By: Carmelle Bareket-Shavit
Amazon’s highly promoted, widely celebrated, and golden-globe awarded TV show, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, tells the story of a newly single woman discovering herself in 1950s New York City, setting out a new path for herself as a comedian.
Midge Maisel, as played by Rachel Brosnahan, is a loud, proud, and genuinely funny character throughout much of the show. Midge’s quick wit and coolness in the face of adversity leads to her complete control over most situations. Midge has something I think most people would love to have: an ease at getting everything she wants.
She wants the upper-west side lifestyle, and she somehow gets it. Even when faced with the reality of her financial status, Midge barely experiences any form of struggle. While easily securing a well-paying and elegant job, Midge also maintains her lavish lifestyle through her wealthy parents. How Midge’s father, a mathematics professor, can afford that Upper West Side apartment, I will never know. Midge never experiences the hardships typically associated with economic ruin.
One of the most laughable aspects of the show is the ease at which Midge falls into a career in stand up comedy. Being funny doesn’t make you an undiscovered Seinfeld equivalent. Being a good stand-up comic requires years and years of honing your skills. Zach Galifianakis, one of the biggest names in the game, admitted to students of the USC School of Dramatic Arts: “I still bomb all the time.” Sure, Midge has to work on the wording of her jokes until they get the biggest laugh, but she never falls flat on her face. Midge always has something to say, and what she says is always amusing. If even the most respected stand-ups fail, why doesn’t Midge?
She wants her husband to come crawling back; she eventually gets that too. Supposedly in a mental crisis after her husband leaves her, Midge cracks a few jokes, gets super drunk and heads out to the comedy club, finally spending a couple of days getting a new job and a new dream. She quickly starts a flirtatious banter with a handsome comedy idol, as her distraught husband pleads with her to get back together.
For a show that’s supposed to be about a woman finding her own way in life, a lot of it focuses on her relationships with men. So much time is spent looking at how Joel, Midge’s husband, is feeling about everything. Joel is heartbroken, Joel is moving in with his girlfriend, Joel is sad that Midge is finding so much success. Honestly, why should we even care about what Joel is doing, when the premise of the show is Midge and her independence? The same could be said about Abe Weissman, Midge’s father. The ironic thing is, I thought those actors, Michael Zegen and Tony Shalhoub, delivered the best performances of the entire show. Their characters had depth and complexity, something that was sorely missing from the character of Midge.
All in all, there is something to say about a show where the main character is a charming, talented, and assertive woman. Midge does not wait to be saved from the crumbling of a once perfect life, but finds a way to save herself. Though I wish Midge had more to her personality than just being the classic overachiever, I’m glad that she at least has a voice.