Netflix's Maid is a compassionate representation of poverty.
Netflix’s Maid (2021) is a compassionate representation of poverty about a young parent, 23-year-old protagonist Alex, who gets away from an emotionally abuse relationship, with her child by her side, before taking on a cleaning position for the sake of building a life for herself. The streaming giant’s ten-episode original drama miniseries is based on the life story of American writer and public speaker Stephanie Land (born September 1978). A lot of the attraction to the show derives from the acting and casting, which is extraordinary across-the-board.
In the opening scene, Alex quickly straps her child Maddy into a car seat and drives off whilst a guy, Sean, screams “What are you doing?” Sean is an alcoholic and emotionally abuses Alex, yet her “undiagnosed bipolar” mother Paula unhelpfully downplays Alex’s difficult situation. Initially, even Alex herself is brainwashed by society, convinced that abuse can only be physical - so she doesn’t even understand she’s a victim.
Alex puts her life back together via courage, shelters, the occasional kindliness of strangers and being employed into a cleaning position with a dodgy firm called Value Maids, run by an ruthless lady named Yolanda. Yolanda provides Alex with income when she is at her most desperate and Regina, a controlling lawyer who lives in a mansion, is Alex’s first customer. Though she’s unfriendly to Alex at first, they end up bonding throughout the series. Friendships like this make Maid incredibly heartwarming.
But embedded is an unflinching bureaucracy that surrounds each attempt to gain the (already minimum) assistance apparently available to vulnerable women and their children. Alex picks her way through the demoralising maze of forms, the invasive asking of questions, and official document requirements, finding herself in consecutive, dreadful Catch-22 circumstances until determination and good fortune allow her to get going on a journey back to stability.
Maid dramatises the insecurity of life without a secure home, a real salary or parental help, and conjures a world seldom seen in real-life or on-screen. The slightest accident, unaccompanied by the cash or means to rectify it, can often escalate into catastrophe.
Many times, we see the running total of Alex’s money ticking down to nought before she can obtain what she needs to get the next day’s cash - food for herself, gas for the car she has to have for work, the co-pay for Maddy’s childcare - let alone putting any money by for a security deposit on a rental.
The series also slowly gives away that the pattern of abuse in Alex’s life began with her semi-estranged parent Hank, a heavy drinker like Sean.
Maid isn’t in the grimmest of social-realist traditions, but it does create an accurate and condemnatory picture of what a working class existence can look like in the U.S. While it is not difficult to dismiss Maid as misery porn, it is actually a story of affection about a parent and the struggles she faces.
At the end, in an enormous success, Alex lands a scholarship at Missoula, Montana, to read creative writing at school, and eventually finds the funds to start a brand new life with Maddy.