Makers: Women Who Make America

Movie review by
Sierra Filucci, Common Sense Media
Makers: Women Who Make America Movie Poster Image
Inspiring survey of important women in U.S. history.
  • PG-13
  • 2013
  • 180 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Through the voices of famous, influentual, or otherwise important women (and a few men), we hear the challenges, triumphs, and incredibly bravery it took to begin and follow through with the feminist movement. Expressed are the ideas that women deserve equal pay, equal treatment under the law, and equal opportunity for happiness and occupation.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Women like Hillary Clinton, Billie Jean King, Gloria Steinem, Dolores Huerta, Faye Wattleton, Ellen DeGeneres, and Oprah Winfrey offer testimony of their challenges and successes, offering an incredibly inspirational picture of what it took to be part of the women's movement. Opponents to the movement, like Phyllis Schlafly also offer their views.

Violence

Part 3 discusses domestic violence and rape with images of victims and attackers, though brief and non-graphic. Discussions of sex crimes and policies and laws around prosecution. Part 2 talks about abortion and shows intense scuffles between protesters.

Sex

Part 1 discusses happiness in the home broadly, with allusions to sexual satisfaction. Part 2 delves into the sexual revolution, talking about birth control pills and how they changed women's attitudes toward sex. Footage of couples kissing passionately, dancing provocatively. Part 3 talks about sexuality in pop culture, using Madonna and "Like a Virgin" as examples.

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Era-specific images of Gloria Steinem and other women smoking. Virginia Slims was the sponsor of the Battle of the Sexes. Rare images of drinks during social scenes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Makers: Women Who Make America is a series of full-length documentaries about important women in the United States, ranging from historical figures to politicians to comedians. Depending on the episode, content can vary in appropriateness for younger kids. Some episodes discuss potentially sensitive issues like abortion, birth control pills, domestic violence, and rape as they relate to the women's movement beginning in the 1950s through today. Other episodes, like the one on women in comedy, include some edgy humor about sex, sexuality, and rape, along with plenty of strong language, though the strongest words are muted. Teens mature enough to handle these topics will find an inspirational story told by strong, smart, impressive women. Younger kids might be able to watch clips on key topics on the show's website.

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What's the story?

In a series of full-length documentaries, MAKERS: WOMEN WHO MAKE AMERICA catalogs and explores through first-person narratives, the incredible history of women in America. Ranging in topic from overall history to specific areas of interest like comedy or politics, the series travels through time documenting the challenges and triumphs of the modern women's movement. Narrated by different influential women (Meryl Streep narrates the history documentary) and featuring interviews with Hillary Clinton, Billie Jean King, Gloria Steinem, Ellen DeGeneres, Oprah Winfrey, Sarah Silverman, Joan Rivers, and many more, the documentaries offer first-person accounts of early organizing, the founding of Ms. Magazine, the sexual revolution, the legalization of abortion, early comedians, influential politicians, and so much more. Historical footage and imagery adds to the first person accounts to flesh out the stories and issues.

Is it any good?

The primary value of this documentary's thorough survey of the women's movement and women's history in the United States is the variety and caliber of women who offer their stories. From Hillary Clinton talking about her experience in law school and then as First Lady, to Gloria Steinem recalling the first issues of Ms. Magazine, to Joan Rivers laughing about her first appearance on the Tonight Show -- these women are inspirational, funny, and incredible role models for young women and men.

The length of the documentaries along with the reliance on lots of talking heads make it slow going at certain points, though most of the sections speed along from one topic to the next fairly seamlessly. Teens with a healthy attention span and an interest in history will find lots of juicy stories told with plenty of humor, but also a recognition that the battles fought were not so far in the past. The website that accompanies the documentaries offers shorter clips from the episodes, which might be better fodder for younger viewers.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about women's history. What are some of the moments in history that have made the biggest impact on women's lives today? Who are your female role models? How do you feel about the term "feminist"?

  • Do you think the women's movement is over? Are women treated fairly at home, career, law, etc.? What else needs to be done?

  • Are you surprised by anything you learned? What would you like to know more about?

  • Who are some of your female role models?

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