Make Susie Gay, You Cowards: On The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s Lesbian Problem

The Gaslight Café, where The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel‘s eponymous plucky heroine gets her unexpected and highly intoxicated start as a stand-up comic and her eventual manager Susie Myerson is vaguely employed, was actually a real place in New York City. A fixture of New York Bohemian life and the official “Beat Mecca,” the basement of 116 MacDougal Street was the go-to spot for readings by sexually fluid poets like Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and Diane di Prima. In the ’60s, folk musicians and comics were added to the busy nightly line-up.

The Gaslight was not only located in Greenwich Village, an epicenter of gay and lesbian life in New York at the time, but also in a specifically lesbian section of Greenwich Village. Swing Rendezvous, a jazz club and lesbian bar visited by Audre Lorde and Kitty Genovese, was directly across the street at 117 MacDougal and attracted a mostly-white working-class clientele who adhered to strict butch/femme roles. The Portofino, an Italian restaurant with an unofficial Lesbian Night on Fridays where Lorraine Hansberry often turned up and Edie and Thea met, was a three-minute walk from The Gaslight, as were lesbian bars Pony Stable Inn, The Laurels and Provincetown Landing, a regular haunt for Patricia Highsmith. A 1955-56 F.B.I. investigative report of The Gaslight’s neighborhood declared, “a majority of the bars and restaurants in this area cater to lesbians and homosexuals.” Just around the corner from The Gaslight, Tony Pastor’s Downtown had a mixed clientele of “lesbians and tourists, some gay men, and female impersonators.” (It’d shut down in the ’60s and would consequently host meetings for The Gay Liberation Front and The Radicallesbians.) Next door was The Music Box, another “notorious… place of amusement” for gays and lesbians.

Buddy Kent, a lesbian who did drag shows in the neighborhood in the ’50s, said the area “was home. and we had the best protection in the world from the Mafia. They ran everything.” Still, raids were common, and an arrest, followed by your name in the paper the next day, could ruin your life. So the culture was underground but very visible if you knew what to look for.

Here is where we find Susie Myerson: a very butch, scrappy, hilarious, endearing, working-class misanthrope in menswear who manages, over the course of two seasons, to embody a love that dare not speak its name or even suggest the existence of its name by never — not once! — encountering another lesbian or lesbian culture, let alone identifying as one. Nor do we sense the subject is being intentionally avoided due to taboos around homosexuality at the time. The overwhelming sense, instead, is that Susie has been neutered. You know, like a house pet.

Ah, tough luck, we don’t have any spots yet on the lineup tonight for butch lesbian representation

Do butch straight women exist? Yes! Would a straight woman adopt a butch style in Greenwich Village in the late 1950s? Almost definitely not! If she did, that choice and its accordant contradiction would undoubtedly be a hot topic and could inspire police harassment. 

Susie is therefore almost definitely gay, but also not gay. I mean: she’s gaaaaay. But Amy Sherman-Palladino and Dan Palladino talk about Susie like how your parents would talk to your grandparents about you in the actual 1950s.

In Rolling Stone, they wax poetic about Midge and Susie acing the Bechdel Test with their important female friendship while avoiding the meat of the matter. “Susie is a little more mysterious. She’s a woman who basically at some point shut down in her twenties, and even we don’t quite know why—” says Dan.

He’s interrupted by Amy: “Well, I don’t think we don’t know totally. Susie is somebody who, again, did not fit the times. She was not a beauty. Where did Susie fit in with the kind of clothing that she wears and the views that she has?” A few grating clauses later, Amy declares that Susie’s “never gonna find a husband, have some kids” because “that’s just simply not an option.” Why not? Let’s not say! Better to say “not a beauty” than “a lesbian.”

Let’s say this instead: “And once you take that option off the table in 1959, women were left with a lot less choices.”

Dan goes on to note that “once the series came out, everybody was reading into it,” without addressing what, exactly, everybody was “reading into.” He concludes: “That’s our ultimate goal, to get people to read into it what they want to read into it. Make it their own.”

