Nostalgia for the 1960s never seems to fade. It was, we're told, an era that reshaped the American political landscape and empowered millions of people to challenge cultural norms. It rallied a generation. Its energy was palpable. If you were part of it, you should feel damn lucky. Some of us who weren't born until long after the sixties still feel cheated at the ostensible apathy of our current crop of radicals.
But '60s nostalgia is often concentrated in the anti-Vietnam War effort. Diverse interests coalesced around the anti-war movement: civil rights, gender equality and justice for the working class. But the story of the sixties, after the millionth telling, feels recycled: Abbie Hoffman, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Woodstock, LSD, The End.
MAKERS: Women Who Make America a new three-part documentary airing February 26 on PBS, will do little to abate this misty-eyed view of sixties-era activism. What it will do, however, is build a new appreciation for the heady nature of the women's movement.
Mirroring the feminist maxim that "the personal is political," MAKERS revisits the last 50 years of the women's movement, or what's commonly known as its second wave, through the personal stories of participants and witnesses.
Unlike many documentaries that sideline the women's movement in favor of a broader view of the era (with lip service to the fair but reductive point that the Pill enabled women to have more sex), MAKERS stays true to its subject through reminiscing about visions of revolutionary social change and the radical, sometimes provocative, rethinking of institutions.
PBS kicked off its four-part documentary series America in Primetime last night with "Independent Woman," a look at female characters from American TV's past and present. The episode featured some great interviews with writers, producers, and actors along with lots of archival footage from I Love Lucy to Grey's Anatomy. What it didn't feature, however, was a critical look at representations of women in television through the decades.