November 4, 2015
Amazon achieves total monopoly on irony with TV show about troubled workplace
by Taylor Sperry
On Thursday, Amazon will release the pilot episode of Good Girls Revolt, a series based on Lynn Povich’s nonfiction book of the same title. Both the book and the series recreate the groundbreaking 1970 lawsuit in which 46 women sued Newsweek magazine for gender discrimination—on the exact same day that “Women in Revolt,” Newsweek’s cover story on the Women’s Movement, hit newsstands. It was both a deliciously timed event and the very first female class action lawsuit, which was then followed by suits from women at Time Inc., The Reader’s Digest, The New York Times, NBC, and the Associated Press.
Sarah Seltzer at Flavorwire writes that the first episode of Good Girls Revolt is trying to do too much: it attempts, but fails “to pick up where Mad Men left off.” The show references “pot, blue jeans, love-ins, Haight Ashbury, groupies, the Manson family” and “tales of ‘Nam” against a soundtrack headlined by Buffalo Springfield, the Zombies, and The Doors….while still, ostensibly, telling the story of Second Wave Feminism and, more specifically, a major historical moment for professional women (who still, “on average, earn less than men in virtually every single occupation”). Also Nora Ephron is a character! And she’s played by Meryl Streep’s daughter, Grace Gummer.
So there’s a lot going on. But it’s an interesting coincidence that this series, which is fundamentally premised on the championing of employees’ rights, is being developed by Amazon Studios and will be streaming, naturally, on Amazon Prime Instant Video. We reported earlier this week that Amazon itself is currently facing a new lawsuit by four former Amazon Prime Now delivery drivers, who argue that their misclassification as “independent contractors” rather than “employees” deprives them of wages, benefits, and legal protections. And of course Amazon has also come under fire recently from Jodi Kantor and David Streitfeld, who published an exposé of the retailer’s “bruising” office culture in the New York Times earlier this year.
So, if Amazon does pick up Good Girls Revolt for a full season, it will be interesting to see if, as Seltzer suggests in her piece, its new show will continue “to explore the connection between individual ambition and collective action.”
Timing, as Newsweek’s “Women in Revolt” demonstrated back in 1970, is everything.
Taylor Sperry is a former Melville House editor.