The problem with that assessment is that Susie’s sexuality is the only one requiring a read-into. She’s the only character on Mrs. Maisel who is not, in fact, explicitly heterosexual — everybody else is married, or they’d like to be, or they talk about their wives or husbands or how hot this or that boy or girl is. But not Susie!

If we give the creators the benefit of the doubt — that Susie’s gay, it’s just not discussed because it’s the ’50s and she’s a private person — then why wouldn’t they acknowledge that in interviews and other press around the show, conducted in 2018? And why are we still, in 2018, bending over backwards to give creators the benefit of the doubt?

Bafflingly, in an interview with Cosmo, Alex Borstein said her dream for Susie is for her to “get married and have babies.” What?!

That man over there looks like great marriage material I can’t wait to climb him like a tree

After Season One, we were willing to forgive the Ambiguously Gay trope. There was a lot to set up, after all. The details would come later. Judith Katz, a butch lesbian author who came of age in the ’60s and ’70s, described Susie’s identity as “never spoken but clearly intended” and declares, “Susie Myerson is a butch Jewish dyke as sure as I’m writing this down.” (Unfortunately though, Susie’s character isn’t Jewish.)

The only reference to Susie’s lesbianism in Season One was in the finale, when Susie informs Midge’s husband Joel that he’s “barking up the wrong tree” when he attempts to secure a spot on The Gaslight’s lineup by complimenting her “blouse.”

Then Season Two dropped, unlike any acknowledgement of Susie possessing romantic or sexual desires. “I deeply dislike what they are doing with Susie this season,” tweeted writer Jeanna Kadlec. “I had higher hopes for butch representation on television, ESPECIALLY after Alex Borstein won an Emmy for this role.”

I’ve never been a Gilmore Girls fan, and certainly wasn’t encouraged to give it a shot when, called upon to remark on The Gilmore Girls’ subtextual homosexuality in 2013, Amy declared, “We had characters in the town that we thought of as gay. And we just thought of them as characters.” (She declined to tell the reporter who of these “just characters” were secretly gay.) Apparently, Sookie was initially written as a lesbian, but that idea was nixed by the WB back in 2000. But when Gilmore Girls: A Year In The Life debuted — a decade after the original concluded, in a new, way more accepting milieu — the show still seemed fundamentally uncomfortable with any actual queer representation.

I can’t wait to make this sandwich for my husband one day

“Midge and Susie, it’s a love story, you know?” Alex told Hollywood Life. “I’m not necessarily saying it’s a lesbian [love story], but it’s a female love story, and [Joel]’s part of that triangle.” I suppose that quote may have encouraged Midge/Susie shippers but if anything, I’m grateful Susie hasn’t fallen into the tired lesbian trope of “poor mannish lesbian crushing on her beautiful straight best friend.” It’s not a love story with Midge I yearn for, but an independent sense of self for Susie. When Susie found herself a family of sorts at Steiner Mountain Resort (including at least one man Susie clocks as gay), I thought her moment for love had finally come. But it was not to be!

Even more unfortunate is how thrilling and historically accurate it’d be to actually call Susie what she is in a show that suffers from chronically low stakes. 1950s-era lesbian liaisons are richly dramatic, which’s why they’ve popped up in other period dramas of the era like Masters of Sex, The Man In The High Castle, Bomb Girls and Call the Midwife. 

It was a complicated time to be gay. “Suddenly there were large numbers of women who could become a part of a lesbian subculture,” writes Lillian Faderman of the era, “yet also suddenly there were more reasons than ever for the subculture to stay underground.” Post-World-War-II, homos who’d been dropped off in big cities developed dynamic queer communities. Women had, during the war, been let into the workforce, which supplied economic independence, acceptable venues for girl-on-girl socialization and the freedom to wear pants. Conversely, threatened by the confidence and marketable skills acquired by women during the war, American culture in the ’50s took a hard conservative turn, doubling down on obligating women to get married, have kids and vacuum. Then you’ve got the anti-Communist witch-hunts of the Cold War era and the Lavender Scare, characterized by obsessive suspicion of literally everybody weird. The government was cracking down on the homosexuals, forcing them into the closet or out of work. Even leftists were suspicious of potential gays and lesbians in their midsts. The FBI monitored gay bars, psychologists were publishing dubious studies that painted lesbians as hysterical lunatics in need of treatment, pulp fiction offered refuge as well as villainization and condemnation; and in many places it was still technically illegal for homosexuals to “gather.” In 1958, Barbara Gittings established the New York chapter of the Daughters of Bilitis, a social club dedicated to a “respectable” image of lesbians: white, middle class, wearing skirts, eschewing butch/femme.

