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Mrs America – BBC2 and iPlayer 2020

Nine part mini-series Creator: Dahvi Waller Starring: Cate Blanchett, Rose Byrne, Uzo Aduba

Cate Blanchett is brilliant in the leading role of this nine-part mini-series about conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly, who leads an unexpected fight against the Equal Rights Amendment movement during the 1970s.  Each of the nine episodes focuses upon one woman involved in this fight.

The series opens a remarkable window on the struggle between political left and right in US politics in the Seventies, which led eventually to the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. The soundtrack adds to the mood as it follows the music of the 1970s, from psychedelic flower power to the punchy punk of the Ramones and the jaunty new wave pop of Blondie.

Blanchett has captured well the commanding presence of Phyllis Schlafly, whom she plays as Mrs Thatcher-like figure who has to fight hard to make progress in a man’s world. She comes over like a clever smiling assassin in stiletto heels, who is able to disarm others with wit, intelligence and charm. Yet she is also depicted as a figure of ridicule and hate by members of the Women’s Liberation Movement.

The series depicts the internal tensions of political parties and pressure groups, with their loose cannons, who go off-message, and prima donnas who go on ego trips.

Politics is a messy business and some of the grime of trading half-truths, fake news and lies sticks to most people. There are also many examples of broken promises, betrayals and setbacks.

There are some causes worth fighting for. A great deal can be accomplished with focussed, determined collective effort. Yet, as someone has commented, being persuasive is not the same as being right. Nor is being in the majority a reason to look down on others.

At a time when Christians are wrestling with social, racial and gender-related tensions and are struggling with ideas of “wokeness”, and “cancel culture”, this is a great series to make people think about how they might respond.

John Woods is a writer and Bible teacher based in West Sussex

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