‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ Failed Shy Baldwin


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  • The wonderful Mrs. Maisel
    Midge does not recognize her privilege or grow from experiences, especially regarding race as seen in her interactions with Shy Baldwin.
  • The show lacks diversity and doesn't address the civil rights movement, only highlighting non-white characters later.
  • Midge's interaction with Shy lacks empathy, showing her ignorance of her situation and her own shortcomings.

In the fourth season of The wonderful Mrs. Maisel, Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) has a run-in with singer Shy Baldwin (Leroy McClain) in the bathroom of your wedding reception. Midge had accidentally been invited to his wedding, which is awkward considering what had happened between them at the end of season 3. In this scene, the audience gets another dose of Midge's lack of recognition of her privilege and his need to present himself as a victim. What stands out from this scene is the chance for Midge to own her own racial status and grow as a character, but she doesn't.

This is no secret The wonderful Mrs. MaiseIt's a predominantly white show. Yes, Midge and her family are Jewish, but despite being set in the late 1950s and early 1960s, there is barely any reference to the civil rights movement or white supremacy in America. Sure, the show is set in a largely white New York and segregation could be found mostly in the South, but the advocacy of black liberation still had a huge impact on American society and culture . However, it wasn't until two full seasons passed that the show had non-white characters in the spotlight.

Shy Baldwin's story in 'The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel'

Midge spends Season 3 opening for African-American singer Shy Baldwin. Over the course of the season and the tour, Shy and Midge form a bond with each other. The link might be informed by the fact that both are non-white men in predominantly white male occupations. It comes to a point where Shy comes out to Midge after being attacked by her date, because of the trust he has for her, and explains why he has to keep it a secret for obvious reasons. It's a moment of vulnerability that Shy, a gay black man from the 1960s, gives to this straight white woman. This turns out to be Shy's mistake when they perform in Harlem.

In Harlem, having to reckon with the fact that she's a white girl about to perform in front of an all-black audience and open for a black act, and also having taken Moms Mabley's place, Midge is uneasy before the idea of ​​being an intruder. (the closest the show gets to Midge realizing her white privilege). However, he was able to perform a set that the audience loved. Unfortunately, this set included veiled jokes about Shy's sexuality with comments that paint him in a feminine way that counters the 20th century idea of ​​what a man is supposed to be. The public loves him, but as a result, he is pulled from the tour. For Midge, it was a misunderstanding, but for Shy, it was a prank that could put her life in danger.

Being gay was considered a mental disorder in the 1960s, a singer in Shy Baldwin's position would never risk anything that would jeopardize not only his career, but his life. Kicking Midge off the tour wasn't so much meanness as it was safety. Of course, you don't immediately expect Midge to know all of this, given the fact that her pre-stand-up life avoided the messiness and hardships that come with being a marginalized minority. Despite this, it's the fact that she doesn't realize this even when confronted by Shy that becomes a major character flaw in her.

'The wonderful Mrs. Maisel's problem with Midge

Their next meeting is in the bathroom of their reception. Midge apologizes for her set, but it rings hollow because it's layered with her defending herself and adding a bit of victimhood with the line, “If only you'd let me get on that plane,” as a way of saying that he's partly to blame for the breakup of their relationship. The show doesn't even allow Shy to give her side of the situation, as Midge is the only one allowed to comment on the event. The show negates Shy's perspective in order for Midge to dominate the space. This could have been an opportunity for Midge to see her own privilege and realize that she was still able to survive and thrive (she still had a chance to open for Tony Bennett). There could have been a scene where Shy explains the pressure he's under as a black entertainer or what would happen to him if he was out. Instead, Midge has to talk to him.

Let's put aside the fact that she still sees herself as the victim of Shy's rejection for now, and really look at the entirety of Season 4. Midge puts herself in a position to not fall again and she won't let anyone else do it stand in his way in his pursuit of comedy. She uses it to not have opening gigs and just do the gigs she wants to do. This instance of hurting a friend of hers was used to motivate her instead of questioning her own character. The events of Shy Baldwin's downfall were less about the show examining the consequences of Midge's actions, but a plot device used to motivate her attitude in Season 4 — an attitude that Lenny Bruce (Luke Kirby) punishes when he turns down a concert opening for Tony Bennett. The closest we get to seeing Midge feel like she recognizes the problems Shy will face is seeing how tortured and lonely he is in this sham marriage and that his crew is gone as a result of the new management. She does not understand him or empathize with him, but pity him.

There is nothing inherently wrong with a character being clueless about other people's lives or unaware of their own privilege. Often, it makes for great storytelling. However, the show needs to make it known that it recognizes the character's flaws and will challenge them. It says more about the show's blind spots rather than the character's blind spots.

The wonderful Mrs. Maisel is streaming on Prime Video.



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