When Season Three begins, we’ll be heading into the ’60s, an era of social upheaval, especially for queers in New York. Will we, then, finally acknowledge that Susie is queer?

Listen; there’s a lot to love about The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and most people do. It’s delightful to experience: smart, cheerful and loaded with charm, funny quips, lite-feminist principles and genuine out-loud laughs. Alex Borstein’s performance is aces. It’s just edgy enough to stimulate your intellect but not too edgy for your Bubbe (although she might wonder why Mrs. Maisel’s butcher sells pork or everybody wishes each other “Happy New Year” (in English!) on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement). Its agenda is subtle and easy to swallow, like a wee matzo ball. But it’s also a bit of a neoliberal fantasyland where anti-Semitism doesn’t exist, and sexism only exists to be delightfully skewered.

In 2018, subtext, the life raft we once clung to, has been sent to sea and in this new bold era, Susie’s squelched sexuality somehow feels personally insulting. (Worth noting that Amazon also cancelled two series with actual butch lesbians playing butch lesbians this year, I Love Dick and One Mississippi.)  I get itchy hearing people talk about the show, like how I used to feel when straight people talked about Elliot Page allegedly dating Alexander Skarsgård before Elliot came out in 2014. It seems to represent a fundamental unease with queer stories, wanting all the benefits of a sassy gay sidekick without the hard work of acknowledging, let alone understanding, their multifaceted personhood. Put that on your plate and you’ll really have a story to dine out on.

C’mon what’s a lady gotta do to get her man on the horn around here?!

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Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3177 articles for us.


  1. This is a brilliant piece of herstory writing/TV criticism and I am so glad you wrote it/I got to read it!

    • Why not make your own show? You can make the characters whatever you want. If you don’t like this story, write your own. Seriously.

  2. yes they totally neutered her in season 2

    i re-watched season 1 recently and there was a scene where Joel was trying to flirt with Susie for a better slot at the gaslight and she said to him ‘you’re barking up the wrong tree’ which seems to be probably the most explicit comment about her sexuality in the entire series … there was also some line about how if she got lucky in life she’d be walked around by an older woman on a leash (forgetting exact episode/quote?) — kind of kinky??

    nothing close to that was ever repeated again i think.

    and this is a wonderful article and i loved reading about the history of that area!

    • yeah totally i agree! i actually mention that in the piece — “you’re barking up the wrong tree” was the closest thing to a coming out scene we get in two entire seasons. it’s bananas.

      i thought season 2 would finally go there, but i really think the creators are fundamentally uncomfortable with gay storylines, but because they’re liberal people with lots of gay friends, they have avoided confronting this truth about themselves. like it’s a classic example of the psychological concept of the “me” and the “not me”

  3. This is such a great write up about this!!!

    There was a moment in season one when Susie said she was going to be alone for the rest of her life “unless I hire a broad to walk me around the park” and although that is a pretty awkward way of outing her, I assumed since AMSP probably isn’t up on kink and sex work and it’s intersections with sexuality, that was her outing susie? But no one seems to remember the line, and yeah, since then, they’ve really pulled way back on susie’s Otherness/queerness in a super weird way, especially given that it’s 2018. Susie is the non-gay lesbian I would expect to see in any number of shows from around 1997????

    • it was “i know I’m right about this, just like I know that unless I somehow get rich enough to hire some German broad to walk me around the park twice a day in my old age, I’m gonna spend my entire life alone.”

      which yeah, i thought was the beginning of further references to come but alas it was not!

      but i think the interview with Amy and Dan might be what pushed me over the edge tbh. like you can say that it can’t be mentioned b/c of the times — although midge and susie spend a LOT of time together in private places!!! so i don’t buy that — but then why not admit it in interviews conducted in 2017 and 2018??

