Luma Simms is a writer; her essays and articles have appeared in First Things, Public Discourse, The Federalist, Institute for Family Studies, and other publications.

What ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ Can Teach Us About Self-Pity

Amazon Prime’s new streaming show, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, portrays the paradoxical lives of its characters with panache. Stylish and perfectly proportioned Miriam “Midge” Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) is a witty, beautiful Jewish housewife in 1960s New York’s Upper West Side. Her husband, Joel Maisel, is a vice-president at his uncle’s company by day, and he enlists Midge’s homemaking hospitality and winsome ways to help him score performance slots for his developing comedy act in a downtown club. The personality differences between husband and wife are clear from the beginning: she is optimistic, confident, and genuinely funny; he is pessimistic, indecisive, and cowardly.

The whole series has plenty of character exposition and development, and many memorable (comedic and poignant) characters besides Midge and Joel, and so a few first-episode spoilers aren’t out of line: One night, Joel’s comic act flops and he descends into a sulky, self-pitying state. He blames Midge (for encouraging him to do something original rather than his usual habit of “borrowing” a professional’s comic act). He goes on to announce that he is leaving her and gives a tiresome “my life isn’t what I thought it was going to be” speech while informing her that he’s been having an affair with his secretary. He packs his things in Midge’s suitcase, and leaves her and their two kids.

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