MCAT CARS Asks: Accurate Portrayal or Cinematic Betrayal?


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CARS 89: MCAT CARS Asks: Accurate Portrayal or Cinematic Betrayal?

Session 89

What should you do when you encounter a conversational MCAT CARS passage? What about topics with which you are unfamiliar? Follow along and find out!

As always, I’m joined by Jack Westin of JackWestin.com. Check out all their amazing free resources including a free trial session of Jack’s full course to see how it’s like learning from Jack Westin himself.

Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.

Link to article:

https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/power-conservative-nostalgia

When Cate Blanchett as the conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly in the FX-Hulu series Mrs. America gives her first speech against the Equal Rights Amendment in 1971, it seems almost by accident. Speaking at a luncheon of the Daughters of the American Revolution, she abandons her usual topic of defense spending to focus on a subject which up until then had been bipartisan and comparatively bland. The ERA, a constitutional amendment which would guarantee equality between the sexes, had just been passed by the House of Representatives, received an endorsement from a Republican president, and was on its way to ratification by the states. After the passage of the Civil Rights Act and Title IX as well as Supreme Court decisions that prohibited hiring discrimination, many saw ERA ratification as more symbolic than substantial, codifying legal protections that had already been created over the past decade.

But Schlafly sensed an opportunity. “They want to use our miraculous constitution to create a sex-neutral society through the so-called Equal Rights Amendment,” she forewarns, testing out the inflammatory rhetoric that over the next decade would help ignite the culture wars. The ERA would lead to the drafting of women into combat, she said, as well as the end of alimony, unisex bathrooms, homosexuals out of the closet, and worst of all, men taking care of children.

Despite certain mischaracterizations of Schlafly’s personal life, Mrs. America succeeds enormously in revealing the religious and cultural assumptions that compelled her to cling to a sanitized vision of the past. As a polemicist who both resisted the machinations of the Republican Party and sought validation by its conservative wing, Schlafly—with the permission of her husband—played on the middle-class housewife’s fears about the uncertainty posed by new freedoms in the workplace and in society at large. Blanchett completely inhabits her character, from the baronial cadence and permanently ensconced smile to sometimes unexpected moments of vulnerability. The rest of the cast is equally effective and affecting, including Schlafly’s close friend Alice Macray (Sarah Paulson), who has a crisis of conscience and joins Marxist lesbians in a marijuana-induced sing-along of “This Land Is Your Land” at the 1977 National Women’s Conference, and Republican ERA supporter Jill Ruckelshaus (Elizabeth Banks) who watches her GOP, and her identity, slip out from under her.

The show has been skewered in the conservative press. Commentary’s Christine Rosen bemoaned the representation of Schlafly’s character “as icy, Stepford-like, and instrumental in her connection with other women, navigating a world of pastel dresses and appropriate chit chat like a seasoned politician rather than an empathetic friend.” Abigail Shrier (who has a forthcoming book on “the transgender craze”) wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal complaining that “there is no factual basis for the show’s assertions that Schlafly at any point cultivated racist supporters, that she and her husband shared an envy-plagued or sexually dysfunctional relationship, that she invented case law or deployed ad hominem arguments to win debates.” In a blitz of interviews for Elle, Vanity Fair, and the Washington Times, Schlafly’s daughter Anne Schlafly Cori criticized the show’s portrayal of her parents’ relationship, and its omission of religion as central to her worldview.

[01:52] What Differentiates Higher Scoring Students from the Lower Ones

The MCAT CARS podcast is geared towards reading comprehension and teaching students how to decipher the ideas or the sentences in a way that makes sense to them. The course, on the other hand, is more focused on thinking and how to answer questions using skills that the test often wants you to use. A lot of it is test-taking skills and making sure you know how to use that information you already found to answer questions.

“There's a difference between just understanding the passage and being able to apply that information to the questions.”Click To Tweet

The whole test is reading-based. Anyone who’s taken the test will tell you that content makes up maybe 30% of the entire exam.

Now, of course, you have to know all the content that’s tested. You should know all your hormones, all the amino acids, and all the general concepts in chemistry and physics and biology.

But if you don’t know how to read the passage, how to follow along and find information, and you don’t understand the questions, what’s the point of learning all that content?

A lot of times students are very good at university courses because they know the concepts well. But what if you’re introduced to a new concept in a slightly different manner than you’re used to? What can you do with that information? Are you able to use it and answer the questions quickly?

It’s about being able to understand things on the spot. And you don’t have time to reread a bunch of times. You don’t have time to go back and look at it for as long as you like. And that’s what differentiates the high scoring students from the lower ones.

[05:00] Paragraph 1, Sentence 1

When Cate Blanchett as the conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly in the FX-Hulu series Mrs. America gives her first speech against the Equal Rights Amendment in 1971, it seems almost by accident.

Jack says:

We’re given a few names were given here – actress Cate Blanchett and her character’s name Phyllis Schlafly and the series’ name. The actress is supposedly playing some kind of politician on this TV show. It’s probably a show because it’s italicized.