      • Thanks for the full quote! Totally agreed. Even if Susie doesn’t necessarily want to mention it to midge, it would be nice if she had just like ONE peer, in all of the Village, that isn’t too much to ask!

    • i know! i love jamie babbit so much! they gave her a real doozy of an episode too, one of her two eps was the one where midge went to the bar where the avant garde artists were? which i think was my least favorite of the season. but the scene with susie’s family that episode was so well done, comedically. i wish they’d given jamie some of the episodes in the catskills…

  4. Amy Sherman Palladino seems to be uncomfortable with the following groups: people of color, ESPECIALLY Black people, fat people, black women, blondes, etc etc.

  5. i’ve never seen this show but seeing screencaps of susie’s general manner of dress and carriage, i’m downright insulted that she’s not explicitly queer. they trying to tell us straight women wear suspenders?

  6. Awesome article Riese. I loved it so much.

    I love this show but since i knew who the creator was from day 1, i knew never to expect any sort of queerness from this show. To me, i do not read Susie as a lesbian simply because she is in a show created by ASP. So no matter what, Susie is still heterosexual to me.

    And personally i hope they never get to ask ASP about Susie’s queerness because that’s when we’ll get stupid answers like Susie should be a character first or her sexuality shouldn’t be a main part about her. Oh! But Midge is all about her sexuality 24/7 but you have no problem with that because of heteronormativity? Hmmmm.

    ASP is the kind of writers who fits well with Hallmark shows and movies.

    I hope they leave Susie as she is or even get her a male partner because they will ruin her storyline if they ever make her explicitly queer.

    • “i hope they never get to ask ASP about Susie’s queerness because that’s when we’ll get stupid answers like Susie should be a character first or her sexuality shouldn’t be a main part about her. Oh! But Midge is all about her sexuality 24/7 but you have no problem with that because of heteronormativity? Hmmmm.”

      yep! that seems to be their general MO

    • I love the show and I love Susie but I have to agree that dispite how she dresses I have never read her as gay and honestly I am totally okay with 1) not addressing her sexuality at all (honestly I think her addressing it/acting on it would be out of character) or even, if necessary, 2) her having a male partner. I don’t like the idea of making a character lesbian just because she wears flannel and is rough around the collar….she’s just never felt ‘lesbian’ to me.
      I actually enjoy the show without introducing too maany romantic/love interest (the Joel/Midge is enough for me)…I’m growing tired of shows that focus on the romantic relationships/sexuality of the characters…it is staring to feel so cliched. I fee like many shows are just trying to tick all the boxes now and are losing the story in the mean time.

  7. I haven’t finished season 2 yet but have read enough to know not to expect Susie’s sexuality to be confirmed at all.

    • Oops, hit submit too soon.

      Thank you for this piece of criticism. It’s needed but unfortunately the people who should read it most likely never will.

  8. It bugged me too how the only other (presumably?) gay staffer at the camp in the Catskills was thrown in just to shoot Susie some side eye and knowing glances, but their relationship was never developed beyond this “I know that you know that I know” dance.

    • this is very interesting to me because i actually did not read him as gay??? if we’re talking about the same gay here. i thought he was just like “we’re both interlopers pretending to work here.” he struck me more as a creepy straight guy tbh, who would like play a loner serial killer with weird hobbies in criminal minds.

      the person i was referring to that susie clocked as gay was in the bunks at night when the girls were talking about another guy who worked there Felix and how he’s so handsome and single and Susie is like “you guys are talking about the same Felix, right? teaches ballet? walks around in a leotard all day? guys you know he’s a — never mind.”

      • Oh DAMN I totally forgot about that part, but yes him too! It’s def possible that I misread the other character, bc if we’re being honest (and we are) I was scrolling on my phone a lot while my wife and I watched the show 🤣

    • I really wanted that one girl who told her she could stay in the cabin to be gay. She was definitely giving Susie some LOOKS!

