Maid, one of Netflix’s newest limited series, tells a poignant story of poverty and domestic violence, inspired by Stephanie Land’s memoir, “Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive.” The series stars Margaret Qualley as Alex, a single mother fleeing her abusive husband, Sean (Nick Robinson). It’s an emotional rollercoaster of both heartbreaking and heartwarming moments as we watch Alex struggle to make ends meet.
At its core, Maid is an honest story of motherhood and family, however dysfunctional families may be. Alex struggles to take care of and protect both her daughter and mother while dealing with her own tribulations.
Alex’s eccentric mother Paula is played by Qualley’s real-life mother, Andie MacDowell. Their relationship feels authentic and shines through little quirks.
In an interview with NPR’s Fresh Air, MacDowell said that she drew on experiences with her own mother who suffered from mental illness and alcoholism. The three generations of women in this series create a powerful and captivating dynamic.
Maid brings awareness to the realities of abuse and poverty. Qualley’s stunning performance makes the audience feel her pain and her stress. Even in moments without dialogue or action, beautifully crafted close-up shots of Qualley tell the whole story through her expressions and body language. Alex experiences a constant cycle of taking one step forward and two steps back. However, each moment of defeat is followed by Alex’s unfaltering determination to keep going.
“I wanted to tell the truth about abuse… [Sean] is not a mustache-twirling villain, he’s the product of being the child of an addict,” said show creator Molly Smith Metzler. Robinson’s acting paints Sean as wretched and loathsome, but he is certainly not evil. Over Maid’s ten episodes, it becomes apparent that Sean’s actions are a result of his upbringing, not his nature. Sean and Alex grapple with the effects of their troubled childhoods. This struggle bonds them— for better or for worse.
It also highlights the difficulties of navigating the bureaucracy of America’s social welfare. Alex has to jump through hoops just to receive subsidized housing and faces many challenges during her custody battle with Sean.
The show has received some criticism for its lack of intersectionality and for failing to address that for many women and service workers, this cycle of poverty is their permanent way of life.
Alex, a lower-class white woman, predominantly works for Regina, an upper-class black woman from the fictional Fisher Island. Although some people have interpreted this casting choice as a stance on race and wealth, there’s nothing in the series that addresses the racial dynamics. While it would be nice to see more intersectional stories in film and television, Maid, nonetheless tells a very authentic story of poverty in America.
The series sheds light on the class disparities of Washington state and America as a whole. It offers a much-needed perspective on issues of abuse and wealth, without feeling preachy or cliche. Maid is certainly one of Netflix’s strongest original miniseries. A must-watch for all drama lovers.