Alex will do whatever it takes to give her daughter, not so much a future, but simply a present. That’s why she ends up in a poorly paid and backbreaking slog that makes her feel invisible into the bargain: cleaning houses. Spending long hours in other people’s homes, sensing that she weren’t even there, because for many of her clients, it’s like she never even existed. “Maid”, recently released on Netflix, could be the story of any domestic cleaning woman, and part of the objective behind the series is to give voice and visibility to what goes through her mind during the long hours spent scrubbing nooks and crannies in silence in other people’s homes. All that said, and in the opinion of this humble servant, one of the shows initial choices doesn’t quite seem to achieve this end: by casting a young, white, blonde girl as the protagonist is, at the very least, questionable, if you’re not blind to the fact that when it comes to cleaning women, then obviously the more representative choice would have been a racialized, possibly an immigrant worker whose demographics aren’t normally represented on TV and as such, are screaming out for visibility.
It’s no secret that audiences find it difficult to connect with characters whose context is so different from their own as they’re perceived as not going along with their world view. Screenwriter and creator of the series “Orange Is the New Black”, Jenji Kohan, explained it very clearly when she said that her protagonist, a young, blonde, white woman, was a Trojan horse to allow audiences to enter the story and thus come into contact with all the other “different” women whose stories are the ones that, in reality, were important. “Orange Is the New Black” was based on an autobiography written by Piper Chapman, as is the case with “Maid”, based on the autobiographical work by Stephanie Land, who ended up working as a cleaning woman after taking her daughter and escaping the grips of an aggressive husband leaving both in a situation of helplessness which is the starting point for the series. A flight that may also be reminiscent of another recent Netflix show, the miniseries “Unorthodox“, which in turn was also based on another autobiographical book that narrates the story of a woman imprisoned in a relationship (only this time in a strictly religious setting).
The writers’ room on “Maid” place special emphasis on the character’s situation of helplessness, showcasing how the system fails to provide her with the means to break away and make a go of it on her own. “Do you want to call the cops now?” asks a social worker when she Alex explains why she has had to run away from her home. “And say what? That he didn’t hit me?”, she replies. The series delves into the nature of her character’s abusive relationship and explores the constant psychological abuse and fear created by screaming and threats when the character Alex comes into contact with other women who have experienced similar situations. These women provide a welcome and diverse array in portraying poverty in modern-day United States which appear as the story develops, although it never becomes an ensemble series as the focus remains primarily on our central character. Leading actress, Margaret Qualley (“The Leftovers”) manages to make this complex series her own, thereby avoiding the risk of it becoming the typical after-dinner telefilm story. She navigates the ship through choppy waters thanks to a pretty stellar performance, especially in the scenes she shares with her real-life mother, Andie MacDowell, in the role of Alex’s mother. That, and a team of screenwriters with the savvy to provide sufficient mooring and social context to one woman’s tale, transforming it into the story of many.