  9. I am not the biggest fan of the show, but I feel like they gave a half-hearted acknowledgment of her sexuality.

    In the episode when Midge is on tour, there is the scene following Joel coming to “rescue” Susie and to get Midge’s money when a club owner stiffs them. Susie makes a comment about not needing rescuing and Midge replies, “you are a damsel in da closet.”

    Again I could be wrong about this.

    • Yeah I remember that — but the idea of gay people being “in the closet” as a term didn’t enter discourse until the ‘60s at the earliest and i feel like (but i could be wrong) that there’s no way straight ppl like midge would’ve been aware of it until honestly like the late ’70s or ’80s. And this season was set in ’59. the idea of “coming out” wasn’t even really a thing because nobody came out, and a straight person never would’ve mocked a gay person for not being “out” because a gay person staying “closeted” was largely done for the comfort of everybody around them, especially straight people. “coming out” as a term i think started with drag balls (which were mostly attended by gay men and trans women) as a play on the term as it was used in the south for debutant “coming out” parties.

      • This is true but the show is anachronistic with language all over the place. They’re not being careful at all about having characters actually speak as though they are in the era they’re in, or know things those characters would have or wouldn’t have known. You know way more about this than the writers care to research. I also read that comment as a throwaway nod to the subtext they are once in a blue moon holding their noses to vaguely acknowledge.

      • I am not trying to defend the show. But as I said, it was a half-hearted and therefore not informed. To be honest, I don’t think Amy Sherman-Palladino put much effort into learning the language use of that era. You probably put in 200% more effort in researching the time period then they did.

        My grandparents were musicians IN NYC at that time. When I tried to watch the show with my grandmother and she complained about the way people were talking AND how blacks would have interacted with white people. I’m sorry, even in NYC, a black man would not have used the women’s restroom.

    • I know it’s an anachronistic joke, but I still yelled at the tv when she said that. A bridge too far, ASP!

  10. Thank you for writing this!!! I stopped watching in the beginning of season 2 because I’ve been so frustrated with how her character is not developed on the show.

    I also think the writers try to mark Susie as gay by having other characters misgender her, which I find so weird?? There are a number of scenes when other characters read Susie as a man or call her “it” when they first see her. While of course many butch women are misgendered IRL and can experience both transphobia and homophobia, it seems like it is a way the show tries to signal Susie’s difference/Otherness without, as you say, actually discussing it. And it comes off as this strange conflation of gender identity, gender presentation, and sexuality–as if people reading Susie as a man is a way to let the audience know that she is a lesbian. And the show totally frames these moments as jokes–is Susie’s gender the butt of the joke?–as opposed to violent and dangerous moments of harassment. Just another way I think the show really misses the mark with this character.

    • yeah! it’s interesting because at the time a lot of butch women actually hoped to pass as men because in a lot of contexts it was the only way they could get away with wearing clothes they were comfortable in.

      so it was bizarre how those situations were framed as jokes within the context of the show when i imagine in reality it would’ve been met by susie with: 1. oh they think i’m a man, cool, 2. i hope they don’t realize i’m not?

      i was actually surprised that she wasn’t misgendered more often than not. most butch women i know are misgendered daily in 2018, when it’s pretty common for women to wear “men’s clothes.”

      i just really don’t feel like they did any research into what it was like to be butch in the late ’50s in new york!

      • It’s the difference between embodying a real character and doing a bit, it seems like. Alexis Borstein could also have pushed back harder on it, I think, but if she’s giving interviews like Susie is straight, then just what the everloving duck.

  11. Thanks for this – I really agree that Susie is a butch lesbian. When I reviewed Season 1 of MMM for The Forward, I mentioned Susie & Midge’s “butch-femme banter” because it was so obvious to me. Lots of Susie’s lines refer to how feminine and sexually alluring Midge is, which really puts her own gender presentation into sharp contrast and tbh sounds flirtatious. And her outfits are exactly what working-class butches wore in that time period.

    Susie’s background confused me because Meyerson and its variations can be a Jewish last name, and it seemed like Susie could have been Jewish but just not observant – until we met her family in S2 and it was clear they aren’t ethnically Jewish either. It would have been a good opportunity to show that not all NY Jews were wealthy and religious/practicing at the time.

