From defiantly turning her back on male approval to her seamlessly snappy defiance of the ‘women aren’t funny’ trope, Midge is a warrior whose example still resonates
The best line so far in The Marvelous Mrs Maisel – the Emmy award-winning comedy drama about a New York-50s-housewife-turned-standup-comic – isn’t a joke she delivers in a set on a dingy club stage. It isn’t even one of the endless, off-stage zingers by creator Amy Sherman-Palladino (also behind Gilmore Girls). It is, in fact, the searing three-word reply that Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) fires at her husband, Joel (Michael Zegen), halfway through season one, when he asks why she won’t give their marriage another shot: “Because you left.”
In that moment, Mrs Maisel becomes the ultimate single woman’s icon. In a world that measures her success and identity by her marital status, she makes the decision to be a single mother and blindly embrace whatever is ahead. While the social stigmas attached to being unmarried might have relaxed since Midge’s time, the reality today is this: in 2019 five hospital trusts and six clinical commissioning groups banned single women from accessing IVF; our prime minister once said the children of single women are “ill-raised, ignorant, aggressive and illegitimate”; single people feel priced out of owning a house while couples have a double income; and – take it from someone who knows – if you’re not standing on a soapbox shouting “single, fierce and independent!”, friends and family assume you’re sitting at home feeling sad with the cat (or without the cat, because the landlord won’t allow it).