‘The ultimate icon of the single woman’: how Mrs Maisel has been an inspiration over the years | Television
Jhe best line yet in The Marvelous Mrs Maisel — the Emmy-winning comedy-drama about a 50s New York housewife turned stand-up comedian — isn’t a joke she delivers in a set on a seedy club scene. It’s not even one of creator Amy Sherman-Palladino’s endless off-stage zingers (also behind Gilmore Girls). That is, in fact, the searing three-word response that Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) fires at her husband, Joel (Michael Zegen), midway through the first season, when he asks why she won’t give him another chance. their marriage: “Because you left.”
At this point, Mrs. Maisel becomes the ultimate single woman icon. In a world that measures her success and identity by her marital status, she makes the decision to be a single mother and blindly embrace whatever lies ahead. While the social stigmas attached to celibacy may have eased since the days of Midge, the reality today is this: In 2019, five hospital trusts and six clinical commissioning groups banned women from singles to access IVF; our prime minister once said that the children of unmarried women are “badly brought up, ignorant, aggressive and illegitimate”; singles feel the price of owning a house while couples have a double income; and – take it from someone who knows – if you’re not standing on a soapbox shouting “single, fierce and independent!”, friends and family assume you’re sitting home sad with the cat (or without the cat, because the owner won’t allow it).
Midge’s message is a reminder to know your self-worth, forget about societal expectations, and do nothing. There’s also the fact that she’s very, very funny and not afraid to constantly break punchlines – another challenge, this time from the “women aren’t funny” trope (again, something actresses still face today). These are the very reasons why, say, a single woman might have felt completely elated rewatching the series for the third time in lockdown after a heartbreak. Because, when Joel left, Midge turned her supposed failures into her greatest strengths – and the real Mrs. Maisel arrived.
When her husband left her for his 21-year-old secretary, Penny Pann, Midge laughs at him. “A girl who can’t use an electric pencil sharpener? she laughs. “Take some pens on the way out – you’re going to need them.” Rather than running after her husband, she downs a bottle of Yom Kippur wine and ends up stumbling onto the stage at a comedy club, performing a monologue about what just happened. She establishes a knack for perfectly catchy observational stand-up that is brutally personal – a real knack for turning trauma into triumph. Rather than picking up Joel just to please everyone, Midge takes a chance as a single woman for the first time and tries this comedy.
Moreover, she does so despite society’s prejudice against divorced women. She ignores her father Abe (Tony Shalhoub) when he laments, “I’m not a fan of Joel, but you need a husband.” She continues, despite her mother, Rose (Marin Hinkle), demanding to know what Midge did wrong to get her poor husband to leave, then walking around every room in the apartment moaning, “Oh shit.”
Over the next three seasons, we see spunky Midge continue to defy society’s expectations of how a single woman should act. Acting quickly becomes a career goal and she does everything she can to make it happen. She embraces a new female friendship with her agent Susie (Alex Borstein) – her complete opposite, and someone she may not even have spoken to during her marriage, but with whom she forms a beautifully odd working relationship. and respectful (“Look at you — it’s like a dollop of whipped cream sprouted a head,” Susie jokes to nail their dynamic). Midge swallows her pride, returns to live with her parents, and takes control of her income for the first time, taking a job at a department store and recording radio commercials for extra money, while performing concerts almost every night, she even finds herself in a position where she can buy out her old apartment on her own ( a bit unrealistic, especially in today’s market, but let’s get to it).
As the show progresses, we see her act more and more in ways that show us that there are more important things in life than having a partner. In season two, Midge falls in love with Dr. Benjamin Ettenberg (Zachary Levi) – the most perfect man ever written on paper – only to call off their engagement because she realizes she doesn’t want the relationship to jeopardize. his comedy (in all honesty, he’s far too good to be used as material by his wife on stage every night). She also sleeps with Joel a few times, divorces him, remarries him drunk, and then leaves things open. Things inevitably get complicated with the father of her children, who has done wrong but who is not necessarily a bad person. This time, however, their relationship is on his terms and married life is clearly no longer his ultimate goal.
Then there’s comedian Lenny Bruce (Luke Kirby – TV’s most underrated sex symbol) who becomes a mentor, a friend and the subject of a story at will. “Do you live in a hotel? Who are you? Willy Loman? Midge laughs when they almost slept together in season three – but don’t, because, again, she doesn’t want sex with a man to get in the way of anything or undermine the mutual respect that they have for each other as comedians.
Of course, Midge isn’t as perfect as her flawless tackle. She often makes decisions that some might consider reckless or selfish, such as leaving her children behind for six months to go on tour with Shy Baldwin (Leroy McClain) in season three (she also shows little interest in their day-to-day lives). But to be a woman forging a career during this time – especially a woman in comedy – selfishness was a necessary and sometimes vital tool. Another questionable move was the awkward set that landed him kicking off Shy’s tour; by not realizing how far her jokes about Shy’s sexuality might have crossed a line, she shows that she still often ignores her privilege.
But Midge does what she set out to do – she becomes a stand-up comedian. There were so many times she could have given up — the canceled concerts, the nonpayments, the constant sexist remarks, the offers of an easier married life with a doctor or an ex — but she keeps going. In today’s digital age, where a culture of burnout is the norm and women are still expected to work longer hours than men, his warrior approach is extremely relevant. Especially since she stays true to herself while thriving, saying what she wants to say on stage, always parading an outstanding wardrobe of outfits no matter how grimy the venue – and making sure she turns down career opportunities that conflict with her values.
In the opening act of the fourth season, which just launched on Amazon Prime, it’s clear that Midge is done with the men dictating her life. With no money, no apartment and no job after being fired from touring, she wants revenge – and why not? They say anger is an unattractive trait, but Midge isn’t there to sit back and please anymore – and neither are women today. “I stood there, watched that plane fly away and realized that once again a man stepped in and screwed up my life,” Midge told her audience. “I know – c’est la vie, shit happens, you should be the biggest and let it go… Well, I’m a woman – so shit.”