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The cast of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is pushing back on an online debate about whether the titular 1950s comic is a good mother.
In the Amazon hit, housewife Miriam “Midge” Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) pursues a career in stand-up comedy after splitting from her cheating husband Joel (Michael Zegen). Brosnahan told The Hollywood Reporter that Midge’s lack of focus on her two children is often criticized as “lazy writing” or a “plot hole.” The actress said there’s a double standard for female and male characters that should be corrected.
“It’s been eye-opening and frustrating that that has been one of the primary criticisms of this character and of the show,” Brosnahan said on Friday, referring to a Twitter conversation last month. She compared Midge’s ambition to that of Mad Men’s Don Draper or Breaking Bad’s Walter White, yet their hands-off parenting style is simply a “character flaw.”
“I don’t think she’s winning parent of the year, but this hasn’t been a conversation about many male characters who are the centers of their shows, who are also parents,” she told THR.
Brosnahan said critics need to take a closer look at why that is and “how we can begin to course correct,” because the show is “about a complex, driven, curious, flawed woman, who is at the center of her own story, who is trying to change her own narrative,” regardless of her parenting. (Her kids, Ethan and Esther, are often left with grandparents or a babysitter while Midge performs around New York).
Alex Borstein, who plays Midge’s manager, Susie, compared Midge’s situation to her own as a working mother. “I leave my children to come shoot on this show, and it doesn’t mean I am a shitty mother. It doesn’t mean I’m neglectful,” she told THR, adding that Mrs. Maisel is about comedy, not mothering.
“The bottom line for me, and I don’t mean this in a reproductive sense only, but choice. It’s about choice, and women have a myriad of choices to work, to not work, to raise children, to not raise children, to be in a heterosexual relationship, to be in a homosexual relationship, whatever the fuck you want,” Borstein said.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has raised several feminist debates in its two seasons about whether the show celebrates white feminism, subverts Jewish tropes with a “feminist twist” or even portrays Midge as a feminist hero at all. (Creator Amy Sherman-Palladino and Brosnahan at PaleyFest on Friday discussed whether Midge identifies as a feminist.)
Other cast members weighed in on Midge’s motherhood on the PaleyFest red carpet. Kevin Pollak, who plays Joel’s father, told THR she’s a great mother because she loves her children, while Zegen said she’s not a good mom, attributing it to “just a product of the times.”
“We know now with the perspective of a modern time that a fulfilled woman and a woman who has ambition and talent is going to end up being the greatest kind of mother,” said Caroline Aaron, who portrays Joel’s mother. “She’s not ditching, she’s just trying to figure out a way to put both of her ambitions together.”
Tony Shalhoub, who plays Midge’s father, maintained that she is doing the best she can, “because she’s on a path that not a lot of women before her have gone on. And the key is, she’s more than just a mother.” Marin Hinkle, who plays Midge’s mother, added that the very conversation and balance is part of what makes the show interesting. “I love that Amy and Dan [Palladino] never let it be sort of clear-cut and black and white. And I think that’s the truth about how mothering works,” the actress said.
Season three begins filming on Wednesday in New York, with no release date set. The show, whose first season won eight Emmys, has not yet been renewed for a fourth season.
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