What Mrs. Maisel Taught Me About Comedy and Myself
I for one had not expected my role model in life to be a Jewish housewife from the 50s. I also did not expect her to be fictional.
While having a room full of dresses and hats to complement an inch-perfect physique and a charming vivacity shrouded in the garb of endless witticisms sounds like an idealistic outline of who I would like to be, Mrs. Maisel is also imperfect, and yet so much more. More importantly, Midge Maisel also has a phenomenal character development that I wish I could yank out of the screen, encapsulate and ingest.
A mother of two with the semblance of a perfect family, her life comes to an abrupt halt when she learns that her husband had been cheating on her. Heartbroken but resilient, Midge Maisel turns to her untapped flair for standup comedy to deal with this dismay. She literally stumbles upon it after drunkenly ranting on a stage in a lackluster bar and then flashing her chest, and ends up getting arrested right after. (Yes people used to get arrested for that). I guess quintessential people are also allowed to have their days. But that epiphanic night, Midge discovers a spirit within herself that she didn’t know she had. And thus began the journey of her indomitable strength as a stand up comic in a world where women could not pervade these spaces.
But my relationship with Midge is not born out of an allusion to her feminist narrative. Her shattering of glass ceilings is not of much allure to me. I actually like Midge because her refreshing attitude to everything in her life reminds me of all that I personally need to build upon. You would think that Midge has got to be a really versatile character to be a divorcee and still be relatable to the 20-year-old lost woman that is me. And she is. Because the world is her oyster and she reminds us that no matter where or who you are, it can be yours too.
She brings her brazen persona to the stage and amazes audiences by discussing the sorry situations in her life and with each set, their impact seems to diminish on her. She juggles dalliances, her tedium of a family, and a staggering career with a spring in her step and endless love to give. No dramatic breakdowns or unhealthy coping mechanisms were required to morph her into a stronger person. She had her downer days but never strayed from continuing to be true to herself.
The real reason I truly resonate with her is because she doesn’t feel the need to abandon her feminine tendencies to appear strong-willed and ambitious. She wants to take on the world while wearing the same gorgeous dresses she always loved and cooking succulent briskets like nobody’s business. Her transformation is not empowered by shedding her warm and responsible nature, which some might say was a product of patriarchy. Her love for Joel was always as real to her as her career.
That primarily is my take on who I want to be. As I grow, I want to excel in my career with unmitigated independence. But I never want that to translate to constantly being on my guard around the idea of love or motherhood. Those things are as intrinsic to me as wanting to be successful and I’m tired of being in a world that tells me that I can only do one. My independence should not be defined by the fact that I would be exalted at the idea of a man serenading me or that I love manicures and makeup.
Midge also interestingly keeps her stage name as Mrs. Maisel despite having divorced Joel Maisel. This is not her attempt at hankering on to her beautiful past but an open embrace to the relationship that shaped and defined her. While most of her sets do talk about her broken heart and that she was cheated on, but she never uses that to fuel her new found independence and instead does it under the garb of a crestfallen heart, that is on its way back to glory.
In today’s world, it can be considered silly to rant about an ex so often because women like us are not supposed to ever be that dependent on a man anyway, not anymore at least. But Midge had stopped being dependent a long time ago and she saw no shame in expressing her heartbreak or her love. Midge never had to sacrifice her want for love to embark on a career-oriented walk of life. Thank you Mrs. Maisel for reminding me that if I’m not less of a woman at the workplace, I certainly won’t be less of one when I’m cooking a brisket in the arms of a man.