Hulu is taking us back to the 1970s for a refresher course on the era’s abominable fashions … and the Equal Rights Amendment.
“Mrs. America” is far more than that, though.
The 9-part series, starring Cate Blanchett as pro-life activist and ERA foe Phyllis Schlafly, examines the modern feminist movement from the ground up. The series touches on other icons from that period, including Gloria Steinem (Rose Byrne) and Bella Abzug (Margo Martindale).
In the process, the Blanchett-produced series depicts Schlafly as the cultural heavy, according to some prominent critics.
The Hollywood Reporter called Blanchett’s take on Schlafly “a Walter White-like villain whose cunning, ambition and even troll-ish wit we can’t help admiring even as her egomania leads her to wreak mass havoc.”
Pro-choice Hollywood routinely shares stories that support that world view. Consider recent films like 2014’s “Obvious Child” and the just-released indie drama “Never Maybe Sometimes Always.”
The Schlafly series is part of a wider trend, though, one that finds Hollywood “interpreting” history to its liking.
Sometimes the history in question is recent, like how HBO’s “The Newsroom” looked back at modern events through a progressive filter. Other recreations attempt to resuscitate progressive icons, like the 2015 movie “Truth.”
The film, loosely based on CBS anchor Dan Rather’s precipitous fall from grace, suggested his reporting on President George W. Bush’s National Guard service was fair and accurate … despite oodles of evidence to the contrary.
HBO’s 2016 film “Confirmation” took Anita Hill’s side in her clash with future Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. A documentary filmmaker who let Justice Thomas tell his side of the story earlier this year did so via a feature made outside the Hollywood ecosystem.
“Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words” earned a fraction of the media attention, and eyeballs, of “Confirmation.”
The 2008 HBO film “Recount” relived the Bush v Gore debacle, and even liberal outlets like Entertainment Weekly said it promoted the Gore side of the scuffle.
Last year’s “Bombshell” was the third Hollywood project to dissect Fox News’ founder Roger Ailes’ self-inflicted downfall. There may be more before the smoke clears.
“Bombshell” did more than showcase Ailes’ alleged serial abuses. It framed Fox News in the most unflattering light possible in the process, and conservative viewers along with it.
Perhaps the most aggressive, history-changing movie also came from HBO. The 2012 film “Game Change,” focusing on Sarah Palin’s quest to be the Vice President, depicted the popular governor as a dimwit in need of psychological help.
Does anyone think CBS’s upcoming miniseries based on former FBI director James Comey’s memoir, “A Higher Loyalty,” will cover newly revealed information about the corruption and organizational rot that led to the Russiagate investigation?
The irony of these reclamation projects is that they often fail to draw a crowd. “Truth” bombed, for example. “Vice,” the 2018 hit piece on Dick Cheney and the GOP in toto, cost its studio millions due to tepid audience interest.
That’s not how Hollywood sees it, though. These projects generate gallons of cyber ink upon their debuts. “Vice” and “Bombshell,” despite mediocre reviews, each earned Oscar nominations.
Meanwhile, the stars in question get to push the films’ narratives during their extended press interviews. All the while left-leaning reporters simply smile along without lobbing any tough questions their way.
The progressive message gets out whether we see these films during their initial debuts or not.
More importantly, these projects’ shelf lives are considerable. They live on via cable television, streaming channels and Video on Demand services.
Headlines fade. So do memories. Carefully crafted movies with beautiful stars telling us what to think? That lingers longer.
Plus, these projects are often created to address modern issues through a historical lens. The ERA effort failed in the 1970s, but some feminists are eager to revive it. That makes “Mrs. America” both an artifact and of-the-moment important.
“Confirmation” could be easily summoned by some viewers as an example of another conservative “predator” reaching the highest court in the land, a la the salacious, unproven accusations against Brett Kavanaugh.
Writer/director John Milius of “Red Dawn” fame addressed this directly in a new interview via RebellerMedia.com.
“I hate how most Hollywood films do history — most Hollywood films about history reflect the times the film was made in, not the real history. I hate revisionist history because it’s always politically correct and politically motivated.”
Conservative storytellers, of course, have almost no outlets with which to compete with these narratives.
Christian Toto is the editor of the Colorado-based HollywoodInToto.com.