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    ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’: Is The Icon For Women In Comedy A Feminist Hero?

    It’s a long and tiring process to pit the percentage of men against women in any profession, considering we all like to believe and debate how women are now successful in every field. They are, quite rightfully, taking over the world – with their skills, mind and words. Oh, the words! They certainly can change the world, and we can thank history for teaching us that and Professor Keating from ‘Dead Poets Society’ for immortalizing them on screen. Keeping the seriousness at bay, what about funny and frank words? Have women always been welcome to utter those? This is where the brilliance of ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ shines bright.

    On the show, we have Midge Maisel, firmly gripping the mic as her weapon and using her voice to write a chapter on feminism, simply by rising through the ranks of men in the comedy circuit. Today you might be able to name a dozen female comedians, but we bet the number of men you can name is still more. And, when we go back to the 1950s when Mrs. Maisel is supposed to have built her career, there’s no debate that women on the comedy stage were scarce, if not nonexistent. So, is Mrs. Maisel as marvelous as the show claims? She certainly is. But is she a feminist icon? The answer isn’t quite crisp, but we’ll make it clear.

    Related: Is ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ Based On A True Story? Who Is The Inspiration Behind Midge?

    How Marvelous Is Mrs. Maisel – In Comedy And In Life?

    The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ embarked on a lofty task and opened itself up to scrutiny when the show claimed that the protagonist would be “marvelous”. More challenges were added to the already volatile mix when the writers made her a stand-up comic. Rachel Brosnahan took on the role head-on, with a savage flair for comedy complemented by a pretty face and impeccable dressing sense. She had to be a package surely because every move a woman made was nitpicked back in the day. How far we have come since then is a debate for another day.

    The show’s creator Amy Sherman-Palladino seems to have only perfected her talent of crafting smart, assertive and funny women on screen, since her glorious ‘Gilmore Girls’ days. Midge turns out to be funny and fierce, whacky and elegant, driven and dreamy, all at the same time. And, the world gets to see this side of hers after her husband’s betrayal.

    Midge’s life turns upside down when she finds out about her husband Joel Maisel’s affair with his secretary. What a cliché! This was exactly Midge’s sentiment which she lets out in front of an audience after storming the stage of The Gaslight Café in a drunken state. She bombards all with her witty observations on her Jewish heritage, lackluster marriage, and difficult parenthood, giving rise to an uproar of laughter. The spontaneous gig ends with her flashing everyone and getting arrested, a sign of a controversial, (read: real) comedian, as emphasized on the show. Hence, ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ establishes Midge’s acting chops.

    She is discovered by the manager there, Susie Myerson. Together they form a partnership and friendship which propels Midge toward a great career as a stand-up comic. They laugh, cry, fight, survive and thrive in the male-dominated comedic realm. On stage, Midge is a ball of fire and moves from underground bars to Paris to Catskills and makes everyone laugh with her gigs, sometimes faltering, sometimes flying, but always charming.

    So yes, she is amazing on stage. Back home, she tries to be a decent daughter and a mother, since the removal of her wifely duties sets her on the path to a bigger, magnificent role – an unapologetic comedian, who wins all despite being a flawed feminist. Ah, there’s that word some scream, some fear, and even fewer really live by. Was Midge one for feminism?

    In case you missed: Why ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ Will End After Season 5?

    Is ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ A Feminist Tale?

    The best thing about ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ is the ease with which it fits the bygone era, yet keeps up with modern times. It doesn’t put itself on a pedestal by peddling a feminist narrative but offers Midge Maisel as an inspiration for every woman who dares to dream of doing the unconventional.

    Midge brings out the plight of women then, now, and possibly in the future in one of her acts: “Why do women have to pretend to be something that they’re not? Why do we have to pretend to be stupid when we’re not stupid? Why do we have to pretend to be helpless when we’re not helpless? Why do we have to pretend to be sorry when we have nothing to be sorry about? Why do we have to pretend we’re not hungry when we’re hungry?”

    Yet, she falls into the traps of the quintessential 1950s woman. As a housewife, she removes her makeup after the husband goes to sleep and makes sure to wake up early and once again be pretty before the man opens his eyes. She tries to support his comedy dreams by bribing the bar manager with her brisket even though he steals jokes. She measures her body to maintain her figure and fusses about her sartorial ensembles. She also keeps her marital name.

    The show received criticism for not being feminist, despite furthering the agenda on it. The show’s star, Rachel Brosnahan debunked such expectations in an interview with Bust. She said, “One of the things that I was always interested in about Midge is that she’s a woman who wasn’t interested in change. She felt like she was fully cooked. She had achieved all of her goals and dreams and, through no fault of her own, her life got completely exploded, and she was forced to reinvent herself. So few women come out of the womb wanting to break the glass ceiling and change the world. And that’s OK. But so many women end up with strange and unexpected paths toward making an impact and creating change.”

    So, Midge questioning sexism and patriarchy for her own good on ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ isn’t feminist, and neither is her carving a career in comedy despite all the hurdles, including her family. Yes, it’s admirable and change has to begin somewhere, but Midge isn’t interested in bringing radical change, just voicing her own woes and chasing her ambitions. But just to do that when opportunities for women were bare to none can be a wake-up call for feminism.

    Midge Maisel: A Role Model For Women Of All Times

    Midge Maisel is undeniably an inspiration for women who venture into uncharted territories or are pushed to do so due to unforeseen circumstances. Her character grew up on the Upper West Side of New York City and she accepted life as it came, knowing little about individual goals and success. But when her perfect life fails her, she comes to her own, trying to figure out her identity and pursuing a comedy career.

    Comedy was once a man’s club, but in one of her acts, Midge memorably explains how women have a place in comedy: “Comedy is fueled by oppression, by the lack of power, by sadness and disappointment, by abandonment and humiliation. Now, who the hell does that describe more than women? Judging by those standards, only women should be funny.” You go, girl!

    With a chirpy and jolly protagonist like Midge, ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ takes the viewers on a joyride replete with emotions. When the audience claps for her on-screen, your heart also soars. And, despite wanting to categorize the show based on its allegiance to feminism, you are reminded that Midge is like a real person. She makes mistakes and prioritizes herself; she doesn’t necessarily need to be a feminist hero, she just needs to be the hero of her own story. That’s enough for young girls and even grown women to celebrate. Her triumph can feel like a victory for women, especially those who are walking the tightrope of comedy.

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    Rishita Roy Chowdhury
    Rishita Roy Chowdhury
    Rishita Roy Chowdhury is the Chief Editor at First Curiosity. She has always been fascinated with the power of words and the need to follow goings on of the world. She likes to spend most of her time contemplating her existence, and escaping reality by reading, writing, and watching movies and shows. So, she made a career out of it in 2017 when she joined ScoopWhoop and extensively wrote about pop culture. To gain more experience of hardcore news, she moved on to the print arena with The Sunday Guardian newspaper where she interviewed celebrities, musicians, sportsmen, authors, chefs, and more. Her love of all things art and culture also led her to review books, movies, series, and restaurants. She tested and expanded her skills by dabbling in the digital space with India Today’s entertainment team. There, she wrote thousands of articles on the world of glitz and glamour. Now, at First Curiosity, she constantly searches and writes stories that resonate with readers and spark their interest. She also manages a team of dedicated writers who share her vision to remain sane in a crazy world with doses of entertainment.

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