Enter Mrs. Maisel. A gorgeously irritating, fast-talking, quick-witted fashion icon that defies, not only the era she finds herself in, but the often prevailing notions that surround women today. As she makes her way to our screens for the fifth and final season of The Marvelous Mrs Maisel, we recall the evolution of her character and the uncovering of a TV treasure destined to live on long after the show airs.
Midge, as she’ll come to be known by, is a complex character. From the almost get-go, she is seen relinquishing any concern for what society expects of her as a 1950’s mother and housewife. Of course, there are hints of hypocrisy as she is seen measuring the width of her hips and can appear heavily consumed with her appearance regularly flapping over outfit choices. This could be viewed as against the grain of what we want from our feminist icons but perhaps it would be much more modern of us to grant her this choice. Why can’t she swear, be funny and look good? If Midge has taught us anything, it’s that none of these traits are mutually exclusive. She shatters the illusion that women aren’t funny and that beautiful things shouldn’t utter obscenities. She is never seen to be self-pitying and, though never treating the men in her life unkindly, she realises they are only accessories to her bigger dream of becoming a stand-up comedian.
Her transformation from a housewife trying desperately to please her husband in the first episode to an ambitious single female, unperturbed by any of society’s expectations, is quick. The revelation of a cheating husband does not inspire Midge to get mad, as it might most of us, but to get even. We don’t watch her burn his clothes or sob for half a series. Instead, we see her take to the stage in comedic perfection. Without any deliberate intention of stealing her husband’s ambition of becoming a comic, she naturally assumes this role through inadvertently unleashing the humour she always possessed (which just so happened to far outweigh any talent her husband had). It took this shattering betrayal and loss of what she perceived to be her sole identity as the perfect wife and mother to realise that she had something to offer the world outside of these stereotypes.
What we love most about Midge is her fearlessness – she is unafraid to make the seemingly unholy admission that neither motherhood nor domestic life fulfil her. She does not dilly-dally, wrap herself in guilt or doubt herself. Granted, she takes this to the extreme as she is seen taking an arguably passive interest in her children. But if Dad did the same would anyone bat an eyelid? Equally, she comes from the absolute privileged position of having willing parents and a housekeeper able to care for her children allowing her the freedom to pursue her goals.
While most modern women find themselves in the midst of a circus-balancing act, we never watch Midge panic over the frivolities of life. Even when faced with financial difficulties, she finds a way of managing without spiralling. Again, it might be a flawed version of reality but it’s somewhere in this lack of realism that we can find ourselves inspired by Midge. The underlying message of female empowerment prevails without weighing heavy on the practicalities that consume most of us.
And though she paints a picture of togetherness, matching hats to a seemingly endless wardrobe of cocktails dresses, Midge is far from perfect. She is self-centred and, frankly, annoying at times. She is all-consumed with her own progress and unconcerned with the problems of those around her, leading us to question her actions at times. If we women are guilty of putting others before ourselves – Midge is guilty of putting herself before anyone else. In spite of this, we seem to forgive her. We recognise that she is fiction. She is the representation of what most of us might dare to be but never could be. She is bold and unyielding; she is impassioned and selfish; she is unquestionably marvelous.
As the series draws to a close, we are left wondering if Midge will ever make it big or if she’ll pursue any of the potential love interests she previously encountered. Really though – I don’t think we’re too concerned with either. It is in her unwavering pursuit of what makes her happy that we find interest in our leading lady. Our happy ending comes in watching a woman take to the stage, against the odds, making those laugh that defy she be funny in the first place. She serves as a reminder to us all that we should never give up on our dreams – no matter how far-fetched they may seem.
To Mrs. Maisel, we say “You’ve been amazing. Thank you and good night.”