Mrs. America Season 1 Episode 5 Review: Phyllis & Fred & Brenda & Marc

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The women's liberation movement and Stop ERA worked to advance their respective agendas on Mrs. America Season 1 Episode 5.

Both groups had a lot on their plates, but it was tougher when some members had to deal with identity crises.

The episode, "Phyllis & Fred & Brenda & Marc," forced the titular characters to confront themselves most intimately.

Brenda and Marc - Mrs. America Season 1 Episode 5

Brenda Feigen-Fasteau challenged Phyllis Schlafly to debate the Equal Rights Amendment, right before she spiraled into the unknown, by having an affair with photographer Jules.

Brenda never had sexual relationships with women before, so when she discovered she loved it, Brenda had to reevaluate herself, especially since she was married to a man with a baby on the way.

Phyllis caught Brenda off guard by pushing for their spouses to join their debate. In the end, Brenda agreed, but she was not thrilled about it.

It was the debate that charged her identity crisis.

Brenda Backstage - Mrs. America Season 1 Episode 5

All Brenda wanted to do was explore her sexuality with no constraints, no rules, and no conditions. She just wanted the freedom to be with Jules the way she wanted.

But the impending debate was a harsh reminder that Brenda was still married, and she had to play "the perfect heterosexual couple" with Marc in front of the cameras.

Thankfully, the debate went well in Brenda and Marc's favor, but it was not without Brenda breaking down in their hotel room afterward.

The dilemma tore her apart. Brenda wanted to be with Jules, intimately. But she also loved Marc. 

What if you didn't have to be this or that? I mean, what if there was another way? Isn't that the whole point of living a radical life?

It's Okay If It's Who You Are - Mrs. America Season 1 Episode 5

Brenda chose to stay with Marc, and doing so showed that her internal conflict was far from over.

Deep down, she knew that despite her love for Marc, she truly wanted to be with a woman. But she was scared of what that meant for the women's liberation movement if she came out as gay.

Brenda did not feel trapped by Marc. But she did feel trapped by societal stereotypes and the pressure to remain in a happy heterosexual marriage.

Brenda is a second-wave feminist. She is a lawyer for the ACLU. She speaks up for what she believes in, even if it is against societal norms.

But when it came to her personal life, she froze.

Once she gives birth, Brenda will become a working mother living in the city with her husband. She would not be a housewife, but she would still blend in with some societal norms.

Brenda may be in a progressive marriage, but it is not enough. She needed more freedom. That is why Brenda is so passionate about the Equal Rights Amendment and feminism. She fights for women everywhere, and on a more subconscious level, for herself.

Besides, you can't reason with women like Phyllis, they've internalized the patriarchy.

Phyllis Schlafly also endured an identity crisis on Mrs. America Season 1 Episode 5.

Bruce's LSATs and John's public image consumed her so much that she almost did not recognize the bigger picture.

Name the Case - Mrs. America Season 1 Episode 5

Phyllis wanted to go back to law school, but not for the right reasons. She wanted to pursue a law degree because she was afraid of the women's liberation movement defeating Stop ERA and officially ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment into the constitution. 

She needed a law degree to stop second-wave feminists successfully, and through this desire, she pressured Bruce into studying hard for the LSATs, even if he did not seem all that interested.

At the same time, she was afraid of people finding out that John is gay. It may have seemed like she was trying to protect him, but she was looking out for her public image.

Phyllis's conflict stemmed from her public image. After John was almost outed and she was humiliated on the debate stage, she felt as if her only solution was law school.

By earning a law degree, Phyllis could protect her public image legally, and she could build better arguments to avoid the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment.

The Impending Debate - Mrs. America Season 1 Episode 5

Despite an explosive fight with Fred, Phyllis ultimately chose to apply to a law school close to home so she could attend classes and still be there for her family.

Fred: What was the biggest taking point between North and South Vietnamese during the Paris Peace Talks?
Phyllis: The shape of the negotiating table.
Fred: So, if you don't like the terms of the debate, change the shape of the table.

Both Brenda's and Phyllis's decisions sparked identity crises in their respective husbands. Although the focus of the episode was Brenda and Phyllis, Marc and Fred were still essential. 

Despite attempting to be progressive, Marc Feigen-Fasteau's insecurities with his masculinity got the best of him.

When Brenda confessed that she was still sleeping with Jules, Marc was upset about the fact that she cheated, but he was even more shocked at the prospect of Brenda leaving him for a woman.

Brenda's Gallery Shot - Mrs. America

Marc needed to undergo a journey of self-discovery. If he was more upset about his wife choosing a woman over him rather than the fact that she cheated, he should rethink his priorities.

And to do that, he should reflect on himself, his masculinity, and expectations regarding masculinity.

Stan: Well, perhaps the answer to equality lies in the courts.
Ruth: Rulings can be overturned. Writing an explicit prohibition against sex discrimination into the constitution makes it just as unacceptable as discriminating on the basis of race.

Fred Schlafly's masculinity also challenged him when he found out about Phyllis's plans to go to law school.

It was not so much that she wants to pursue a degree; it was more so that Fred felt as if the world sidelined for his wife. Especially since Fred is the head of the house, the head of the family, and people should be focused on him.

It hurt more when the profile a journalist completed on him referred to him as "Phyllis Schlafly's lawyer husband."

Fred became fading background music. Nobody cared to notice him anymore. Everything revolved around his wife, and his job as a lawyer was the only thing he had that was solely his until Phyllis decided to go to law school.

The episode ended on rocky grounds between Phyllis and Fred, and they will continue to remain unstable as long as Fred allows his perceived notion of masculinity to consume him.

Now it is your turn! What did you think of "Phyllis & Fred & Brenda & Marc," Fanatics?

Do you think Brenda and Phyllis made the right choices? How do you think they will play out on future episodes? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Phyllis & Fred & Brenda & Marc Review

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Sarah Novack is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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Mrs. America Season 1 Episode 5 Quotes

Besides, you can't reason with women like Phyllis, they've internalized the patriarchy.


Stan: Well, perhaps the answer to equality lies in the courts.
Ruth: Rulings can be overturned. Writing an explicit prohibition against sex discrimination into the constitution makes it just as unacceptable as discriminating on the basis of race.