Fourth Estate / Billy Ferguson



TW: Article discusses emotional and domestic abuse

The Netflix hit “Maid” is an 8-episode mini-series that allows the audience to get a glimpse into the psychological slippery slope of an emotionally abusive relationship and the difficulties of living in poverty in this country. The acting in this show is exceptional as they are not afraid to tackle and showcase serious topics, such as domestic and emotional abuse. 

Margaret Qualley plays Alex, depicting a single mother’s journey of escaping her emotionally abusive boyfriend, Sean (Nick Robinson) while trying to raise and provide for her 3-year-old daughter, Maddy.

This series is based on Stephanie Land’s best-selling memoir, “Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive.”

Sean uses manipulation and aggressive tones to assert power over Alex, but is careful to never cross the line to physical abuse. He does, however, have violent outbursts, punching walls and throwing a cup near her head. He controls everything in her life, including her finances, car and cell phone — leaving her no independence and forcing her to depend on him.

Alex then packs up her things and leaves with her daughter. With nowhere to go, she sleeps in her car. Throughout the series, Alex’s living situation is unstable. She sleeps at a ferry station, her parent’s house and shelters. 

Emotional abuse is hard to prove in court because of the difficulty of providing evidence. Sean takes custody of Maddy, leaving Alex feeling defeated and her daughter in the hands of her abuser. Her parents, Paula (played by Qualley’s real-life mom, Andie MacDowell) and Hank (played by Billy Burke), think this is a “rough patch for the couple” and only see Sean’s kind and empathetic side.

Later in the show, Sean agrees to split custody for Maddy. During this time, Alex ends up housekeeping to obtain income to provide for Maddy. As an outlet, she writes down what she sees when cleaning.

“We need somewhere to live I am on seven different types of government assistance right now, and I am working the maximum hours I can work without getting my benefits cut. But after food and gas and daycare copay, we have a total of nine dollars extra every week. That’s a box of tampons,” Alex pleads with her social worker. 

Through Alex, the show encapsulates the struggles of being a woman not only dealing with her trauma, but also trying to climb financially as it becomes difficult to survive. 

The imagery in the show heightens the performance, themes and situations. The imagery successfully demonstrates the way Alex feels in her abuse; she seeps into the couch and is trapped in a dark and deep hole. This is a view of Alex’s psyche, of her mind trap where she could not get out of her abuse and trauma until she finally does.

Another aspect the show executes beautifully is the theme of escaping: escaping an abusive relationship, escaping poverty, escaping parents, escaping their town and lastly Alex using her dreams of becoming a writer as an escape.

Later in the series, Alex re-applies to Montana University for creative writing with an essay about her clients’ houses after she cleans. This is her ticket out of this horrific place she called home, and her ticket to get Maddy out of this unstable situation and to provide her a better future. 

The show demonstrates Alex’s downfalls but ends in her triumph as she finally escapes it all.