Commentary: Why Hollywood Attempts to Silence Dissident Women

by Michael Leaser


Amy Sherman-Palladino’s writing is full of witty, sharp dialogue that makes you need to rewind a couple times every episode to make sure you caught exactly what was being said. Usually, it’s brilliant.

In her Emmy-winning Amazon series, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” Sherman-Palladino has created two dynamic female characters: polished upper West Side housewife Midge Maisel and her wise-cracking street smart manager Susie Myerson.

Sherman-Palladino is responsible for many strong, empowered female characters, such as those in the “Gilmore Girls.” So it’s a bit jarring to see her new show slander one of the strongest, most influential women of the 20th century in the penultimate episode of Season 3.

Younger viewers may not be familiar with Phyllis Schlafly, so they will likely come away from the episode thinking she was, as Sherman-Palladino describes her: a “monster.”

So who was this “monster”? Born in 1924, Phyllis Schlafly not only lived through, but experienced the Great Depression. Then in 1952, at a time when most women were largely expected to be good housewives like Mrs. Maisel, Schlafly ran for Congress as a Republican. Though she lost that contest, she continued to exert influence in the party, promoting a strong anti-Communist line and chastising Nixon in 1960 for bowing to liberal Republicans like Nelson Rockefeller, whom she accused of corruption and putting international interests above American interests.

It is in this context that Miriam “Midge” Maisel, doing voiceover work in New York, is starting to practice a live radio ad for Schlafly when her father Abe comes into the room and “educates” Mrs. Maisel about Schlafly.

Abe: “She is a right-wing nut job. She’s come out against Nixon.”

Midge: “Right. We don’t like Nixon.”

Abe: “Because she thinks he’s too left wing.”

Midge: “That doesn’t sound real.”

Abe: “She also said Eisenhower only got in office because of secret kingmakers in New York. I’m not sure if you know what ethnicity she’s referring to with the words ‘kingmakers’ and ‘New York…’”

Abe then proceeds to make a crude reference to the obvious – to him – conclusion that she’s referring to Jews. The only problem with that statement is that Schlafly herself identified liberal Republican WASPs like Rockefeller as those despised kingmakers.

When Midge makes it to the studio and gets into the sound booth, she decides a minute before air that she cannot read the ad.

Midge to her manager, Susie: “This woman, this Schlafly woman, she’s awful. I stopped by the library. I looked her up. She is racist and sexist, and she uses way too much hairspray. I don’t want to speak for her.”

Susie: “Miriam, you just recorded a spot for a massage parlor in Newark. Do you know how many greasy hand jobs happen on a daily basis at a massage parlor in Newark?”

Midge: “This is on a whole different scale. This is a giant greasy hand job.”

Then the voice actor playing the husband starts reading the ad.

Husband: “America, the land of promise. Honey, do you ever think about the kind of world you want our kids to inherit?”

Susie jumps in and starts reading the ad.

Susie: “It’s all I can think about when I look into their sweet innocent faces and their big blue eyes.”

Husband: “But there’s so many forces working to usurp us.”

Susie: “I know, dear, like foreigners and Communists who don’t even think we should fly the American flag outside our little house.”

Husband: “There’s nothing wrong with taking pride in the Stars and Stripes. Here, lean in, honey.”

Susie: “Oh, I love it when you rub my nose.”

Husband: “And there’s nothing wrong with taking pride in our country’s might.”

Susie: “I was just explaining to little Timmy this morning that the atomic bomb is a marvelous gift that was given to our country by God.” She then breaks character, swearing and uttering, “This woman’s a monster!”

Husband continues: “Did you also tell the children that we can’t let certain well-financed minorities determine America’s future?”

Another woman in the studio rushes in to finish the ad. She skims through the script but obviously can’t find the line, so she makes this up: “Yes, my dear, I told them to brush their teeth and not let certain well-financed minorities have futures.”

After the ad ends, the woman looks up and says, “This woman’s a monster.”

Ignoring the vulgar comparison of the Schlafly ad with a massage parlor ad, there is no record that Schlafly used the phrase “well-financed minorities,” and even if she did it was likely in the context of those liberal WASP kingmakers.

The larger question is why did Palladino and her husband Daniel, although members of the Hollywood left, feel the need to write this political character assassination when they have avoided anything of this scale in their shows before?

The answer likely lies in what Schlafly did after 1960. She was instrumental in defeating the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution in the 1970s. Schlafly contended that the amendment could lead to the elimination of special rights for women, such as alimony for abandoned housewives, exemption from the draft, and the tendency for courts to favor mothers in child custody cases.

The more recent transgression, and likely the one to draw the Palladinos’ ire, was Schlafly’s final book, “The Conservative Case for Trump.”

For the Hollywood left, figures like Schlafly must be mischaracterized, mocked, and diminished. They’re hoping that where they lead, their audience will follow. If it requires fabricating details about a deceased political figure they disagree with, well, we shouldn’t be surprised.

– – –

Michael Leaser is an editorial associate at The Charlemagne Institute. As vice president of Cave Pictures, he produced the films Wildflower, The Ticket (starring Dan Stevens), and Martin Scorsese’s adaptation of Silence. He has written 50 film and culture articles for World magazine.






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One Thought to “Commentary: Why Hollywood Attempts to Silence Dissident Women”

  1. William R. Delzell

    My beef against Phyllis Schlafly was that she was far more misandrist (anti-male) than any of the feminists she attacked. For example, she made it seem that only men are capable of committing horrible sex offenses (and that ALL men, according to her, are potential sex predators); that only females could ever be victims of such crimes. Obviously, she chose to ignore people like Susan Smith, a white woman in South Carolina who drowned her two baby boys and who subsequently attempted to pin her crime on an innocent black man. Feminists denounced these child killings and the attempts to frame an innocent person. We also had trials of female day care workers who were convicted by the 1980’s of child molestation, which proved that this crime is not an exclusively male province.

    Schlafly also supported male-only conscription while hollering for equal rights. Evidently, she wanted all the benefits but none of the risks associated with citizenship. She also attacked young men who resisted the draft during the Cold War. Feminists, to their credit, opposed such anti-male laws. The fact that handicapped men and fathers of little kids were liable to the draft when able-bodies and childless females were not made Schlafly all the more disgusting.

    She also erroneously stated that the U.S. in World War Two never attempted to draft women for any capacity. Actually, we almost passed a FEMALE-ONLY nurses’ draft in March of 1945 when the lower House passed this bill by an overwhelming margin (bigger than any of the margins in which they passed peacetime male conscription laws between 1940 and 1952. In fact, future ERA opponent Sam Erwin as a young Congressman voted for the all-female nurses’ draft bill. That bill was introduced by a Southeasterner from Kentucky, Congressman May. Ironically, the chief support for this nurses’ draft came from the supposedly chivalric Southeastern U.S.! All of Tennessee’s congresspersons, including the two East Tennessee Republicans who voted against peacetime male conscription between 1940 and 1952, also supported this bill without any negative consequences to their careers. Had the Senate voted right away as a full floor, it most likely would have echoed the Houses’s overwhelmingly affirmative vote. As it turned out, Roosevelt suddenly put the bill on the back burner to deal with other issues that came up. With the end of the European part of the war, pressure for the nurses’ draft suddenly subsided.

    I really take offense at these right-wing women like Schlafly who blame the male gender for everything under the sun (or is it son?), and possibly the sun itself.