    • “It would have been a good opportunity to show that not all NY Jews were wealthy and religious/practicing at the time.”

      YES it would’ve!!

      I think I assumed Susie was Jewish b/c it seemed odd that one of the few Jewish actresses on the show would be playing a non-Jew, but there were a few times in Season One where it also seemed like Susie was unfamiliar with Jewish culture and Midge definitely talked to her like she wasn’t Jewish, but yeah then when we met her family it was confirmed.

      i think rachel brosnihan does a great job as midge, but it’s a little troubling to me that ASP calls Susie “not a beauty” when she’s one of the few jewish actresses on the show, and clearly didn’t want to cast a Jewish actress to play Midge, who is framed as beautiful. i feel like they didn’t want an actress who might be visibly Jewish. going along with the whole path of least resistance the show seems to take in general.

      which honestly i think was fine and i felt fine about it until they swept the emmys and i was like… wait what???

    • The moment in season 1 that really sealed Susie’s queerness to me was her reaction to seeing Midge in that black dress at her gig with Lenny Bruce at the Gaslight in the final episode. Midge takes off her coat to reveal the dress, and Susie literally gasps. I can’t remember what she said but it was not the reaction of a straight woman to seeing her friend in a really nice dress.

  12. yes, yes, a million times yes. Such cowardice.
    Also, Susie dresses like my mum and reminds me of her strongly. It’s been odd ever since I started watching this show. Although maybe it proves that if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s actually so heterosexual it will marry a couple of men, and do a lil’ overlap, its enthusiasm for boys is such…

  13. yes to all of this

    her character never read to me as even having a sexuality

    her character read to me the way I feel I am read by straight people who are made uncomfortable by me: as a non entity, in one dimension. the potential taboos erased

    • like, the way she’s presented is the way i feel while living in an area with no real queer community, working in a place where i can’t be genuinely open about myself while also being outed continuously just by my own gender presentation, BUT SUSIE LIVES IN THE GAYEST POSSIBLE GAYBORHOOD

      she would have been SWIMMING in 50s lesbians who were fully into Susie’s whole thing

      AND YET

      • YES —> “her character read to me the way I feel I am read by straight people who are made uncomfortable by me: as a non entity, in one dimension. the potential taboos erased”

  14. This is such a brilliant piece of criticism – the best critics always have that something extra – not just about the work itself but about the culture that the work was produced in. You’ve managed a detailed history and highlighted so many of the things that make me uncomfortable about ASP’s work in such a short piece (particularly her weird perspective with being Jewish and beautiful).

    It’s just so frustrating that ASP wants to co-opt Susie’s irreverent stance toward heteronormative standards without acknowledging what that would actually cost a gay lady in that time. Which frankly would still resonate now and make for an even better show.

  15. Think about this: every excruciating scene centrées on Joel (ughhhhh) could have been used to explore Susie’s personality!


      • Pesky predictive text LOL

        I’m trying to teach mine to write “phoque” instead of “fuck”, maybe I should try for “duck” instead LOL.


            I haven’t watched Season 2 yet because while I dearly loved Season 1 and everything about Midge’s path towards being a comic (and her in general), I just cannot stand Joel. He’s such an self-absorbed ass and double-standard, not to mention the fact that he’s also such huge man-child who chickens out when he should grow up and stand by his actions.

            I just can not understand how one (and especially ASP) can love Joel. Just can’t wrap my head around it.

          • WHAT



            I mean I guess this should’ve been predicted given that the Gilmore Girls reboot miniseries spent FAR too much time on fucking Logan (and, well, *fucking* Logan), but still. REALLLLLLY?

