The award-winning comedy series, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, has everyone living vicariously through an exquisite period piece, transporting us to Manhattan in the late 1950s. The series, created by Gilmore Girls creator, Amy Sherman Palladino, is centered around an affluent Jewish family residing in the Upper West Side; Midge Maisel (played by Golden Globe winner, Rachel Brosnahan) is quite the charismatic housewife. Midge’s idyllic life takes an abrupt turn when her husband, Joel, confesses to an affair and leaves on the eve on Yom Kippur. In the wake of her (rather jarring) loss, Midge unexpectedly enters into the world of stand up comedy, where she cathartically opens up about her life and her thoughts and feelings; where she uses humor and wit to try to make sense of it all in an undeniably hilarious fashion.
Needless to say, the character of Midge Maisel is absolutely ahead of her time. In 1958, women were generally not pursuing bold careers in comedy, nor did they venture too far outside their particular gender roles in the home or in the workplace. In addition, women were not separating from their husbands and discussing the notions of divorce. And without giving away spoilers about how the plot ultimately progresses throughout the first season, Midge was not someone who wanted to be with a man who walked out on her — who tore their life apart. Even though she was in pain, even though she was devastated, she was not someone to reconcile for the sake of reconciling, and she certainly did not want to chase somebody who didn’t necessarily want to stay. She believed in principles, despite what her parents and in-laws desired and despite the societal expectations that were surely prevalent during that time.
Midge certainly stands out as a young woman who takes chances and emotional risks; she always tries to make authentic choices, to follow her heart. And these lessons are, in my opinion, still relevant in today’s society; they’re still lessons we can incorporate into our own psychological well-being.
What I personally find interesting is the fact that not only does Midge authentically make strides to go above and beyond societal norms, but she genuinely embraces her love for traditional femininity, too. She takes pride in her day-to-day physical appearance and sincerely enjoys looking her very best. She makes sure that her hair and makeup are done just right, and she exudes an air of confidence when entering a room, donning the perfect outfit for the day. Authenticity can manifest in a variety of ways, and I don’t think she’s ‘going backwards’ just because she wants to break barriers while also embodying a traditional gender role as well.
“For midge, her appearance is her armor, but not in a way that she’s hiding herself,” Rachel Brosnahan said in an interview at the 92nd Street Y. “It’s something that makes her feel good. It’s the first thing that the world sees about her, and she doesn’t not want to be noticed. I think she feels alive in bold and vibrant colors, and the colors tell a story of her journey through the first season.”
In addition, the series (inadvertently) speaks to the contemporary female movement in today’s political climate; especially in the sense that this main character has a voice that is refreshing and distinct, and she wants her voice to be heard — to be impactful.
“One of the things that drew me to the show and that I love, and have loved hearing has inspired other people as they watch it, is this idea that it’s never too late to find that voice,” Brosnahan said in an interview for Elle. “Obviously Midge is very young, but she’s someone who, when you meet her in the pilot, is in the process of achieving every dream she’s ever dreamed. She has wrapped up her life in a neat little bow and isn’t planning on growing or evolving anymore. Then something catastrophic happens. Unexpected. And she begins to change and grow and find this new superpower.”
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is a wonderful (and relatively new) series that has quickly gained popularity, captivating such a large audience, worldwide. I truly believe that it is Midge Maisel’s authentic spirit, though, that reminds us that regardless of societal expectations, regardless of what looks appropriate ‘on paper,’ it’s always right to be our authentic selves and to follow our own path.