The month of January defeated me with its cold weather and harsh viral infections, so I had no other choice but to accept my weariness, snuggle by the fireplace, and watch television. Thanks to the ridiculous assortment of options I can browse from (Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, HBO, Xfinity) I had a hard time finding the right show. However, I knew well what I was looking for. A perfectly bright character. Someone who will surprise me, inspire me, make me laugh and gasp and think; someone who will bring magic into the room, into my heart.
The day I was beaten with a horrible sinus headache and couldn’t breathe through my nose or stop coughing, I remembered that a friend whose taste I trust recommended a new eight-episode show called The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. The title promised a blast. After I dropped my daughters at their school and turned off all that could interrupt me with ringing, I played the first episode.
In the opening of the show, coming from a black screen, I heard the sound of clinking of silverware on porcelain. Then I heard a female voice, and a question, Who gives a toast at her own wedding? The lights revealed a bride (a beautiful, petite redhead dressed in an elegant white gown) as she continued.
I mean, who does that? Who stands in the middle of a ballroom after drinking three glasses of champagne on a completely empty stomach, and I mean completely empty because fitting into this dress required no solid food for three straight weeks. Who does that? I do!
I liked her instantly remembering how I had written speeches for my maid of honor and my husband’s best man and made them memorize my words and deliver them to our guests as if the wedding toasts, my wedding toasts, were their own creation. Who does that? I do!
After the toast that left most of the audience laughing (the bride’s family was in tears after she had deliberately offended the rabbi), the show fast-forwarded four years to find Mrs. Maisel helping her husband realize his dreams of becoming a comedian.
Set in the late 1950s New York, featuring the Upper West Side’s Jewish family, the show spotlights a seemingly traditional housewife who floats through her day with an ease of a fairy, multitasking on heels – taking care of the kids, the house, her husband. She strives for perfection in every segment of her life whether it is a responsibility she takes on, a role she acknowledges (of a wife, mother, daughter), or her own body (she measures herself every day to make sure she hasn’t changed a bit, and she applies makeup every morning before her husband wakes up so that he can always find only the very best version of his wife. She is smart, witty, and well educated. She marries the valued characteristics of a 1950’s Jewish woman from the Upper West Side, and the modern state of mind of a contemporary woman.
Miriam Midge Maisel is all I ever wanted from a character – she is real and relatable, and, at the same time, she is magical enough, in a Merry Poppins way, to transport me into the realm of fantasy. She brags, she bribes, she lies, she flirts to get her husband what he wants (in the first episode it was a better time slot at the comedy club). She is pure-hearted and honest and full of life. Her mind is a whirlwind; her tongue always keeps up. Without any filters, Midge talks a-mile-a-minute. She is clueless that some things are not supposed to be said in public because of which she repeatedly gets in trouble.
I admire and envy her at the same time. I want to be friends with her, and I want to slip into her shoes and live the 1958 Manhattan fairytale for at least one night.
As I expected, before the ending of episode one, Miriam Maisel’s perfectly planned life goes awry in one night. Her husband, Joel Maisel, after one unsuccessful show in front of their best friends, admits an affair and leaves the house, Miriam, and their children. Stunned and devastated, Midge bottoms up a bottle of kosher wine and returns to the Gaslight Café where her husband previously bombed, failing in his dream of becoming a comedian. She takes the stage and does what she knows best – makes people laugh out loud. She turns her misery into a comedy; she turns the hardship into opportunity. And, courtesy of her dirty mouth, she ends up arrested for inappropriate language and behavior.
In just one hour, the creator of the show, Amy Sherman-Palladino (Gilmore Girls), gave us a perfectly unexpected transformation of a traditional Jewish housewife into a future comedian, a woman who has the guts to speak and fight for all of us, demanding gender equality and freedom of speech in a voice that is humorous, impactful, and resonant.
I finished the season one in a few days, and with a few happy tears watched the actress Rachel Brosnahan receive the Golden Globe award for her marvelous performance. And then for days and days after I thought about her character. And I thought about the marriage of Midge and Joel that fell apart so abruptly. I understood them both. Joel had a cozy life: a job in the family firm, a brilliant wife, two kids, and a beautiful Manhattan apartment. But he also had a dream. A dream of becoming someone else. A comedian. Unfortunately, Joel had little talent (contrary to his amusing wife) to support his dream. Midge, on the other hand, had always had plans.
Anyone who knows me knows – I plan. I think long-game. At six, I decided Russian literature would be my major. At twelve, I found my signature haircut. At 13, I announced I was going to Bryn Mawr University.
And she believed that Joel Maisel was her knight in shining armor. They were supposed to marry and have kids and enjoy life. But Joel had an affair with his secretary, and he stole other comedian’s jokes. The latter hurt her even more. Because she thought she had to realize all she had planned, Midge Maisel never had dreams of her own. Not until her husband left, not until one event changed the woman she thought she was and showed her a glimpse of a woman she might become.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is a story about one fantastic woman coming to her own but written for all people who have gone through a change and are realizing their potential.