The only thing not to like about The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is that it’s a mere eight episodes. But there’s a lot of comedy, laughter, heartbreak, and anger crammed in there! Watching this show (available on Amazon Prime) is at once nostalgic and hopeful for the future. A shaming of how women were subjugated and a triumph of a generation of women beginnig to assert themselves (much to the chagrin of their parents and men in general).
Modern Feminism, 50s Style
Our marvelous title character, Midge Maisel, grew up with an independent streak: speaking her mind, going to college. But in the conformist fifties, independence still requires a husband. But when he walks out, our heroine steps up. Forced to move with her two kids back in with her parents and given a curfew, she quickly realizes it’s time for others to stop controlling her life. While that’s an obvious step for people to make today, it’s a semi-scandalous revelation for back in the day. That’s especially true considering she comes from a semi-affluent family in Manhattan. Much to the chagrin of her mother, she gets a job. Much to the amazement of her father, she’s good at it! But that’s nothing compared to her real new passion: stand up comdedy!
The Last Laugh
Then and now, succeeding as a comic is hard for anyone. And even though we’re well into the 21st century it’s still exceedingly difficult for women. Now set the clock back 60 years. And it is this which makes our lead character so amazing marvelous. A young woman, with two kids not only holding down a job in a mostly men’s world but also making a forray into the all men’s world of stand up. It’s unheard of. It’s shocking. It’s marvelous!
Midge is helped along by the coffee house manager Susie, who comes from a whole different world (like a one room flat as opposed to Midge’s palatial high rise apartments complete with elevator operators). Susie is another woman trying to make her way in a man’s world, to varying degrees of success. Susie is beaten down by life but sees a shot at something great when a freshly abandoned Midge drunkely stumbles into the coffee house and riffs on the mic. She begins mentoring Midge (when she’s not bailing her out of jail) and pushing her to push herself.
It’s Still A Man’s World
In The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Midge is either surrounded by women (like at work with her fellow makeup girls) or is the only woman in the room fighting against being dominated. But there is hope. No one comes here for a lecture on feminism, at least we hope not! But it is worth having a cocktail and celebrating how far we’ve come thanks to the likes of Mrs. Maisel. And speaking of cocktails..
The Critic’s Cocktail Recommendation
The Pussycat. It was a post-war favorite of my grandparents who continued to serve it well into the 90s, and lamented when the local store stopped carrying the mix. Thank god for Amazon!