A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
Midge making a go of a comedy career after a personal loss presents a powerful message of female strength. But there are lots of iffy messages about looks and weight, particularly from Midge's mom, who worries that her (very slender) daughter isn't wearing "thinning" clothing and that her granddaughter isn't pretty enough: "I just want her to be happy and it's easier to be happy when you're pretty." Midge herself says that her college roommate was "friendly and fat, which was good because I'll have someone to eat with who doesn't steal my boyfriend." She also measures her body parts daily to make sure she's staying thin.
Positive Role Models
Midge is a strong and tenacious woman who may inspire viewers to go the extra mile when trying to make things happen. Her friend/manager Susie is a woman who doesn't conform to the gender stereotypes of the period, and doesn't care -- she just wants to make her mark on the world. The show's second season delves more specifically into the expectations that are placed on women during this time period, including wealthy women like Rose and Midge, as well as working-class women like Susie. It's clear that women have to work twice as hard as the men on the show to get half as far -- it's also clear that Midge is well up to the task, and that Susie and Rose both improve at getting what they need and deserve over the course of the season.
Violence & Scariness
No physical violence, but at one point Susie asks Midge if she was "chick-raped" in jail.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Breasts are visible in nonsexual contexts: a woman dancing in a burlesque bar loses one of her pasties; Midge exposes her breasts on a comedy stage to prove she's still sexy. A couple has sex against a wall with moaning and thrusting, but no nudity. Women bleach their pubic hair; a bare backside is briefly visible, but genitals are covered. In the show's second season, an extended scene features cross-dressing men who perform in a Parisian nightclub review, who Midge playfully criticizes for "competing" with women. A fully nude man is also visible from the front in a non-sexual context (he's the model for an art class).
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Cursing and language includes "f--k," "s--t," "bastard," "assh--e," "hell," "tits," "ass," "p---y" (implying a man is weak), "whores," "balls," and colorful expressions: "Holy f---ing Christ-balls."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Many scenes take place at bars where characters drink cocktails, beer, and wine. At one point Midge guzzles from a wine bottle, says she's drunk, and climbs onto a stage to do an impromptu performance; in another scene, she shares a joint with some musicians before getting onstage and telling very frank jokes. Jokes refer to sniffing airplane glue, smoking pot, and drinking champagne. Many characters smoke, and scenes frequently take place in bars, with characters drinking and sometimes getting sloppy and aggressive.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is a comedy about a 1950s housewife who becomes a stand-up comic after a breakup. The character is charming, effervescent, even inspirational as a portrait of a woman who simply refuses to let anything stand in the way of her success. There are also lots of iffy messages contained in jokes. Midge's mom worries excessively about looks and weight, criticizing her daughter's looks and saying that her granddaughter isn't pretty enough and won't have a happy life (these messages are subverted somewhat in the show's second season, which digs into institutional sexism and the limited paths for success for women in this time period). Midge herself measures her body parts daily to make sure she's staying thin. Her body anxiety also plays a part in a scene in which she exposes her breasts onstage in order to prove she was a good wife (good wife = good looking). Breasts are visible in a scene in which a burlesque dancer loses a pastie, a bare butt is visible when a woman bleaching her pubic hair runs around in agony, and in the show's second season, a man is fully nude (including genitals) when he poses for an art class. A couple has sex against a wall with moaning and thrusting, but no nudity. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," "bastard," "assh--e," "hell," "p---y" (implying a man is weak), "whores," "balls." Many scenes take place at bars, and characters handle emotional blows by drinking heavily and then making choices they might not have made when sober. Many characters smoke cigarettes, and in several scenes, marijuana. In the show's second season, plotlines about women in comedy, a female character who goes back to school at an advanced age, and the demands made on women by marriages and romantic relationships drive home points about the expectations of women in this place and time, and how it affects their lives.
Is It Any Good?
Laced with wit and sass, set in a mid-century dream of upscale New York, and starring an actress who could easily pass for a third Gilmore girl, this winning comedy is a delight. At a time when women were supposed to be demure little housewives, confining their interests and passions to producing perfect dinners and obedient children, Midge is a firecracker -- albeit one who's doing her level best to fit into an Upper East Side mold. "Who gives a toast at her own wedding?" she asks the camera in her first words of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. She does -- because despite a mother (Marin Hinkle) who's always criticizing her, and a husband who doesn't appreciate her, Midge knows her own worth. She knows she's funny, and she knows that when she gets on a stage in front of a microphone, people laugh -- and that doesn't happen for everybody.
It helps -- Midge's career, and our entertainment -- that she's starting off in an era in which comedy was big, and getting bigger; when comedy albums sold, and a chance to sit on Carson's couch could launch a funny person into stardom. Lenny Bruce makes an appearance, as does the Friar's Club, pot-smoking beatniks, grimy Greenwich Village clubs, and any number of other vintage delights. Best of all is Alex Borstein as Midge's determined manager, a women who sees something amazing in Midge, a star quality she herself lacks. "I've accepted that I'll always be alone," she tells Midge in her authentically miniscule, moldy Village apartment from atop her Murphy bed, her eyes burning fiercely. "But I don't want to be insignificant." A whole world of misfits will see themselves in Susie and Midge, two women who are underrated by everyone -- but themselves.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.