It seems like a simple enough idea – everyone should get credit for the work they do. But, as we all know, even the most simplistic intent, one that seems positively apparent and logical, can be mired with complicated undertones of miscommunication, controversy and just plain resistance.
Enter the new series Good Girls Revolt.
Set just as the 1960s are coming to an end, the series recalls the real-life gender-discrimination lawsuit filed against Newsweek when more than 40 women sued the magazine after they were told, “women don’t write here.”
These women, graduates of prestigious universities, were kept behind-the-scenes as they pulled archive material, made phone calls, conducted interviews and sometimes even wrote first drafts of an article. All of this was in support of the male reporters who were then given the byline and all of the credit for the published pieces. The highest level a woman could reach was that of researcher.
The series is inspired by a book of the same name by Lynn Povich, and boasts a trio of female executive producers as well: Dana Calvo, Darlene Hunt and Lynda Obst.
While based on a very real case, the employees in the series are all fictional, except for one well-known journalist; a young woman named Nora Ephron.
Ephron, while a catalyst for action here, is not exactly a main player in this saga. That role belongs to Patti Robinson, a free spirited pot-smoker who’s extremely committed to her job, but well aware of the counterculture movement happening in the real world. Patti is joined by Jane Hollander, a true office professional who’s also a stuck-up rich girl, and Cindy Reston, a somewhat naive young woman who’s stuck in an unhappy marriage.
Enter ACLU attorney Eleanor Holmes Norton who sees the women as the ideal plaintiffs for the country’s first class-action sexual discrimination lawsuit.
The Patti-Jane-Cindy trio each provide a different look at the feminist movement as they use the crusade as background for their own personal rebellions; Patti as the pure representation of ‘I am woman, hear me roar’, while Jane defies the societal norms that have led to multiple disappoints in her personal life, and shy Cindy realizes that she alone has the power to escape her loveless marriage.
These personal stories are mixed with era-appropriate culture references including pot, the pill, Iron Butterfly, Easy Rider, Vietnam and attempts at peace, love and understanding. As 1969 turns to 1970, the exploration of an obvious shift in opinions about personal accountability as well as individual acclaim and recognition is evident in this narrative.
Solely because of the time period portrayed here, Good Girls Revolt will be compared to the much-acclaimed Mad Men, a series that while overall about something else, did more than just touch on the issue of women’s rights and sexual discrimination in the workplace.
It’s not entirely unfair to use the baseline of Mad Men to analyze Good Girls Revolt. In fact, there do seem to be some commonalities between the women of Sterling-Cooper [Draper-Price] and their counterparts at News of the Week; the most obvious and powerful one being that both groups of women clearly keep the office running whether their male colleagues realize it or not.
Both groups of women also gain confidence in equal measure in their professional and personal lives as they navigate the ups and downs of business and pleasure. In Mad Men, Joan and Peggy evolved from women simply trying to follow the societal path of working until marriage into women who realized that nailing down a spouse may not be the ultimate goal for every woman, that a career might just be far more fulfilling.
Good Girls Revolt echoes this as these women experience their first tastes of power and sexual freedom while they stake their claim in the workplace and society as a whole.
Watching Patti, Jane and Cindy tackle issues that seem strangely relevant to those of today, all while striving for and experiencing an empowerment they’ve long sought makes the ten episodes of Good Girls Revolt a pleasing study in inspiration, aspiration and transition.
All episodes of Good Girls Revolt are available on Amazon.