I recently had the pleasure of screening The Glorias, a biopic based on Gloria Steinem’s memoir, My Life on the Road. It’s almost mindblowing, but within just my lifetime, women couldn’t open a checking account without their husband. An unmarried woman could not get birth control. Sexual harassment was not a crime. It was just an annoyance all women faced in the workplace. This is the America where Gloria Steinem became a feminist icon.
Rather than take a straightforward journey from childhood to today, writer/director Julie Taymor frames this movie as a conversation between four different Glorias at four different ages, two of which are children and two of which are adults (Julianne Moore, Alicia Vikander, Ryan Kiera Armstrong, Lulu Wilson). The older, comfortable, mature adult Gloria has conversations with each of these younger versions. They discuss events, choices, and regrets as they relive the experiences that shaped Gloria Steinem and shaped what we think of feminism today.
Steinem was always more intersectional in her views than some of her contemporary second-wave feminists, and the movie also reflects that. The movie also gives strong roles to many of the other women and especially women of color who fought for women’s rights including Dorothy Pitman Hughes (Janelle Monáe), Florynce Kennedy (Lorraine Toussaint), Bella Abzug (Bette Midler), Dolores Huerta (Moneca Sanchez), and Barbara Jordan (Margo Moorer). Many of the scenes are less of Gloria Steinem doing something or saying something but of her listening or transcribing as others tell their stories. It’s a refreshing way to dodge what could have become a white savior trope.
If there is a flaw in this movie it is that there’s too much story for one movie to tell. I couldn’t see any obvious instances where factual details were fictionalized (multiple characters compressed to one, etc.) but there were definitely moments where stories were skipped. Steinem’s marriage and her husband’s subsequent death were two sentences of dialog to a different character.
Covering so much material required other sacrifices. Many of the dramatic moments do not have time to linger and emotionally register. The funny moments don’t pause for a laugh. It all goes very quickly from transition to transition, timeline to timeline. Even so, this introduction works well to introduce older kids and young adults to this recent moment of feminist history and where we are today. I definitely recommend it over Hulu’s Mrs. America, but so does Steinem.
The Glorias is available for purchase on Digital and Streaming exclusively on Prime Video starting September 30th.