Review: GOOD GIRLS REVOLT
It’s funny. When I started PCN eight years ago, I made TV one of the categories because I occasionally review TV shows, but as I started writing about Good Girls Revolt, I didn’t know how to label it because it’s on Amazon Prime. Is it an iPad show? Laptop show?
Whatever you call it, it’s an engaging, thought-provoking series you should definitely check out. The 10 episodes premiered last Friday and I binged them (how else?) in 24 hours.
It’s about the real case of 46 female Newsweek employees who filed a complaint against the magazine in 1970 for gender discrimination, because no women were allowed to be reporters there.
One of those women, Lynn Povich, wrote a book about it called The Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued their Bosses and Changed the Workplace, which became the basis for this show, though the characters and magazine have been fictionalized to give the creators more creative license.
The focus is on three young women: Patti, Jane, and Cindy, researchers and photo caption writer, respectively, for the male reporters and photographer at News of the Week (so subtle). The women chase down stories, gather facts, interview people, write up drafts, and then the men make some revisions (sometimes not) and slap their bylines on the stories.
Patti is the ambitious flower child, the leader of the group. Cindy feels trapped in an unhappy marriage with a man who has given her only one year to work before she must start producing babies. Jane comes from money and is fine with remaining a researcher because she’s certain she won’t be there long, only until her longtime boyfriend proposes, which should be any day now.
Into this mix comes Nora Ephron (one of only two characters who retain their real names), the catalyst for the revolt because she refuses to accept the status quo. When she sees her female colleagues fighting over stories for which they’d receive no credit, the future famed writer says, “It’s like you’re fighting over the bottom bunk in prison.” Grace Gummer nails Ephron’s essence but looks exactly like her mom, Meryl Streep.
Ephron doesn’t last long at the magazine, but long enough to give the other women a wakeup call. Their trajectories move at different speeds, but eventually they realize they deserve more and must challenge the system to get it.
Genevieve Angelson is a major discovery as Patti, the spunky girl who knows what she wants and boldly goes after it—or him. Angelson imbues her character with scrappiness and intelligence, convincing us Patti would be a very good writer if only she’s allowed to be one.
Patti has the most fabulous bohemian chic wardrobe, alternating between looking like Brigitte Bardot, Julie Christie, and Michelle Phillips. Angelson has said in an interview she was tempted to abscond with all her costumes but didn’t want to get fired. I understand that urge after seeing her strutting around in boots and one cool mini after another.
Erin Darke is endearing as sweet, vulnerable Cindy, who at first has the least confidence of the three leads but experiences an awakening at work and sexually, occasionally at the same time.
Anna Camp, best known for the Pitch Perfect movies, delivers a complex yet subtle performance as the seemingly perfect woman who holds so tightly to tradition, she becomes the hardest obstacle to move. Her fashion choices are more proper than Patti’s but equally eye popping.
Comparisons to Mad Men are probably inevitable but Good Girls Revolt is from a female point of view. Besides creator Dana Calvo, most of the directors and writers are women—a rarity for any show.
Which isn’t to say the men get bashed. The male characters receive fair and balanced treatment from the writers and the actors who portray them, particularly Hunter Parrish as star reporter Doug and Chris Diamantopolous as Editor-at-Large Finn.
Yes, I often yelled “WTF?!” at the screen due to the men’s sexist behavior. Jane experiences one incident of sexual harassment that’s so obscene, I was shocked into silence. (And it was depressing to think that, judging by a certain presidential candidate’s boasts, that kind of behavior still exists.)
But Doug and Finn are more products of their time than male chauvinists at heart. Once they’re schooled on what women want and how they’d like to be treated, Doug and Finn do attempt to change, albeit not always successfully. Enlightenment doesn’t happen overnight, after all.
What did happen overnight was my finishing the entire season of this show. I didn’t know much about the landmark case before I started watching, and afterward googled many of the key players to learn more. As a former journalist, I’m so thankful I never had to endure what those women did in the newsroom, and that they helped make it possible for me to even call myself a reporter.
Nerd verdict: Very good Revolt
Photos: Amazon Prime Video