In 2017, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel came bursting onto TV screens, stealing hearts and cracking up audiences with her crazy antics, adorable clothing, and true New York accent. The comedy series, produced by Amazon Prime and created by Amy Sherman-Palladino, was an immediate hit. It had all the nostalgia of Mad Men’s period sets and costumes mixed with the fast-talking dialogue of Gilmore Girls, another Sherman-Palladino series.
But watching the series, I started to feel uneasy. Midge, the main character, is left by her husband for his secretary and discovers, in the meantime, that she has a real talent for comedy. In pursuit of her new passion, she leaves her children behind, cheats on her fiancé with her ex-husband, and eventually chooses her career over her fiancé. Are these the choices of a good role model?
Pursuing Your Career Is Important
Let’s be clear from the beginning: this isn’t a diatribe against pursuing your goals and career aspirations. I am all for women chasing their dreams and being ambitious. I consider myself that kind of woman, and I understand it completely. Mrs. Maisel’s career trajectory is fantastic – she’s a hilarious comedian and through hard work, she is able to find success. That isn’t something to brush off, and it’s interesting to see her struggle in a time when female comedians were few and far between.
Mrs. Maisel’s career trajectory is fantastic – she’s a hilarious comedian and through hard work, she is able to find success.
But It Can’t Be at the Cost of Everything Else
But Mrs. Maisel has a whole host of character flaws: she’s self-absorbed, she’s vain, she’s painfully unaware of other people’s struggles, and she’s incredibly entitled. These qualities are what make her choices throughout the course of the series problematic. Her children are almost entirely abandoned by her; in a way, it reminded me of Emma, Ross and Rachel’s child in Friends. Emma was a plot point that was forgotten once she was born. Similarly, Mrs. Maisel’s children come up in the plot when it’s convenient and are otherwise ignored.
She divorces her husband, Joel, which is entirely understandable after he cheats on her with his secretary, but the two continue to have trysts throughout the series, preventing her from ever really moving on. This behavior culminates in her cheating on her new fiancé, Ben, with Joel and then leaving Ben for her comedy career.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel creates a false dichotomy: either have a career or have a family. Mrs. Maisel, up to this point, has chosen her career every time.
A woman whose marriage ended when her husband cheated on her does the exact same thing to her new fiancé and feels no remorse, then abandons him to perform with no more than a letter? That is the act of a truly selfish character.
Marriage and Motherhood
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel creates a false dichotomy: either have a career or have a family. Mrs. Maisel, up to this point, has chosen her career every time. But the fact of the matter is, marriage and motherhood are incredibly important parts of a woman’s life – and career without family is lonely and unfulfilling. Being one-minded toward your career aspirations is an easy trap to fall into, but it doesn’t lead to ultimate happiness.
Feminism shouldn’t promote women’s workplace accomplishments over life success – and yet, it seems that no one will get in Mrs. Maisel's way, even those she is responsible for taking care of.
By having Mrs. Maisel leave behind her children and her fiancé in favor of her career, she is modeling an unbalanced life, one that doesn’t bode well for her ultimate happiness. Of course, sometimes you have to make sacrifices for your career or for your family. But that’s the exact point: Mrs. Maisel has sacrificed her family over and over for her career. Not once has her character sacrificed something for her children or her ex-fiancé.
Feminists laud Mrs. Maisel for doggedly chasing after her dreams. But what they choose to ignore is that she does so at the expense of everyone around her. Feminism shouldn’t promote women’s workplace accomplishments over life success – and yet, in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, it seems that no one will get in her way, even those she is responsible for taking care of.
By choosing comedy over family, instead of finding a balance between the two, Mrs. Maisel may initially find it easier to climb the ladder of success, but she will find that she has no one to share those successes with at the end of the day.
Abby Roth is the creator of Classically Abby, an opera, beauty, fashion, and lifestyle brand dedicated to looking at the world from a classic perspective. Abby is an opera singer with three degrees in operatic performance from USC and Manhattan School of Music. She has performed all over at companies including Opera Omaha, Opera Maine, and Aspen Music Festival. You can find her website at www.classicallyabby.com and follow her on YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest at @ClassicallyAbby.