‘Maid’: An Impressive Portrayal of Domestic Violence

After watching all of “Squid Game” in a day, I was in desperate need of something new to watch. I had heard great things about “Maid”, another hit Netflix show, and decided to give it a try. If you haven’t seen the show, it is about a young mom named Alex (Margaret Qualley) who leaves an abusive relationship. The show looks at her struggle to gain independence, to support herself and Maddy (her two-year old daughter), and to heal from the trauma of domestic violence. The popular series is based on a novel by Stephanie Land. 

One of the first things that struck me about the show was that the acting was absolutely impressive. All of the actors did a great job, but Margaret Qualley and Andie MacDowell really shined in particular. They are so convincing as Alex and Paula it is easy to forget that it is all fiction. “Maid” is also incredibly well written (in terms of both dialogue and plot), entertaining, and definitely succeeds in eliciting an emotional response from viewers. But the most important thing is it tackles a very prevalent issue with incredible depth and nuance. I am, of course, referring to the show’s depiction of domestic violence.   

Alex (Margaret Qualley) carries daughter Maddy on her shoulders through a trek in the woods. Courtesy of Netflix.

1 in 3 women have experienced some form of physical violence by a partner. Only 33 states recognize emotional abuse as a legitimate form of abuse. Domestic victimization is correlated with a higher rate of depression. On a typical day, 20,000 phone calls are placed to domestic violence hotlines across the US. I bring up these statistics to illustrate that domestic abuse is a huge issue, and one that’s seldom discussed. While there exists other content that talks about abuse within romantic relationships, it is rare to see a show or film explore non-physical forms of abuse, which are usually discounted and/or don’t get enough recognition because they are not as visible as physical abuse. This is why this show is so relevant; it demonstrates that emotional abuse can be just as damaging as physical abuse. 

The show conveys how difficult it is for abuse victims to be believed, and to receive the legal justice they deserve. This is especially true when the abuse does not inflict visible bodily harm.  It can even take a while for such victims to realize the extent of psychological abuse they have been subjected to. For example, in the beginning, it takes time for Alex to realize she was a victim of domestic violence. At one point she says, “He didn’t abuse me, he punched a wall beside my head and I didn’t do anything about it.” Danielle, a friend of Alex’s from the Domestic Violence shelter she stayed in, responds, “Punching a wall next to you is emotional abuse. Before they bite, they bark. Before they hit you, they hit near you. Next time it is going to be your face, you know that.”  

When Alex is getting ready to move, she struggles to find a way to prove her abuse, and worries she won’t be able to leave with custody of her daughter. The show aptly demonstrates how difficult leaving abusive relationships can be, especially for those who have children with their abuser. So many people say “oh why didn’t you leave sooner” and it’s often a line used to discredit victims. But “Maid” effectively conveys that this decision is not that simple or easy. Alex had no money, no job, and no financial independence during her relationship with her abuser. In fact, Alex doesn’t have her own bank account until she leaves Sean (Nick Robinson), her abusive ex. Alex and Maddy’s first night out of the house they sleep in a car and they even spend a night on the floor of a ferry station. The legal hoops Alex has to jump through to get custody of her daughter are another huge obstacle she faces in trying to leave that horrible situation. Alex, at one point, even gets back together with her abuser for a short while, after bad circumstances leave her on the street again. It is so difficult to leave, in fact, that on average a victim of domestic violence will take about seven tries before they finally leave their abuser for good. I love that the show doesn’t downplay or undermine how complicated and brave it is to leave a bad home situation. 

The show does such a great job in its portrayal of domestic abuse, and it makes for a powerful drama. It is a wonderfully moving show and really exceeded my expectations. 

“Maid” is available to stream on Netflix. 

By Alice Braga

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