'Good Girls Revolt' Is 1960s Liberal Feminist Nostalgia for Today's 'Nasty Woman'

November 1st, 2016 4:16 AM

Amidst a background of 1960’s sex, drugs, and rock and roll, Good Girls Revolt, an Amazon Original Series, tells the fictionalized story of the female researchers who sued Newsweek for gender discrimination.

The heroine is a young liberal feminist named Patti Robinson (Genevieve Angelson) with one ambitious goal – to be a writer at the weekly news magazine, News of the World. The only problem is that the publication does not hire female writers. Note: other publications use women writers, just not this fictional one, even though the publisher of News of the World is a woman, Bea Burkhart (Meagen Fay) who inherited the job from her deceased father. In the ten episode series, the story unfolds as Patti and her colleagues put together their lawsuit against the company.

After each episode a disclaimer comes up on screen – “Although this program was inspired by real events, News of the Week and persons working there are fictional.” Yeah, but real people like Nora Ephron and Eleanor Holmes Norton are played by actresses. Nora Ephron (Grace Gummer) is hired in the first episode, titled “Pilot,” but only lasts long enough to plant the idea into researcher Cindy’s (Erin Darke) head that her husband probably poked a hole into her diaphragm when she thought she may be pregnant – he only wanted her to work for a year as he finished law school then Cindy would stay home to have babies. Nora also suggests Patti attend her consciousness/awareness-raising meetings. In the real Nora Ephron’s life, though, her struggle don’t seem to be so hard – beginning as an intern in the JFK administration, hired to Newsweek, then on to the N.Y. Post and so on.

Eleanor Holmes Norton is the current delegate to the House of Representatives from Washington, D.C. and the actress Joy Bryant portrays her as a young, pregnant lawyer with the ACLU. She leads the consciousness/awareness-raising meetings and tells the women that it is illegal for News of the World to only hire men as reporters. She soon convinces Patti that by joining with other women researchers a complaint can be filed to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) because of the Civil Rights Act law passed by Congress. Holmes Norton paints a cynical picture of the optics and reasoning of the complaint. She seems more interested in shaming men into compliance. Eleanor, unlike Nora, lasts through the rest of the series.

Predictably the men in the series are painted as rude, thoughtless, sexist cads around the women, a la Mad Men. For example, in episode two, “The Folo,” a reporter is tasked with hiring a new researcher so he asks about her waist size, if she is married, etc. This telephone interview results in the hiring of Denise (Betty Gabriel), the first black woman in the pit. Later, as a cover story on feminism is discussed, feminist icons Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan are considered for the cover but the male reporters, joined by the Editor at Large, Finn (Chris Diamantopoulos) mock them as less than worthy pin-ups. On the other hand, many of the researchers were sleeping with the male reporters, often at the office. That hardly screams “take me seriously,” ladies.

Liberal pet issues are part of the story – Finn’s assistant, Angie (Danya LaBelle) becomes pregnant with her fourth child and starts drinking tansy tea to induce an abortion because her family is strapped for cash. The researchers all pitch in and Cindy delivers money to Angie for an illegal abortion. Cindy takes her to a doctor working out of his private residence in an upscale neighborhood – in the front door; this is no back alley abortion. Cindy confesses that the doctor is “very good. I never had any problems after.” It’s all talked about as if abortion is a fact of life, although one that’s kept quiet.

In the ninth episode, “Dateline,” National Editor Gregory (Michael Graziadei) talks about “bra burners” during a discussion on the feminism cover story and lumps conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly into the mix with Gloria Steinem. Whoa, has Schlafly ever been called a bra burner? Maybe these were the only big names in the women’s rights battle familiar enough for him to rattle off the top of his head.

The final episode, “The Newser,” ends with the press conference led by Eleanor Holmes Norton and the women filing the EEOC complaint. It’s timed to coincide with the publication of the News of the World’s cover story on feminism– the story was given to another publication’s female writer even though two of the researchers had pitched the story for themselves. Holmes Norton chose the head researcher, Jane (Anna Camp) to speak for the others because she would be most relatable to the audience – she’s blonde, upper class, prim and proper. Image is everything, says Holmes Norton.

The women come off as naïve when they realize that jobs as writers will not magically appear after the lawsuit is filed – positions will have to open and men will be replaced by women. That’s the problem with big government solutions – the little guy in private industry often suffers the consequences.

Unsurprisingly, this feminist nostalgia piece was timed for release just before the election, according to actress Erin Darke.

I think it’s an intentional thing that this is coming out just before the election. But I think that when that decision was made, it was made because we were going to have a woman running for president and we imagined sex was going to be some part of the conversation. But I don’t think we knew that that sexist windbag was going to make it the part of the election.

It's clear that "Good Girls Revolt" is supposed to be some kind of a rallying cry for Millennial feminist voters heading to the polls next week, but ironically the reality is the opposite. Voting for career politician Hillary is hardly any kind of a revolt and I hear her supporters prefer to be called "nasty women."