Bell bottoms. Anna Camp. Grace Gummer as Nora Ephron, carrying on the legacy of her mother Meryl Streep playing Ephron characters throughout her career. Good Girls Revolt, which celebrates its fifth anniversary on October 28, had it all. It also foreshadowed the #MeToo movement a year before allegations against film producer Harvey Weinstein blew the lid on sexual harassment and assault in Hollywood and other industries. This short-lived period series set in the ’60s, canceled after its first and only season on Amazon, was steeped in both on-screen and off-screen happenings that presented an eerie parallel to real-life harassment and cover-up culture — and five years later, we’re looking at how the series predicted these issues bubbling over in society the following year.
Good Girls Revolt was based on the book of the same name by Lynn Povich, detailing the lawsuit she and her female colleagues brought against Newsweek magazine (fictionalized in the series as News of the Week) in 1969. It centered on a group of female researchers, assistants and low-level employees at the magazine who are doing all of the heavy lifting for their male colleagues yet getting none of the credit. (In some cases, the women were essentially writing the stories that would then receive a man’s byline.) Stellar performances by Camp, Erin Darke, and Betty Gabriel in a luminous pre-Get Out role round out the show — and looking at the show through a post-#MeToo lens, it uncannily dealt with many issues people of marginalized genders have long been reckoning with, both on- and off-screen.
Cindy (Darke) is unsatisfied in her marriage to her controlling husband, so she seeks sexual satisfaction at work, sleeping with a male colleague who loses interest in her almost immediately after. The affair is portrayed as murky at best in the show but takes on a whole new tenor when rewatched in a post-#MeToo, post-Cat Person existence.
Meanwhile Jane (Camp) is the ultimate titular good girl, resisting joining the women’s movement and revelling in attention from men until a confronting incident towards the end of the series in which an editor exposes himself to Jane. This is the moment of Jane’s radicalization: she was trying to pitch herself as a serious writer with a story that the editor ultimately gives to someone else (read: a man) and all he saw her as was a piece of ass.
Beyond Camp’s on-screen revelations, there was a quiet radicalization happening behind the scenes too. Camp herself has said that, while she has experienced “low-level” sexual harassment throughout her career, the set of Good Girls Revolt stood out.
“I just want to say, ‘Do you guys know what show we’re working on right now? That we’re doing a feminism show and we’re talking about sexual harassment and equality and I’m getting called doll, honey, and sweetie more than I ever have?’ It’s fascinating,” she told Business Insider in 2016.
With the ways the on-screen injustices mirrored the off-screen attitudes described by Camp, it should come as no surprise that the show’s cancellation came about under murky circumstances too. Roy Price, the Amazon executive responsible for canceling the series (without even watching it, it was rumored) was accused of sexual harassment and of protecting Weinstein in 2017, just a year after pulling the plug on Good Girls Revolt. For many — once again including Camp herself — it was impossible to resist asking the question: Did Good Girls Revolt, with its push for women to rise up against their workplace harassment, hit a little too close to home?
— Anna Camp (@TheRealAnnaCamp) October 13, 2017
Good Girls Revolt was not a perfect show. It had its problems, particularly when it came to the sidelining of its characters of color, falling into the same pitfalls as other period shows like Mrs. America in which Black women teach privileged white women feminism. In this way, even the show’s shortcomings foreshadowed how the #MeToo movement would play out in our culture, a movement started ten years prior by Black activist Tarana Burke and co-opted by white feminists amidst the cascade of confessions coming out alongside Weinstein accusations.
First airing in November 2015, one could argue that Good Girls Revolt was one year too early for a revolution that has been happening since the 1969 setting of the show and, indeed, time immemorial, reignited by Trump-era resistance as he was sworn into office in January 2017. Today, the show’s content as well as it being canceled when it was — and by whom it was — stands as a time capsule of the moment before the lid blew all the way off anew, proof of how deeply rooted these issues all were before they burst forth into public consciousness through #MeToo. Its prescience should have earned it a longer run, but its early end is even more telling of how dire the situation had become.