Based on the first season of the ‘Slow Burn’ podcast by Leon Neyfakh, ‘Gaslit’ is a political farce that revolves around certain women whose lives were drastically affected due to the Watergate Scandal, especially Martha Mitchell (Julia Roberts), the wife of John N. Mitchell (Sean Penn), who served as the Attorney General in the Nixon administration between January 1969 and March 1972. Despite being one of the earliest whistleblowers who told the press that the Committee to Re-Elect the President or CRP, which her husband headed at the time, had resorted to “dirty tricks” to secure the 1972 Presidential election, she was ridiculed by the Nixon administration in an attempt to discredit her. Even after the dust of the scandal settled, her life was full of struggles.
As a show, ‘Gaslit’ seeks to underscore her heroism and the role she played in exposing the scandal, and the show’s title reflects that. Here is everything you need to know about it. SPOILERS AHEAD.
What Is the Meaning Gaslit Title?
The term “Gaslit” is an adjective, past, and past participle forms of gaslight. As a verb, the term denotes making someone believe that they are insane through psychological manipulation. Given what happened to Martha, the title perfectly fits the narrative. After Martha and Mitchell moved to Washington D.C. so the latter could join Nixon’s cabinet, they began living in the opulent Watergate complex. Martha was a glamorous socialite originally from Arkansas. Because of her flamboyant and outspoken personality, her popularity soared across America, and she came to be known as “Martha the Mouth” or “The Mouth of the South.” As mentioned in the show, a 1970 poll demonstrated that over 70% of Americans knew who she was.
While the campaign to get Nixon re-elected had begun, Martha started claiming that the CRP had begun employing illegal methods to win the election. The infamous break-in took place on June 17, 1972. About a week before that, Mitchell took Martha to Newport Beach, California, where he was slated to attend a series of fundraisers. Mitchell later returned to the US capital after convincing his wife to stay back. Later that month, Martha was reportedly kidnapped, and her abductors allegedly left her bruised and physically accosted.
Although Martha’s story was reported by newspapers, those articles were turned into human-interest pieces. The main pages of some of the top newspapers of the country were filled with reports on the Watergate. Martha faced vicious attacks from Nixon’s aides, and Mitchell wasn’t much help. Although he told her he was devoted to her, he plotted against her behind her back. This reportedly made Martha feel that she was going insane. The two of them separated in 1973. The last few years of Martha’s life were full of troubles. She was mostly alone and didn’t have much money. Martha Mitchell died on May 31, 1976, due to multiple myeloma.
Series creator Robbie Pickering made ‘Gaslit’ because he wanted to set the records straight about Martha. The series was originally supposed to be called “The Martha Mitchell Effect,” which is an actual psychological phrase where medical practitioners disregard a patient’s real concerns as delusions. “It [The Martha Mitchell Effect] means basically the same thing as being gaslit,” Pickering said. “And I think [the title] Gaslit reflects the take we have on the show. We want to do this period in a way that feels fresh and new and exciting and fun, and also dark.”