When it’s italicized, it’s probably a piece of work, a painting, a book, or a movie show. In this case, it’s probably a TV show. As long as you know this person Phyllis is going against the Equal Rights Amendment, you don’t have to know what that means or what it represents in 1971. And the author gives us time here so you want to visualize the time. In this case, this is some time after the war. Or probably think of hippies in that kind of era.

[07:37] Paragraph 1, Sentence 2

Speaking at a luncheon of the Daughters of the American Revolution, she abandons her usual topic of defense spending to focus on a subject which up until then had been bipartisan and comparatively bland.

Jack says:

It’s further setting up this speech against the Equal Rights Amendment at the luncheon of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She normally talks about defense spending and brings up this Equal Rights Amendment.

Bipartisan means parties agreed on it, whether they liked it or didn’t like it. In this case, bipartisan probably means they both agreed on it. And comparatively bland means it wasn’t a big deal. It was boring. So this is setting us up for that speech where she goes against the Equal Rights Movement.

[08:52] Paragraph 1, Sentence 3

The ERA, a constitutional amendment which would guarantee equality between the sexes, had just been passed by the House of Representatives, received an endorsement from a Republican president, and was on its way to ratification by the states.

Jack says:

This is telling us what the Equal Rights Amendment is. It’s giving us filler for its history.

[09:31] Paragraph 1, Sentence 4

After the passage of the Civil Rights Act and Title IX as well as Supreme Court decisions that prohibited hiring discrimination, many saw ERA ratification as more symbolic than substantial, codifying legal protections that had already been created over the past decade.

Jack says:

The author is giving us a little bit more detail here. It’s talking about what it does and what it’s about. So as long as you know it has something to do with that, which is just protecting things that people are worried about, you’re going to be fine.

The key thing in this first paragraph is what this Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is. We’re talking about Phyllis who goes against the ERA. Then there’s all this background stuff which is good to visualize, but don’t start making a big deal out of it. If you start making a big deal out of all these little details, you’re going to miss that bigger point. The bigger point is that Phyllis does not like the ERA or is speaking against it.

[11:26] Paragraph 2, Sentence 1

But Schlafly sensed an opportunity.

Jack says:

We don’t know what this means yet so just keep on reading.

[12:03] Paragraph 2, Sentence 2

“They want to use our miraculous constitution to create a sex-neutral society through the so-called Equal Rights Amendment,” she forewarns, testing out the inflammatory rhetoric that over the next decade would help ignite the culture wars.

Jack says:

And this is the opportunity mentioned in the previous sentence. It’s the opportunity to test this rhetoric of what she’s fighting against where they want to make a sex-neutral society. So she’s still going against the ERA. And the reason she’s against it is somehow it’s igniting a culture war.

[13:18] Paragraph 2, Sentence 3

The ERA would lead to the drafting of women into combat, she said, as well as the end of alimony, unisex bathrooms, homosexuals out of the closet, and worst of all, men taking care of children.

Jack says:

You may disagree with this person. And you may feel biased towards her. But that doesn’t matter. What matters right now is that you understand what she’s trying to say. She’s against the ERA because it creates this sex-neutral society, which she assumes ignites culture wars.

This last sentence makes it obvious that she doesn’t want these things. She doesn’t want the drafting of women into combat. She doesn’t want the end of alimony.

[15:24] Paragraph 3, Sentence 1

Despite certain mischaracterizations of Schlafly’s personal life, Mrs. America succeeds enormously in revealing the religious and cultural assumptions that compelled her to cling to a sanitized vision of the past.

Jack says:

This sentence is very interesting because it’s going against what we were just talking about. It’s not referring back to Schlafly’s arguments anymore. It’s talking about how realistic the show is. It’s saying despite certain mischaracterizations of Schlafly’s personal life. So in this show, they’re not characterizing Schlafly as well as they should. There are some issues with her personal life that wasn’t with the way they conveyed her personal life in the show.

[17:41] Paragraph 3, Sentence 2

As a polemicist who both resisted the machinations of the Republican Party and sought validation by its conservative wing, Schlafly—with the permission of her husband—played on the middle-class housewife’s fears about the uncertainty posed by new freedoms in the workplace and in society at large.

Jack says:

This is more about Schlafly and what she’s doing where she’s playing on the fears of the middle-class housewife. She’s stringing along these middle-class housewives to believe that these are bad things to have these sex-neutral societies.

[18:47] Paragraph 3, Sentence 3

Blanchett completely inhabits her character, from the baronial cadence and permanently ensconced smile to sometimes unexpected moments of vulnerability.

Jack says:

The author is talking about the actress here and how she does well with her character. This is very confusing because we’re going from discussing her character to her as an actor. You have to be able to play ball, right pass and go, and catch. Be careful with where we’re going here.

