THE REAL REEL | Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Delights… And Disappoints


I can't tell you the excitement I had gearing up to watch this show. My phone blew up with texts from friends who I hadn't heard from in weeks, months, and many moons. "Rachel, you have to see Marvelous Mrs.Maisel!" And they were right; I did have to see this show. I am a woman, I am Jewish, and I've dabbled in stand up comedy (nothing of mention, I only made $15.67 but still, I could relate). I am the gal who is Jewish, tried stand up, and has an extremely progressive view on a "woman's place" so to speak. So yes, I had to see the show.

This is what I love. I love watching a woman, a Jewish woman, in the 50's be brave. I love her refusal to "stay in her place" and her gumption or shall I say "chutzpah" to challenge prevailing views of motherhood, womanhood, ect… I love watching her disrupt male dominated spaces, disappoint her family, and even disappoint herself. I love all of the Yiddish, and the Jewy-ness of the show! It's SO JEWY! I am a Jew, and so much Jewish humor has been dumbed-down to male-oriented jokes or anti-Semitic ones about Jews being cheep, power hungry monsters. The Maisel script is not always "jokey" but Jews across the country are laughing because of all the inside jokes, jokes that are only funny if you are either a Jew, or if you know and love a Jewish person intimately. I don't mean that you have a Jewish friend or distant relative, but a Jewish person that you share a home with, speak to daily, own a child or at least a pet with ect… If this is the case, you are able to understand these jokes on a whole other level because you get what is simultaneously suffocating and absolutely stupendous about Jewish families. If you count yourself a Member of The Tribe (MOT), this show reminds you of your insider status, the hypocrisies that every ethnic/cultural/religious group has, and teases them out fantastically. I love that the main character is a strong willed woman and really, I mean really really tried to be the strong woman standing behind her man…dimming her light so he could shine. And I love that it didn't work, that making herself small to make her husband big, was a no-go. I love that her comedy comes from pain, as most does, and I love that she is a mess…kind of.

This is what I don't love. I don't love all the money she has access to that hides most of her mess. I don't love that she lives in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Manhattan, and for that matter the country and has more access to privilege than most two-parent families, let alone single mothers. I am also embarrassed. I am embarrassed, because even though it takes place over 60 years ago, many people still have these stereotypes about Jews, and women, and Jewish women. For instance, upon texting with my Jewish cousin about the show, she reminds me that early on in the season, the club manager literally shoves a woman of color off stage upon seeing Mrs.Maisel enter the club to do another drunken unplanned set. I am not upset that they showed this scene as it likely has happened a million times, unfortunately and likely depicts the racism of that time, and even today. I am upset because that scene wasn't depicted as racist. I am upset that we don't get to see how all of this privilege goes unexamined. I get that we are supposed to simply appreciate watching a wealthy white woman get knocked off of her horse and redefine her life…but as a Jewish gal who has seen her parents checkbook get down to $75 and comes from a family of divorce, I cringe at the notion of perpetuating this Jappy stereotype.

I think I am exactly the wrong person, and exactly the right person to review this show. We all know that when one minority does something cringe-worthy, that entire marginalized group feels misrepresented (thank you Bernie Madoff) and when one minority does something amazingly awesome (thank you Sarah Silverman), we all celebrate. I love that Mrs.Maisel shows the world that Jewish women have "chutzpa," and are more than kvetching nudniks. That we are machers, and menches, and have as complicated lives as the Jewish men we associate with. What I don't love is being associated with a wealthy, un-woke, unexamined-privilege toting racist, who has no idea what it's like to live life un-shielded by piles of gelt. But wait, that is how many wealthy white Jews did live in the 50s… and…gulp, some still do today, just as many wealthy people do. So perhaps, until a show about all the "funny" working class Jews gets written, Mrs. Maisel is a marvelous pill I will agree to swallow.

By Rachel Hall, Rachel has a Masters in Cultural Gender Studies, and a BA in Communication & Culture, is a Certified Life Coach, and can often be found hiding in her laundry room from her two children. More about her on her website.

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