There used to be a saying that some girls would go to college seeking a very specific, very important degree – their MRS. That’s right. The entire goal of achieving a higher education was to achieve a husband. And not just any husband, but a doctor, a lawyer, a banker – in short, a professional man who would be a good provider. Thankfully, those days are done (hopefully) and the reasons for women seeking to learn more is to enrich their minds, enrich their lives, and enrich society as a whole.
When choosing a major became much more important than choosing a china pattern, the world rocked a tiny bit on its axis in the direction of the better. And now, whether a woman opts to change her last name (I did); opts to use the Mrs. title (I didn’t – Ms. is more my style); or even opts to get married at all is beside the point as to what women can and do make of their lives. Check, check, and check.
But there are some women who, after adding the Mrs. to their name, have become cultural icons – big hits in their own right. Characters whose Mrs.-ness is so much a part of who they are that we have come to know them because of it and to love them despite the seemingly old-fashioned-ness of their use of the title. To wit:
You can’t talk about Mrs. in the movies without talking about Anne Bancroft as Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate. The ultimate seductress, with her 1960s frosted hair, worldly air, and dangling cigarette, Mrs. Robinson is such a force of nature that new college graduate Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) never stood a chance. The fact that she was a friend of his parents only added to her forbidden allure. Of course, after educating him in the ways of her world, Mrs. Robinson is soon replaced in his amorous pursuits by her stunning daughter Elaine (Katharine Ross), who then leaves her good-provider fiancé at the altar for hapless Benjamin. But it’s Mrs. Robinson whom we all think of when the movie comes to mind. Here’s to you, ma’am.
Then there’s the opposite of Mrs. Robinson in the strong, brave, and nurturing Mrs. Miniver, played by Greer Garson in the movie of the same name (her Oscar-winning role). A wonderful woman who loves her family dearly, Mrs. Miniver is the essence of courage as she helps guide them through the ravages of World War II England. Despite the terrible hardships (including her son being called to serve and the loss of her daughter-in-law to an air raid); despite having to manage by herself when her husband is called to Dunkirk; despite having to face a fallen enemy pilot alone in her own home – she survives it all and shines, for her family and her country. Given that the movie came out in 1942, while the war still raged on, the name Mrs. Miniver became a badge of courage at a time when it was much needed. Best performance, indeed.
And finally, there’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, starring Rachel Brosnahan as the indefatigable Midge Maisel. Beginning as a much pampered Upper West Side wife and mother, Mrs. M. soon comes to realize (after her husband’s failed attempts at stand-up comedy) that she, herself, is the comic genius in the family. When they split up because of his cheating, she takes to the stage unexpectedly (keeping the Mrs. Maisel name), earning the laughs and audience appreciation that he never could. Her rise to success doing stand-up in a world where women in that field were incredibly few and far between is beyond impressive. Her cutting-edge humor – irreverent enough to land her in jail for both subject matter and language – is smart, original, and the key to her success. In a world where Lenny Bruce and Mort Sahl broke through with the thinking-person’s style of stand-up, Mrs. Maisel’s talent and determination, her quick mind, and her ability to make a place for herself in the same spotlight is nothing short of, well, marvelous.
©2023 Claudia Grossman
Wonderful, we should be ruling the world!!!!!!