The first two seasons of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel let issues of the 1960s speak for themselves. As a comedienne trying to be a working mother, and a Jewish woman at that, Miriam “Midge” Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) experienced scorn, discrimination, and mockery. They were never heavy handed about it, though. We should have known that was too good to last. This year, in the seventh episode, “Marvelous Radio,” they had her character book a job reading ads for traditional conservative Phyllis Schlafly and deciding that she just can’t do it. Why? Because she’s a “monster.”
In this episode alone, Midge read ads with phrases like “even I can understand, and I’m a woman!”, was paid in tampons, and recorded an ad trying to sell amphetamines to women as a weight loss product. She is incredibly excited to be booked for a live show doing ads for a female politician. Until her dad, Abe (Tony Shalhoub), tells her at her nephew’s bris that “this is not a good woman.” Patriarchy, anyone?
Midge: “The United States is an island of freedom, achievement and prosperity. Nothing’s more precious than our American way of life”. Pretty hokey.
Abe: What is it?
Midge: It’s the commercial I’m doing tonight. It’s live, so I want to be ready for it. You want to run lines with me? You can be my husband.
Abe: Phyllis Schlafly?
Midge: Yeah. She’s a woman. She’s running for something or other.
Congress. In Illinois.
Midge: You know her?
Abe: Of course I do. I’ve been published in The New York Times. This is not a good woman.
Midge: How so?
Abe: She’s a right-wing nutjob. She’s come out against Nixon.
Midge: Great. We don’t like Nixon.
Abe: Because she thinks he’s too left-wing.
Midge: That doesn’t sound real.
Abe: She also said that Eisenhower only got in office because of secret kingmakers in New York. I’m not sure if you know what ethnicity she’s refering to with the words ‘kingmakers’ and ‘New York’ but one of them just got part of his penis cut off.
Midge: Then she’s an idiot.
Abe: She’s not. That’s what makes her dangerous. Is this who you’re doing a commercial for?
Midge: Well…It’s a paycheck.
Abe: Ok…If you’re going to have a voice, you’d better be careful what that voice says.
Schlafly herself named the so-called “kingmakers,” and most of them are WASPS.
Midge then gets within seconds of going live and says she can’t record the commercial because Schlafly is “racist and sexist.” Her manager, Susie, steps in to do the spot and stops before exclaiming, “Holy fuck, this woman’s a monster” and calling her “Satan” on live radio. A woman who works at the radio station, Irene, then gives it a try but can’t find the right spot in the script. Time runs out, and she simply says, “This woman’s a monster.”
Midge: I can’t. I’m sorry.
Dickie: What was that?
Midge: I can’t do this. This woman, this Schlafly woman she’s awful. I stopped by the library. I looked her up. She is racist and sexist and she uses way too much hairspray. I don’t want to speak for her.
Man: I’m sorry, what did she say?
Dickie: Not the best time to be joking around like this, Midge. These comedians, they make jokes and sometimes – they don’t know where the line is.
Midge: I’m not joking. I’m not doing this. And you shouldn’t either.
Dickie: Susie? Help, please.
Susie: Uh, Miriam? Step up to the mic and say the words. Then I will buy you a hat.
Irene: 30 seconds, Dickie.
Midge: Susie, do you have any idea how horrible this woman is?
Susie: I think everybody’s horrible.
Midge: Not as horrible as her.
Susie: But she’s paying you, which makes me like her. So say the goddamn words.
Midge: Sorry. I’m out.
Irene: 15 seconds, Dickie.
Susie: Miriam, you just recorded a spot for a massage parlor in Newark. Do you know how many greasy hand jobs happen on a daily basis at a massage parlor in Newark?
Midge: This is on a whole different scale. This is a giant greasy hand job.
Irene: I’m getting the countdown, Dickie. In five. Four. Three. Two.
Dickie: Just a reminder, it’s live!
Johnny: “America the land of promise. Honey, do you ever think about the kind of world you want our kids to inherit?”
Dickie: Talk, goddamn it.
Susie: Shit. Uh “It’s all I can think about when I look into their sweet, innocent faces – and their big blue eyes”.
Johnny: “But there are so many forces working to usurp us”.
Susie: “I know, dear. Like foreigners and Communists who don’t even think we should fly the American flag outside our little house”.
Johnny: “There’s nothing wrong with taking pride in the Stars and Stripes. Here, lean in, honey”.
Susie: “Oh, I love it when you rub my nose”.
Johnny: “And there’s nothing wrong with taking pride in our country’s might”.
Susie: “I was just explaining to little Timmy this morning that the atomic bomb is a marvelous gift that was given to our country by God”. Holy fuck, this woman’s a monster.
Midge: That’s what I was saying.
Man: What the hell is going on here?
Susie: Plus, the segues are terrible.
Johnny: “Did you also tell the children that we can’t let certain well-financed minorities determine America’s future?”
Susie: What the fuck?
Irene: Where are we?
Midge: We really have to start reading these contracts.
Susie: I did, and it said nothing about this woman being Satan.
Johnny: ” that we can’t let certain well-financed minorities determine America’s future?”
The script is entirely coded language meant to make Schlafly sound like a rampant racist. One of the phrases with which they are most disgusted is “well-financed minorities,” a phrase Schlafly never used. It’s a bizarre side story in a show that is usually just light and funny, even when dealing with serious things.
You know that old adage that writers should “show, not tell” what they want to say? The writers of Marvelous Mrs. Maisel might need to be reminded of that. At they very least, they can get their facts straight.