While there wasn’t much history to discuss in episodes five and six of “The Americans,” I want to keep the momentum of the blog going. The role of women, a significant theme of another historical drama, “Mad Men,” does make an appearance in “COMINT” and “Trust Me.”
In episode five, the FBI supervisor played by Richard Thomas (“John Boy” from “The Waltons”), mockingly reproaches an agent for commenting on a female colleague’s appearance. While workplace sexism in the early 1980s had diminished somewhat from the days of Don Draper and Sterling Cooper in the mid-1960s, the nation was still a decade away from the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas scandal that dramatically raised awareness of the issue in 1991.
Elizabeth’s KGB controller also criticizes the stalled progress of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in the United States. Indeed, after passing the Congress overwhelmingly in 1972 and quickly gaining ratification in a majority of the states, the ERA was on the verge of failing in 1981. The emergence of the New Right and an antifeminist movement led by conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly in the 1970s left the amendment three states short of the three-fourths necessary to become law. After President Jimmy Carter extended the ratification time by three years in 1979, feminists worked furiously, but were unable to secure passage in Illinois or several border and southern states before time expired in 1982. It is noteworthy that the ERA lost momentum after the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade in 1973, which provided fuel to the pro-life movement and the emerging religious right of the period.
While critics seem to love the show, I’m tiring of the on-again, off-again, arranged marriage of Philip and Elizabeth. I’ll try to be patient, but “The Americans” is beginning to wear on me.