The Most Hated Woman in America is a Netflix movie based on the true story of American Atheists founder, Madalyn Murray O’Hair and her fight for religious freedom in America.
It does not shy away from highlighting the issues of society at the time. It is raw and surprisingly gritty as it strips back the glamour of American life in the 50’s, by focusing on those who were not the ‘societal norm’. You are taken through Madalyn’s fight against being put in a metaphorical box by her traditionalist father for being a single unwed mother. You are exposed to African Americans marching against secularisation and you see Madalyn’s family being ridiculed for her religious views, or lack of. it is clear that this movie does not shy away from highlighting the issues of society at the time.
The movie also covers many public events of her life where she fought for her beliefs, dragged through court cases, participated in rallies, and delved into her abduction.
Director, Tommy O’Haver, and Writer Irene Turner, don’t paint Murray O’Hair as a hero, they portray her as a human with flaws. They show how her morals and motivation for freedom of religion became tainted by the possibility of becoming rich and that this leads to most of her problems. However, they skim over how this motivation transition occurs. Melissa Leo achieves an interesting portrayal of Murray O’Hair, however she can’t undo the inconsistencies.
It jumps back and forth in time, sometimes benefiting the story progression, other times making it feel like it is skipping across details. This helps the story to progress and keeps the audience interested but when it doesn’t answer their questions it leaves them confused and wondering if they missed something.
The American Atheists have made comments in regards to the movie. They appreciate how the movie demonstrates Murray O’Hair impact on society, but they claim that a lot of the conversations, characters and money issues were added for dramatic effect.