It’s hard not to cringe watching Angie (Danya LaBelle) on Good Girls Revolt, Amazon’s new series, get an illegal abortion during a time when the Republican presidential candidate has said there should be consequences for the now legal act. Or to wince seeing Jane Hollander (Anna Camp) endure sexual harassment from her boss when a 2005 tape of Donald Trump talking about “grabbing [women] by the pussy” is one of the biggest stories of the year.
The eerie parallels between a show set in 1969 (on the cusp of 1970) and the 2016 presidential election are impossible to ignore.
“There’s still a very long way to go, and you really only have to listen to Trump speak for 30 seconds to realize that,” Erin Darke, one of Good Girls Revolt’s breakout stars, told BuzzFeed News during a press day for the show in October.
The United States of America in Good Girls Revolt was a very different place for women than it is today. Women were prevented from obtaining the same education, jobs, and opportunities as men; not to mention, the age-old stereotypes that kept women confined to very specific roles in society. All the while, activists took to the streets, participated in consciousness-raising meetings, and shook up their places of work to protest the status quo.
That’s exactly what happened in March of 1970 at Newsweek when a group of 49 women who worked on staff filed a lawsuit against the magazine for preventing them from being reporters. It was no longer legal for a publication to tell women they could only be relegated to researcher positions, thanks to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and a little something called sex discrimination. For months, the women organized in secret before holding a press conference about their lawsuit on the same day that Newsweek published a cover story titled, “Women in Revolt.”
These events are the basis for the similarly titled Good Girls Revolt, which is based on the original book by Lynn Povich, The Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued Their Bosses and Changed the Workplace. The recently released series centers on mostly fictional characters who struggle to find their places as researchers, reporters, editors-at-large, girlfriends, boyfriends, husbands, wives, mothers, daughters, and activists at the fictional News of the Week magazine. (Only two characters on the show are, in fact, embodiments of real players in the Newsweek uprising: Nora Ephron, played by Grace Gummer, and Eleanor Norton, played by Joy Bryant.)
The core group of researchers — Patti Robinson (Genevieve Angelson), Cindy Reston (Darke), and Jane Hollander (Anna Camp) — do all but beg and plead with the magazine’s editors to simply write news stories with their own bylines, eventually leading them to initiate the lawsuit. While more than 45 years have passed since the legendary uprising at Newsweek, the cast of Good Girls Revolt notes that not all that much has changed.
“Almost all of [the show] is still relevant. The improvement is that it’s relevant on a much smaller scale,” Darke told BuzzFeed News. “And now, when that shit happens you can stand up and say no or sue them.”
Darke’s character Cindy Reston is no stranger to standing up and saying no, even though it wasn’t necessarily a common response at the time. When viewers first meet Cindy, she tells Nora that she has one year to work at News of the Week before her husband wants her to settle down and start a family. But over the course of the series’ 10 episodes, Cindy’s transformation surprises everyone, including herself: She becomes one of the head organizers of the lawsuit, has her own sexual awakening, and (spoiler alert) even leaves her husband.
For Darke, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is just as dangerous as the men who oppressed women during the time Good Girls Revolt is set.
“He doesn’t want change, he wants a reversal in history, and after living in the skin of that history for four months, I really think we should not do that,” she said. “I think a lot of the men in that period didn’t know better; what’s hard now is when you see men behave like that now, they know better.”
Joy Bryant’s character Eleanor Norton is the real-life lawyer who represented the women at Newsweek who wanted the opportunity to be reporters. Norton served as the assistant legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union and had a strong background in advocating for freedom of speech, making her the ideal person for the job. Not only did she lead the first female-driven class action lawsuit by women journalists, but Norton also catapulted their story into the mainstream, inspiring other women in the media to fight for equality as well.
“We’re still feeling repercussions of growing up in a society where we’re all programmed and conditioned to believe certain things about ourselves and other people — to hate ourselves, to hate the other person, or to believe that you’re entitled to certain things,” Bryant told BuzzFeed News. “All of us have to get woke at some point in order for things to really change.”
The male actors on the series were also quick to acknowledge the challenges women still face when it comes to inequality, particularly in the workplace.
“We’re still, half a century later, talking about the gender gap. And we’re not just talking about it because it happened. It’s happening,” said Chris Diamantopoulos, who plays Finn Woodhouse, News of the Week’s editor-at-large.
“The prolific thing about the show is also the sad thing about the show: What the show was dealing with is what we’re dealing with,” he continued. “It’s a call to arms to young people to recognize that now is the time to be decisive, and we are here because we’re standing on the shoulders of these fearless people, these women, who sacrificed their safety and their comfort to give us an opportunity to recognize that we can be better but we can only be better if we keep striving to be better.”
With America on the heels of a groundbreaking presidential election that could mean the first female president or electing a man who Darke called a “misogynist from 1969 who would be very happy to go back to that time period,” it’s clear there’s been change, but it’s far from finished.
“The sooner we realize the inherent privileges that many of us have and not think that it makes you a racist to acknowledge that racism exists, and know that it doesn’t make you a misogynist to realize that sexism exists, things will get better,” Bryant said. “We have to have honest conversations about these differences or else we’re going be right back here 50 years from now.”