Mrs. America: Phyllis & Fred & Brenda & Marc
May 9, 2020 11:54 AM - Season 1, Episode 5 - Subscribe

The National Women's Political Caucus challenges Phyllis to a TV debate. Phyllis' husband counters with a married couples' debate. Thus Phyllis & Fred & Brenda & Marc use their marriages to bolster the case for/against the ERA. Yet neither couple's marriage is as simple as seen on TV.

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice became the signature film of Paul Mazursky and was a critical and commercial success. It was the fifth highest-grossing film of 1969. After this film's release, it led to other movies dealing with wife swapping, infidelity, and other types of experimentation with interpersonal relationships inside American society.
There’s a stark contrast between the aftermath for both marriages after the debate. Phyllis and Fred have a huge fight about his lack of support and her interest in going to law school, which ends, disturbingly, with Phyllis slapping herself. Meanwhile, Brenda opens up to Marc, saying she’s not even sure if she likes Jules despite how much she likes sleeping with her. Marc reminds her bisexuality exists.
AV Club recap
posted by Monochrome (3 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Telling people what to do despite a lack of qualifications or knowledge is basically Phyllis’s jam. Then the two sit side-by-side at the piano playing “The Entertainer,” most famous in the early ’70s as the theme from The Sting, a movie in which Robert Redford and Paul Newman play a pair of con artists. Who are John and Phyllis Schlafly at this point if not a pair of con artists, the son who is forced to pull off a straight-guy long con and the mom trying to persuade the American public that she can speak credibly about constitutional law when all she can actually do is pull made-up cases out of her rear end.
Vulture recap

Phyllis may have a gay son, but it didn't change her views one bit. Surprisingly, he seems to have taken his mother's advice (willpower vs smoking) to heart. John Schlafly said in 1992, "The [homosexual] inclination is not a choice. But we all have a choice to make in what we do with the inclination." He became an attorney and worked for his mother, fighting against gay marriage.
posted by Monochrome at 12:18 PM on May 9, 2020 [1 favorite]

Betty learned the lesson that a debate with Phyllis is not without danger. "Mistake!" she proclaims. But even though Betty has changed her views, she's still a minority voice among the women. :-\
posted by Monochrome at 12:33 PM on May 9, 2020

Man, I loved the structure of this episode.
The build up to the debate - following on the previous failed debate with Friedan, and all of the extra personal drama on Brenda's side - just had us shivering with anxiety for the terrible things to come. And then the aftermath is completely flipped on both sides. Schlafly is suddenly in an intense marital dispute, and Brenda+Marc come back together. Competence prevails: Brenda's going in on a tower of expertise, and all of the other Stuff just doesn't matter. It was awesome.
posted by kaibutsu at 12:29 AM on May 20, 2020 [2 favorites]

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