[19:32] Paragraph 3, Sentence 4

The rest of the cast is equally effective and affecting, including Schlafly’s close friend Alice Macray (Sarah Paulson), who has a crisis of conscience and joins Marxist lesbians in a marijuana-induced sing-along of “This Land Is Your Land” at the 1977 National Women’s Conference, and Republican ERA supporter Jill Ruckelshaus (Elizabeth Banks) who watches her GOP, and her identity, slip out from under her.

Jack says:

Again, the author is talking about the other actors and their roles. That’s all it is. Don’t get lost in all these names because this is where it can easily get messy. And going back to that previous sentence where it talks about Blanchett and how she inhabits her character. I think it’s showing us how versatile an actress Blanchett is. She can go from having baronial cadence, which kind of means like she’s superior in terms of her mannerisms to being vulnerable. So this sentence is furthering the acting and that her friends in the show are also good at representing.

[21:33] Paragraph 4, Sentence 1

The show has been skewered in the conservative press.

Jack says:

Here it looks like it’s switching back to real-world talking about the show and conservative press. ESL students might be thrown off by what “skewered” means. So if you try to visualize it, it’s like something or someone is being cooked on a stick.

But skewered is when you present something that doesn’t convey what it’s presenting. And this falls under that category of a metaphor or an analogy. And the MCAT loves metaphors. The context of the next sentences will give us a better indication of this.

“The best way to understand a metaphor or analogy is to visualize it to kind of see what it means.”Click To Tweet

[23:48] Paragraph 4, Sentence 2

Commentary’s Christine Rosen bemoaned the representation of Schlafly’s character “as icy, Stepford-like, and instrumental in her connection with other women, navigating a world of pastel dresses and appropriate chit chat like a seasoned politician rather than an empathetic friend.”

Jack says:

Since it’s italicized, the Commentary is probably a conservative press outlet and the author is talking about what Kristin Rosen thinks about the character. And these are not necessarily good remarks.

[24:58] Paragraph 4, Sentence 3

Abigail Shrier (who has a forthcoming book on “the transgender craze”) wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal complaining that “there is no factual basis for the show’s assertions that Schlafly at any point cultivated racist supporters, that she and her husband shared an envy-plagued or sexually dysfunctional relationship, that she invented case law or deployed ad hominem arguments to win debates.”

Jack says:

Here’s another conservative writer who has a book on the transgender craze and what her thoughts were as well.

Visualize this so it can give you a better context of what happened and what might be true might and not be true. Because it’s saying that there’s no factual basis for these assertions.

As long as you know what we’re doing, we don’t care as much about these details. Of course, you should pay attention to them, but they’re not going to change your score. This paragraph was talking about remarks about the show. And as long as you know that then you can always go back to this paragraph and find your answer.

[26:24] Paragraph 4, Sentence 4

In a blitz of interviews for Elle, Vanity Fair, and the Washington Times, Schlafly’s daughter Anne Schlafly Cori criticized the show’s portrayal of her parents’ relationship and its omission of religion as central to her worldview.

Jack says:

Now they’re talking about the character’s daughter in real life and she’s criticizing the portrayal. It’s going back to the skewering in the conservative press. She is criticizing the portrayal of her parents’ relationship, and its omission of religion essential to her worldview. So they didn’t talk about religion apparently enough in the show.

[28:55] The Main Idea

This passage is mainly about how this show portrays this main character. If you get tied up into the argument about how Schlafly goes against the ERA, you’re going to miss the bigger point.

The bigger point is how this show did a pretty good job although it garnereed some criticisms. There was some backlash to some extent on how well it was portrayed.

Ultimately, the author is probably in favor of the show, even though there were people who went against that. That’s the big picture that you have to get from this. And the way you can figure that out is by noticing that almost every paragraph commented on the show, rather than the arguments within the show.

[29:49] Tips on the MCAT

It’s hard to read a conversational piece like this. Most students read textbooks and textbooks are more factual. And what you have to do with factual books is memorize them. You can’t go against them. You can’t challenge them, or normally you’re not supposed to challenge them. And I think that’s what’s wrong.

That’s what makes CARS so hard is the fact that these are all opinions. And your job is just to understand those opinions, not to agree with them or to disagree with them, but just to understand them.

“Your job is just to understand those opinions, not to agree with them, not to disagree with them, but just to understand them.”Click To Tweet

Another biggest problem is the fact that we’re talking about a show that most students are probably not going to watch. They probably have never heard of it. So that’s the hard part. You’re critiquing a show about politics back in the 70s. and that’s the least concern of students these days. So that’s what makes it hard as well.

“Don't pretend to be interested. But respect the author. Just give them 10 minutes of your time, and maybe they're going to teach you something you didn't know.”Click To Tweet

Talking about politics and the ERA, it’s something you might find boring. But don’t pretend to be interested, actually be interested. Respect the author.

And if you want to work on that angle, read more random things, things that trouble you. This falls under pop culture as well as political science. Read more of these kinds of passages. Check out Jack Westin’s daily passage section and filter for specific topics that you may not like or are unfamiliar with.

Links:

Meded Media

Jack Westin

Jack Westin’s daily passage section

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