I was so excited to watch the story of Madeline Murray O’Hair. I admit I didnt know much about her, but I did know that she founded American Atheists, sued to get prayer out of public schools, and was a staunch defender of separation of Church and State. I had also heard that she was a bit crass and something about her and her son not getting along. So okay, I wasn’t completely clueless, but I’m an atheist and I have to know SOMETHING about the woman who started it all. But I wanted to know more and I was sure from the trailer that Netflix was going to knock this out of the park.
I couldn’t have been more disappointed. While I wouldn’t compare O’Hair to MLK as a person, the best way I could describe the movie would be if someone had made a biopic of MLK but only focused on his affairs and assasination. The impact of her landmark court case, the way she consistently fought for the rights of minorities, and her tireless efforts to make all faiths and people equal in the U.S. were barely and almost apologetically mentioned. Instead the movie focused on her horrific death with the director sporadically sprinkling in details which subtly insinuated that she brought it upon herself. They also, somehow, made her estranged son the hero. A struggling alcoholic, he abandoned his daughter and family and sought Jesus to maintain his sobriety. A recovering alcoholic myself I can’t judge the extreme measures people will go to in order to escape the terror of addiction. But the way O’Hair is silently blamed for her sons choices is one more example of the movies bias against an atheist.
She was a champion of human rights and the first amendment, but instead she was portrayed as nothing more than a publicity hungry crazy woman. Though I’ll at least commend the director for pointing out that her critics were just as hungry for public attention as she was. Madeline Murray O’Hair, for all her flaws and crass, had the guts to stand up to an entire nation and remind them of their own constitutional and historical roots. She insisted that the individual matters, and that in a country as diverse as America all cultures, religions and beliefs should be celebrated. But The Most Hated Woman In America is a movie that seems content to wash away yet another legacy under the tidal wave of Christianity.