Why Netflix's Devastating Series 'Maid' Is A Must-Watch - Women's Health

Why Netflix’s Devastating Series ‘Maid’ Is A Must-Watch

With its incredible cast and gripping story, Maid presents a single mum battling to break free from poverty, while also depicting the consequences of emotional abuse.

by | Oct 12, 2021

Netflix is known for producing a gripping drama series, but one show that has caught everyone’s attention is Maid. Where global phenomenons like Squid Game have seemingly gone viral with their dystopian-like depiction of a world largely devoid of humanity, Maid differs in that its portrayal is all too real. There is truth to this story (although it has been loosely adapted from Stephanie Land’s memoir, Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive), and the struggles of its protagonist are ones many women around the world can see themselves in. 

For those who are yet to watch Maid, the 10-part series tells the story of 23-year-old Alex (played by Margaret Qualley, the young breakout star of Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood) who, with her two-year-old daughter Maddy, flees an emotionally abusive relationship with Maddy’s father, Sean. Even in the first 10 minutes of the series we see the startling reality of this, as the exhausted mother sits in the cubicle of a social worker’s office, begging for support. But with little options and limited government help, Alex realises her options are limited. When she’s asked if she’d like to file a police report, she comes up short: the violence was never physical, but as the audience quickly learns, emotional abuse has consequences and implications that are just as deep. 

The series follows the mother and daughter as they struggle to break free from poverty and, by extension, bureaucracy. Unable to qualify for subsidised housing without a job, and with daycare grants only available with proof of employment, Alex soon finds herself sleeping on the floor of a ferry station with Maddy. The series is bleak but far from melodramatic, rather Maid seems to display with startling clarity the scars left behind by emotional abuse that are often invisible to the eye. Those around Alex might not be able to see such pain that was inflicted on her, but it’s there, pulsing like blood behind a bruise. 


Emotional abuse also runs deep with Alex’s unstable mother, Paula (played by Qualley’s real-life mother, Andie MacDowell). Unable to understand the severity of the situation, Paual simply regards Alex as going through a rough patch with Sean. Similarly, Alex’s somewhat estranged father, Hank, who battles with alcoholism himself, often advocates for his daughter’s abuser. As Sean has control over Alex’s finances, car, mobile and even daughter, it becomes clear to the audience that this isn’t just a tale of a mother struggling to come to grips with the end of a relationship and a new life outside of it, but rather a mother battling with the aftermath of domestic violence. 

This is echoed by creator and show runner Molly Smith Metzler, who said in an interview with Glamour, “It was really important to me to capture emotional abuse. It’s this slow, corrosive, takedown of your spirit and your self-esteem to the point that you don’t even know who you are at the end of it. It was really important to me to make an audience go through it.”

It might sound like a dramatic series most of us are too fragile to take on at a time of such uncertainty, but there are still moments of levity and reprieve, moments where Alex meets other women facing similar struggles and finds a community that is supportive. As Metzler told Glamour, “Motherhood is the great equaliser amongst women. In the end, the show is about mothers and the way we have one another’s backs and the profound experience it is to love another little creature.”

By Jessica Campbell

Jess is a storyteller committed to sharing the human stories that lie at the heart of sport.

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