Mrs. America (FX 2020)

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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.

The Lady in the Van (2015 Movie)

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Let me preface this review by stating that the British do make quirky movies.  You can put The Lady in the Van into the very quirky category.  Believe it or not, it’s a true story that had been told previously in a book form and on stage.  Alan Bennett, the author, tells of his relationship with the homeless (except for her van) Mary Shepherd. Wonderful and talented Maggie Smith has played this role both on stage and film.

The story centers around an elderly woman who drives a dilapidated van. She favors Alan’s neighborhood and moves the van from house to house early in her arrival.  The neighbors tolerate her presence and attempt to be kind, offering her food and the like, but she’s undoubtedly the most cantankerous old lady you’ll meet.

Alan is a bit of an oddball himself in this story.  He’s a playwright by trade, and you see him much of the time writing about this fifteen-year experience with Mary (or maybe it’s Margaret – nobody is sure).  In his own oddball way, he has a double of himself in the storyline – the one who lives life – the other who writes about life. Alan is also dealing with his aging mother as the story unfolds.

Mary Shepherd is an interesting character herself, having lived in her youth as a gifted pianist. Twice she attempts to become a nun but the church doesn’t believe she’s nun material. When an accident happens in her van years before, she is plagued with the belief that she had killed someone. The guilt sends her down a spiral hole of despair from which she never recovers.

Lady in a Van is an interesting character study, set in a very small portion of London with occasional visits elsewhere. There is plenty of screen time with her van that eventually ends up parked in Alan’s driveway for the period of fifteen years. Maggie Smith’s costumes consist of filthy clothing and a pigsty of a location, but she shines as usual with her talent.  You may, however, find the role a bit shocking and beneath her abilities from the grand Dowager Countess of Downton Abbey to a grungy, grumpy, and stinky old lady. However, since Maggie has owned this role in the past on stage, I dare say she was the only one to do it justice on film.

In the end, it’s the story of where life can take an individual. As an elderly woman, she appears to have no more worth than the rags she wears. Nevertheless, underneath all the filth is a woman who was once revered and applauded.