Created by Amy Sherman-Palladino, the Amazon Prime Video tv show, first aired in 2017, is a fresh, hard and tremendous adventure into the life of the early thirty year old woman, Miriam Maisel impersonated by the actress Rachel Brosnahan. Many shows have captured the essence and patriarcal atmosphere of the 50/60’s in most of the industries (Mad Men in publicity for example). But in the case of Mrs.Maisel, we are facing the entertainment industry, an industry who is still today very hard and promiscuous, maybe one of the hardest for men and even harder for women. In this article, I will try to debunk the characteristics of the many barriers that Miriam and other women of the show have to face to hustle and succeed.
The pleath of being a woman and a comedian : the case of Miriam
To set the decor, Miriam Maisel is a young woman who aspires to be a comic and a great one too. She’s also a divorcee and mother of three. And I have to emphasize on her divorce status and the fact that she has kids. Because as the TV show progresses, Miriam‘s individuality clearly fades away. Young, objectively pretty, living and from the New York upper class, Miriam Maisel can firstly be perceived as a privileged person. Even if her parents are pretty tolerant and creative, they are still conservative when it comes to their daughter, her life and her future. And it’s normal. Still, Miriam has seemingly fought and pushed lots of barriers for her life and her career. And we can indeed see this through the seasons. Especially the last ones.
As Miriam knows some ups and downs in her career, her personal life is also impacted. The opportunities presenting to her often happen to not lead to anything or are tricky and complicated. We cannot forget that she is sometimes to blame (especially the Shy Baldwin situation). But Miriam‘s insecurities guide her, she doesn’t think she’s legitimate and has sabotaged herself more than once. Men often push her to stop : from her father to her ex husband or even her friend, they always seem to have something to say. Miriam is also a great example that being an artist and/or a creative means being exposed to everybody’s judgment, any time and any place. When you decide not to follow the norm, not to be a lawyer or a doctor or simply being a full time mother, in a post war era as the TV show happens to take place in, you’ll be criticize harder.
Women comedian still face the double standards : having a vagina and making people laugh can be an advantage or on the other side, your downfall. As a french young woman, I grew up with a new generation of women comedians which have been confronted to harsh criticisms when sometimes they were funnier or equal to comedian men. We can see it’s almost the same in the US. The industry really tends to push women and artists out of the game. Known TV hosts or comedians have their own history of dramas and polemics, but have you seen how women can rapidly be bashed and cut out. Tiffany Haddish is the first one that comes to mind. She has become in less than a decade an example of success and has reached fame thanks to her regularity and her talent. But Tiffany Haddish is often criticized or mocked whenever she talks, changes her apparence.
The case of Susie
The case of Susie Meyerson (played by the talented Alex Borstein) is also very complex and different from Miriam‘s. Susie doesn’t fall into the beauty diktats, her femininity and sexual orientation are often challenged, against her will as matter of fact. She is confronted to a constant sexism. And Susie is also Miriam‘s agent. But we can also see her change and challenge the scene industry as she has almost no women colleagues : just men. From the shadows to the light, the relationship between Miriam and Susie has shown that in this industry there are places for women. As Susie has started her own career and set up her cabinet, she has left Miriam on the side, despite her being her friend and her biggest client. It’s not really a rivalry but their friendship is, especially in season 4, affected by their egos and careers as the two women fight for them and their integrity. Season four highlights the conflict of the search for success and money for both men and women. But one thing is for sure, men struggle too but not at the same level.
The case of Rose
Rose Weissmann is undeniably the perfect feminine model, in phase with her time and the social norms women have to deal with. Rose Weissmann is Miriam‘s mother and not a kind one. She has never approved of her daughter’s career choices and in the end, she has also started her own business and not a common one. Like her daughter, she is ultimately not in the norm and she has chosen a professional way pretty uneasy but still elitist. The case of Rose is pretty simple : the sprinkler sprinkles. As Rose enters her new job and obligations, she is stopped by more mature and professional, women from her industry. Her case reminds her and us too that nothing is easy, you have to fight for a small place and when other women have been here for a long time, the concurrence gets harder. You have to reinvent yourself or invent something new. One thing is for sure, the show is here to enlighten that women are sometimes each other’s enemies because the opportunities to shine and prosper are slimmer than for men.
Rose‘s career is proving to be just like her daughter’s, difficult. Both of them ultimately want one thing: to be accepted. Although contrary to Miriam she doesn’t face a lot of male interference. Still her husband Abe Weissman has appeared to not really meet difficulties to become a writer and journalist. Whenever a man of the show wants to achieve something and build his career and so his future, he achieves his goals pretty quickly and with some help, a help that the women of the show tend to not attract or find that easily.
To conclude, Mrs.Maisel is a mirror of the 50/60’s decades and how creative and active women could face adversity all along their lives and whatever their career. The show unfortunately echoes with today’s professional barriers that female artists and creative have to challenge. Today is definitely a man’s world which tends to balance and be more open to changes. When watching the show I can think of many comedian women especially black comedian women as Fadily Camara in France or Tiffany Haddish who have the strength and « balls » to talk and display with courage their views and personalities as did Moni’que back in the days. Today, being a female artist is kind of simpler but the stigmas of the uncertainty are really still alive. Mrs.Maisel shows us that decades of feminism, advanced technologies and social fights have unfortunately not really broken the stereotypes.
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