Amazon's latest original series features an all-star cast tackling an all-too-relevant story set in the late-1960s. A The Newsroom meets Mad Men period drama, Good Girls Revolt tells the story of the "researchers," or fact-checkers, at a huge, fictional news magazine called News of the Week. While all the researchers are female, not one of them seems to be able to rise up the ranks to become a senior editor, or even a staff writer. It's because, as Jim Belushi's character puts it, "Girls do not do rewrites." So is Good Girls Revolt based on a true story? Actually, yes!
The big giveaway in the trailer is when Grace Gummer introduces herself as Nora Ephron, setting up the biographical elements of the show. And although News of the Week is a fictional magazine, the story Good Girls Revolt tells is based on a real lawsuit filed against Newsweek by its female staffers back in 1970: the first of its kind gender discrimination lawsuit filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The series is based on a book called The Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued their Bosses and Changed the Workplace, which was published in 2013 by Lynn Povich, one of the women who worked at Newsweek at the time and was involved in filing the lawsuit.
Povich was actually heavily consulted for the making of the series, working in tandem with the show's creator to lend authenticity to the scripts. Unfortunately, according to a review of the show in Newsweek, what really happened was so bad that it had to be watered down for TV viewing:
"Dana Calvo, creator of the show and an executive producer and writer on it, says that Povich, who read scripts for accuracy and advice, would repeatedly indicate that some of the men were more sexist in real life. Calvo adds that there was a limit to what Amazon would let them depict."
The other character based on a real person in Good Girls Revolt is Eleanor Holmes Norton, played by Joy Bryant. She was a famous civil rights attorney at the time who mostly dealt with cases of racial discrimination, but convinced the women of Newsweek that theirs was a discrimination case, too. And while Bryant is the only person of color in the cast, that sets her up to be the countercultural icon who galvanized a bunch of white women into action.
"That’s part of this story: The fact that these white women who are privileged and middle class had no idea that they were part of this fight," said Bryant in an interview with Variety. "And it took a sister to let them know that."
Nora Ephron famously left Newsweek after a short stint working as a mail girl, realizing that she'd never achieve her goals of becoming a journalist if she continued working there, before the lawsuit began to come together. Grace Gummer channels this story as Ephron in the show, quitting on the spot after a senior editor tells her that she can't submit edits to a piece she did all the work on.
While some of the storylines feel a little predictable and contrived — Anna Camp as the reluctant career girl who's desperate to be married, Erin Darke as the submissive newlywed on her way to a sexual awakening — the way Nora Ephron and Eleanor Holmes Norton buck those snoozy archetypes of second wave feminism feels fresh enough for the show to be worth the watch. Amazon releases Season 1 on Friday, Oct. 28.