*WARNING: Spoilers ahead*
Amy Sherman-Palladino, Creator, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
As a major “Gilmore Girls” fan, I’d been counting down the days until the first season of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” was released on Amazon Prime. Ever since Rory’s Yale graduation, I desperately yearned for more of that fast talking, pop culture filled walk and talk scenes that creator Amy Sherman Palladino (ASP) loves to write. Honestly, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” could have been a total flop, and I still would have watched the entire series for the sole reason of it being created and written by the one-and-only ASP. I mean, I watched all 18 episodes of “Bunheads” – need I say more?
But as I finished watching the final episode of the first season of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” – I was filled with that same tingly, happy feeling that “Gilmore Girls” used to give me. Except this time, the jokes and references felt personal. I felt like Ms. Palladino’s writing was directed at me, hoping to relate to my odd sense of humor and love of using Jewish culture in everyday life. I had this weird feeling that I was just like the show’s protagonist Midge Maisel….well, except for that minor difference of me living in 2018 versus 1958.
I felt like Midge and I were soul sisters living 60 years apart.
In episode 1, Midge bribes the owner at The Gas Light comedy club with a brisket every week to get her husband, Joel, a better time slot. I bribe my IT department at work with my grandma’s mandel bread to get them to more quickly fix my computer issues. Oh, and just like Midge, I also make great latkes.
As I made my way through each of the next 7 episodes, I continued to feel like – almost – every scene could have happened to me, even though they most definitely did not. Midge complaining about her husband turned ex, Joel, dating a Methodist version of herself? Oy, do I get it. Explaining Yom Kippur to a gentile? Why would you voluntarily choose to not drink coffee for an entire day?!
Since I finished my marathon viewing of Season 1, I’ve spent time telling every single person I know to watch this show – especially if they are Jewish. I excitedly watched the whole season a second time, and am now listening to a podcast that discuss the pop culture references, “Gilmore Girl” similarities, and ASP-isms in the show. I mean, I listened to every episode of “Gilmore Guys” as they re-watched every episode of that series. So, of course I’m going to listen to every episode of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Goys” as they do the same thing (same hosts, different “punny” name).
But as I continue to immerse myself in the land of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”, I have started hearing many varying opinions, and finding my own criticisms, about the show’s portrayal of Judaism and Jewish people. Some viewers feel that the show portrays Jews in a negative light by exacerbating Jewish stereotypes. Others comment on the Jewish inconsistencies in the show. Some of the common critiques I hear range from:
Although I have my own perspectives about these complaints, for the most part, I think the show is supposed to be comedic. I find that the joy and laughter I experience while watching the show is partially due to seeing the stereotypes I’ve heard for years unfold on screen. For me, it’s what makes the show so relatable and hysterical.
While observing the many Jewish inconsistencies apparent in the show, I also came across the realization that my life is absolutely nothing like Midge Maisel’s! Very shocking, I know. For starters, Midge Maisel and I are both 26 years old and our lives could not look more different. She is married with two kids, works as a stay-at-home mom, has never left her hometown except for college, and has never held a paying job. Learning how to clock in was a big deal for her. I, on the other hand, am single, living in my fourth new city since leaving my family in Florida, and am currently employed at my third full time job. I have been mostly self-reliant for the past five years.
While I love watching Midge’s relationship with her parents Abe and Rose, and I burst out laughing every time they are on the screen, my parents are pretty much the opposite of hers. If Abe and Rose are the definition of stereotypical Jewish parents, then mine are the opposite.
The one thing Midge’s father, Abe, told his daughter Midge before going to that “goy”-isch college? “Don’t pick a weak man to marry.” What my Dad told me before going to college? “Make sure to take business classes so you’re well prepared for a successful life after college.”
Rose’s first response to Joel leaving Midge? “Midge – what did you do?!” My mother’s likely response? A loving, supportive hug.
Abe’s response to Joel leaving Midge? “Fix yourself up and get him back. You cannot be on your own.” What my Dad has drilled into my head for the past (at least) eight years of my life? “Make your own money and be able to support yourself. And don’t get married young, enjoy your life.”
While I am still raving about “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” as a whole, and definitely wish I were as quick-witted as Midge, I’m starting to appreciate the ways my life is different from hers. I’m thrilled to have the unconditionally loving, supportive, warm, pro-feminist parents that I have.
Also, I will never put on makeup before my future husband wakes up in the morning as Midge and her mother do. This seemed to me, like something done in the 1950s because the way a woman was viewed physically by a man was of utmost importance in society. Women may have measured their bodies regularly, like Midge does, and feel the need to look perfect all the time.
I am thrilled to live in an era where women have so much more value than just their looks. Although, we certainly still have a ways to go, I know that my skills and knowledge give me certain choices and freedoms that I would not have had sixty years ago.
Regardless of this, I still recommend this show to everyone. And, I very much look forward to continuing to quote this show in my day-to-day life. Oh, and I’m definitely going to hire Bottle Dancers at my future wedding. A girl can dream, right?
About the Author: Marisa Briefman is a part of our “Gather the Bloggers” cohort of talented writers who share their thoughts and insights about DC Jewish life with you. She is a recent DC transplant who was born and raised in Sarasota, Florida – likely where your grandparents live. Her love of all things Jewish began at overnight camp and continues to thrive in her role at JSSA. She is coffee addict, lover of Mexican food, and on a permanent mission pet all the adorable dogs in DC (if someone is in need of a dog-sitter, email me).