencies in Manhattan, it’s an eclectic weave of husbands, housewives, mistresses, secretaries, office politics, and account executives.  It reminds me of those days when anything went.  Men made sexual innuendos to the female office staff, booze was in the offices, and everyone smoked like a chimney. My first time someone flirted with me at my second job in 1969, the bank manager came up and told me I had “great legs.”  Then in 1972 my boss had me stay late one night and came up behind me and grabbed my breasts.  Wow, I could have sued had that happened today.

On top of the outlandish days of sexual harassment in the office, it’s mixed with the occurrence of segregation where Negros couldn’t ride in the elevators with the working staff unless given permission.  Everyone in the company was white – no mixing of the races like our modern offices today.  Jewish people were treated like aliens that couldn’t be understood.  Everyone drank and smoked.  I can remember my first boss in 1968 having a bottle of booze stashed in his desk drawer.  Most of the day he smelled of alcohol.

Then there were the women who stayed home – the housewives.  Always with their hair in place, their bouncy little dresses, their kids clean, their houses spotless, and dinner waiting on the table when their husbands came home.  They knew their place, and they kept their place whether they were miserable or happy. It was their way of life, along with eating prime rib and butter for dinner.  The men, of course, lived doubled lives of carousing with other women and having mistresses on the side in or out of the office setting. Married women, who met a divorced woman with two children living alone, was an unthinkable state of affairs.

The characters are wonderful, with their own back story of how their childhood and family has molded them into the adults they have become.  Each have their own personal struggles, whether it be with self-worth, a family they wish to forget, a wife with whom they are estranged, an overbearing mother who filled their daughters with expectations, or a father who doesn’t support their son’s career choice.  The stories are rich in their own right and filled with everybody’s pursuit of happiness in the 60’s, in one way or the other. Rather than worrying about their smoking, drinking, or butter on their plates, the Communists are the threats, as well as the thought of having a Catholic president.

I can’t tell you how utterly entertaining this show is, at least for me.  If you didn’t grow up in that era, you’ll probably find it very strange.  If you did, it will be like walking down memory lane, remembering your childhood, and no doubt your parents.  I can still see my mother who wore a dress every day, had dinner on the table, who hadn’t worked out of the home since World War II.  Yes, we have evolved in many ways.  Discrimination and sexism in the office is a thing of the past.  Feminism has taken the women out of the homes and made them executives along side men.  However, a part of me misses the simplicity of those days when life had different complications than we face today.

One of my favorites are the girls in the office and how they share the gossip.  A particular scene that had me rolling on the floor happened to be when one lady pulled from her purse the novel, “Lady Chatterley’s Lover,” and the women started talking about it.  Of course, it’s strictly taboo to read such a book that uses the words no lady would utter and contain such graphic sexual scenes in a book!  One woman asks if she can borrow it to read, and the advice was priceless.  “Don’t read it on the train.  It will attract all the wrong elements.”  What a hoot!  Reminded me of today and women reading Fifty Shades of Grey in public.  Things never really change in some aspects.  We just color it in a different light.

Anyway, highly recommend the show.  After finishing five seasons on Netflix, I’d like to slap Don Draper in his unzipped pants.  Nevertheless, I love the characters.