For All Mankind's Margo Madison is the 1st woman in Flight Controller Center, smart and hardworking, but struggles to be taken seriously
Many even believe she is at NASA only due to her friendship with former Director of NASA Wernher von Braun. Her smarts and her work don't receive the recognition they deserve and sexism at work, which was rampant in the 1970s, is clearly one of the main reasons
'For All Mankind' set in the 1970s during the Nixon administration portrays the space war that took place between the Soviet Union and the U.S., but in the form of an alternative-history show. In this show, actor Wrenn Schmidt plays the role of the first woman to enter the Flight Controller Center (FCC), Margo Madison.
She has worked hard to be at the position she is in, but her character also a lot of judgment about being a woman who works amid men. And from the looks of it, she is smarter than most of them.
There is also a preconceived notion that the junior position, which she held before she entered the FCC, was given to her because of her relationship with former Director of NASA Wernher von Braun (Colm Feore).
Her smarts and her work don't receive the recognition they deserve and sexism at work, which was rampant in the 1970s, is clearly one of the main reasons. For instance, during a trial run before Neil Armstrong's mission to the moon, there was a technical difficulty that the respective controller in the FCC is unable to solve.
Margo, who was still a junior employee at the time initially hesitates because of hierarchy, but she ends up trying to solve the problem instead. No one wants to trust her word and see the results of her solution. Instead, she is stonewalled and the trial mission was also aborted.
One of the most interesting scenes in this moderately decent show is the one that introduces Margo. She is seen getting ready for work, while she is studying an equation of some kind.
She stays in a tiny room that is set up efficiently to fit things that are necessary for her to change into work clothes and when she opens the door onto the hallway, we realize that the room is one of the many offices in NASA. She stays where she works and the scene is just a hint at how ambitious, smart and logical she is.
When Margo applies to become a part of the FCC and an interview is set with the Flight Director. The interview is reflective of any interview women have to go through to be hired, even today.
She is asked about her relationship with the Director and how her family knows him. She is asked about wanting kids and taking time off to care for them. What she isn't asked of her qualifications or anything pertaining to her job.
So when she does get into the FCC, despite being capable, Margo doubts if she got the position because of Director Braun. Director Braun had to assure her the promotion was what she deserved, and he had no hand influencing the Flight Director's opinion.
Margo struggles to succeed, and even when she does, it is underscored with self-doubt that is a result of years of conditioning that women are meant to work harder to be recognized for their work.
Even after she enters the FCC, not everyone accepts her, especially men in positions of power. In episode 4, we see Margo sit in for a meeting with the president's advisors about the need to fast-track research into setting up a military base on the moon.
Also present are flight director, Deke Slayton (Chris Bauer) who is the head of the astronaut's office and Edward Baldwin (Joel Kinnaman). They have just found out that one of the Soviet Union's missions has failed and their spacecraft has crashed on the moon's surface.
Looking into the trajectory of their spacecraft, it has been concluded that the Soviet Union also knows about the presence of H2O (water) on the moon. So the meeting is about fast-tracking research into setting up a naval base.
When Margo tries to point out the implications of hurrying into something as big as this without proper research, she is mocked for following the footsteps of her dear friend and former NASA director. Her opinion is not taken seriously until the flight director stands up for its accuracy and this tug of war between success and sexism defines Margo Madison's character.
The next episode of 'For All Mankind' can be streamed on Friday on Apple TV+.