    • This is accurate and perfect. If she’s supposed to be straight that is truly bizarre! I wonder if Alex Bornstein is playing her gay aside from whatever ASP’s intention is. It reminds me of the sesame street creator saying he didn’t create Bert and Ernie to be gay but the guy who actually wrote most of the Bert and Ernie sketches saying he was writing them basically as himself and his partner. In such a collaborative medium you can have conflicting intentions. Either way I’m very annoyed with the lack of textual gayness but still loving every moment Bornstein is onscreen

  16. Great arguments all around. Respectfully, though, I love MMM, I loved GG and I don’t mind “reading in” on Susie’s sexuality (butch lesbian). I’d rather watch a smart, funny, well-written, well-acted show that prominently features but hasn’t (yet) fully committed to a beloved character’s lesbianism, than suffer through any number of shitty shows and movies with out-lesbian characters I don’t give a duck about.

  17. The comment above about them writing Susie like it’s 1997 is CORRECT and actually the whole show feels like that? Which I guess is part of the appeal and the creators’ whole thing, but to me got old after a season. Partly because it’s written like that, I thought for a moment when they introduced Benjamin that he was going to be gay. As in I did not put it past the show to be like “He likes ART and doesn’t want to GET MARRIED and likes WEIRD WOMEN and can dress and has manners! Let’s have him ask Midge to be his beard!” In hindsight maybe I was just wishing a gay character into existence.

    Also, I also REALLY thought that the summer camp friendship vibe of the Catskills resort was going to mean a gf for Susie, but no!

    • Yes about Benjamin! There’s a moment, I think it’s the fourth of July maybe?, when Benjamin is talking to Joel and the shot shifts to behind them and I really thought that scene was about Benjamin flirting with Joel and then being forlorn about Joel’s straightness and then nope Benjamin’s straight (?) and into Midge.

    • I thought Benjamin was going to be gay too! Not just the art/dress/bachelor thing, but the way he seemed willing to put up with Midge but didn’t seem to feel one way or another about her at first seemed very “OK, we’ll talk to each other to make all our parents happy.”

  18. S2 was generally weird about queerness. That whole standup that Maisel did at the drag show made me cringe.

    This article super articulated something that made me uncomfortable but that I couldn’t quite put my finger on!

  19. I love all the history bits in this, thank you.
    I was entertained enough by the first season, hoping Susie would be actually gay in s2. It not only disappointed in that way, but the misgendering and the very bad jokes in the french drag show, a few other people already mentioned, made me so mad (esp. the scene with the two mobsters, they also made her drop her pizza so RUDE). Then the not-so-casual racism. At the big ending night show at the resort, before they introduce the “international” theme they mention something about doing “under the stars” or a similarly normal theme the previous year, so obviously racist tropes weren’t necessary. There was no reason for the writers to create that scene with that theme/those stereotyped costumes, besides a few not good, very uncomfortable jokes for the characters to say in comment on the theme. Definitely not interested in watching any other seasons.

  20. I’d been hoping for a piece like this and boy did you deliver. It was really beginning to feel disrespectful (the constant misgendering & Susie’s overall appearance being a running joke, the gay jokes about Joel, the “closet” comment also felt like such a cowardly wink with apparently no intention of going there) so it’s about time someone called out Mrs. Maisel & Amy Sherman Palladino for this. (And yet we always feel hesitant to complain about these things, lest we appear too impatient, or angry, or overall incapable of approaching television with nuance.) Thank you so much for putting in all this work and having the history to back it up.

  21. Fair point, but how about we let the artists just create the show and unveil it on their pace? She used the word “seems” several times which translates to “I don’t know if it’s a fact but I’m writing it so just treat it like it is.”

    Sanctimonious critics who think they have influence over content pull down a title before it has a chance to open its wings or before anyone’s even seen it. Now producers are so hyper-sensitive they shit their pants and try to check all the boxes. That’s not art – it’s appeasement.

  22. It’s funny, in many ways Maisel seems to have gotten less radical in the second season. Then again, perhaps that’s just because the novelty and excitement of a show that was that explicitly, ebulliently Jewish had worn off.

    And don’t even get me started on how S2 failed to give any of its characters good arcs. Honestly, Susie coming to trust Midge enough to explicitly come out to her would have made the entire season (and especially the last episode) 100x better. Instead we just got the show puttering along into a bullshit non-confrontation with Sophie Lennon that existed almost entirely to set up S3.

    Random thoughts:

    1) Both Midge and Abe are definitely just a wee bit bi. This will never be explicitly acknowledged.

