What I’m Consuming: Women on Screen, Part II

Continuing on from Part I, I give you:

Good Girls Revolt

In the Amazon series Good Girls Revolt, it’s 1969 and News of the Week only runs bylines with men’s names. The media is all about guys like Doug and Randy and Sam. This show, though, is all about Patti and Cindy and Jane. I watched the ten-episode Season 1 soon after it came out last fall, and I’m still thinking about it.

The three main characters work at News of the Week — a fictitious magazine — as researchers and a caption writer, each supporting a man. Patti is a striver whose passion for news wins over her personal life every time. Cindy writes photo captions and feels more at home in the newsroom than at home with her law student husband. Jane was the editor-in-chief of her college newspaper, but now bows to the editorial control of male editors.

The story line clings to those three, but others make welcome appearances along the way. The first cameo is Nora Ephron, who pops up in Episode 1, faces sexism, and … well, I won’t spoil it. Let’s say she’s about nine episodes ahead of her time.

The dialogue moves fast. Patti or Jane talk out who they need to probe, dial a source, and get the job done. They’re the Ginger Rogers of the newsroom, doing everything the men do, but behind the scenes and in huge hair.

Does this sound like a ladies’-view version of Mad Men? If you think so, you’re in the company of many, many reviewers.

Patti, Cindy, and Jane face their own battles and injustices, but with refreshing results: They don’t take out frustration on fellow women. When Nora joins them, Jane gamely shows her around. When Jane hits a wall getting a source to go on record for her reporter’s story, Patti steps in to nab the right interview. Next to these alliances, Don Draper’s friendships with men look downright catty.

I agree with critics who say that the atmosphere is simplified. The race relations, especially, leave me wondering. Could a white man who buys into mainstream culture dig an FBI conspiracy against the Black Panther Party? Would a black woman in an all-white, male-dominated newsroom find her biggest challenge is awkward small talk? The women are also so selfless and forgiving. Crab mentality and gender stereotypes aside, would that come easily to anyone in the competitive world of journalism?

The best part? For me, it’s the DC connection. That comes in the form of Eleanor Holmes Norton. Today, she’s a congressional delegate for DC in her third or fourth decade as a DC statehood crusader and law professor. In 1969, she’s a self-possessed attorney with the ACLU. It is the Norton character who looks into the researchers’ wide eyes and tells them they have a case.

Occasional complications and nuances help move the story along. Patty is a complicated soul, as she grapples with her obsession with getting the story and advocating for herself. She also shows tender feelings for her reporter lover boy while resisting commitment. The male characters are also well-developed. Aside from the chorus of horn dogs and misogynists, several show the pull between the waning ways of the 1950s and the social justice groundswell of the ’60s and ’70s. In another notable twist, the feared and revered publisher happens to be a woman named Bea. She shows up one day to treat the male cadre of reporters and editors to a three-martini lunch. Bea’s appearance shows that gals can be both powerful and sexist.

I haven’t come across a parallel of Erin Ramsey’s essay urging people to see Good Girls. I will give my own endorsement, though. Give the show a chance — especially if you’re a writer, journalist, or witness to injustice.

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