    2) My partner and I were debating if Susie is Jewish, and we came to the conclusion she is. I thought she wasn’t but neither my recollection nor google backed up my belief. I’d be curious to see if other folx remember evidence better than I.

  23. i tried to talk about this article with my (straight) mom and sister and they got really defensive and weird about it

    “maybe the writers WANT people to read into it, maybe they want to START A CONVERSATION”

    ?? by avoiding having a conversation?? at seemingly all costs???

    It was disappointing. I like the show too!! (Not as much as they do, for no particular reason, but I didn’t exactly open with that)

    People Can Be Critical Of The Things They Like 2k19 holy cow

  24. I was just watching this and on top of all the brilliant points made by Riese I would also add that Midge’s plotline in the second season is basically a coming out story! Especially the scene where her father finds out and tells her that she has to wait before telling her mom. So on top of closeting Susie, ASP is also co-opting a queer storyline for a straight character. Jeesh.

  25. It bothers me SO MUCH that they just call her “not a beauty.” I mean, no, she is not “beautiful” according to mainstream heterosexual norms but like, as a queer lady I find her attractive. And I mean, they could find her some cute, neurotic femme* who would be really attracted to her if they wanted to.

    I think it’s just another way they’re erasing queer women’s sexuality and culture. That particular butch aesthetic is not just an accident because butch women don’t know how to be feminine or beautiful. It is also rooted in a particular time and place and subculture and would be super-attractive to many queer ladies and thus might actually be a conscious choice! (not necessarily the gender non-conformity, but the specific aesthetic/style)

    *Not that she could only date a femme, of course! But my understanding of 1950s lesbian culture is that butches mostly dated femmes.

  26. Can I also build on the comment on Midge ‘s queerness? My high-femme-came-out-post-breakup-with-shitty dude self would love to see her explore, but not be shitty with that either. And she didn’t day that she hated her girl experience… I hope season 3 is better with Susie, and folks of color.

  27. Does anyone else think that Susie is going to get with Sophie Lennon in S3? I got a real vibe at the end, all of the “I want someone to fight for me” when Sophie asked Susie to become her manager…

  28. This kind of vague tokenism is a recurring problem for Sherman-Paladino. The Michel character in Gilmore Girls is a gay stereotype (catty and “effeminate”) but his sexuality isn’t explicitly addressed until the Netflix revival, and then not explored thoughtfully at all.

  29. I’ve been watching Mrs. Maisel thinking how great it is to see a broke, masculine-of-center, hustling, devoted manager/friend ace woman from a family of assholes represented, and with storylines not centering on her journey to find romantic love. Why can’t we just let the writers unfold the story at their own pace and let Susie come out of her closet (or is it just a tiny apartment?) at her leisure?

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    • It’d be so much braver to make her explicitly asexual. Asexual people get even less representation in media than gay people do. They have literally nobody to look up to. Teens who are asexual can end up spending years and years of their life wondering if they’re “broken”, because they know about the possibility of being gay, and they know they’re not that either. They aren’t even aware of the fact that being asexual is an option. They try and try and try to be with other people and don’t know why they don’t seem to get the same feelings everyone else does.

      And they’ve hinted already that the character is asexual, or at least left that in as a possibility. There’s nothing that quite conflicts with that, and so making her explicitly asexual now wouldn’t be some kind of plot hole that conflicts with something that’s been said before.

      Give asexual teens some representation god damn it, they need it as much as any of us LGBT people do.

  31. I’ve been forcing myself to watch Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, because I’m a huge Gilmore Girls fan and desperately want to like another work of the showrunner, especially one that’s actually getting the acclaim I always thought Gilmore Girls deserved.

    But, not only do I think the show is bad (I feel more insane watching Midge’s supposedly genius stand-up comedy than I did even Che Diaz’s), I also find the complete neutering of Susie so upsetting – not only because it’s cliched, but because as you pointed out Riese, it would make the show so so sooo much more interesting!

    Anyway, this has been angering me so much as I trudge through my show, and as always I’m so glad to have found an Autostraddle article articulating my thoughts and feelings!

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