Maid Shines a Light on Domestic Violence

by The Cowl Editor on November 18, 2021

Arts & Entertainment

Maid Shines a Light on Domestic Violence

The Netflix Drama’s Authenticity and Hopeful Message

Talia Rueda ’23

Maid was released on Netflix on Oct. 1 and has since claimed its place on Netflix’s “Top 10 in the US” list.

While the show offers a multitude of heartwarming moments between protagonist Alex and her 3-year-old daughter, Maddy, this mother-daughter relationship also proves to be life-saving. At one point, 23-year-old Alex is shown escaping her abusive boyfriend, Sean, in the middle of the night, hours after she finished picking glass out of her daughter’s hair from his usual drunken outrage.

Maddy being put in danger is the final straw for Alex. She leaves the comfort of her home and the little money she has in order to protect her daughter. However, while Alex knows she has to take action to protect Maddy, she is not initially aware of what Sean had been doing to her. It is not until she is homeless with nowhere to go and reaches out for housing assistance that she recognizes that she qualifies to live in a domestic violence shelter.

“I would hate to take a spot from someone that has been actually abused,” she says as she is offered the shelter’s phone number. It is clear that Alex is not aware of what emotional abuse is; she believes abuse can only be physical, and that the people she would not want to take a spot from people who have bruises all over their body.

This lack of education regarding emotional abuse comes up several times within the show. For instance, the court denies that there is evidence that Alex’s boyfriend abused her because she has an unmarked body. Also, Alex’s dad sees Sean verbally force her to sit down and eat dinner when she is not hungry, but when Alex asks her dad to testify for proof of abuse, he insists that this instance was just “a young couple going through a rough patch.” The show clearly works to inform its audience of what emotional abuse is, while simultaneously examining the ways in which the concept of abuse can be misconstrued.

Other scenes detail the less-obvious tactics emotional abusers use. Sean controls Alex in a subtle and isolating way. He wants Alex to be under his roof. He gives her car away and refuses to change his work schedule, making it impossible for her to get a job and gain monetary independence. Alex falls subject to Sean in all of these ways, working tirelessly for the comfortability and normality of being with the father of her daughter in their own home, making it an incredibly accurate portrayal of emotional abuse.

In one of the first episodes of the series, the owner of the domestic violence shelter informs Alex that women may return to their abuser up to seven times. Maid does an astounding job of showcasing this somber fact when Alex returns home to Sean out of desperation, but also with the hope that he will change. Alex’s desire for him to change is ultimately less powerful than her goal of making a better life for her daughter, one without glass thrown across the kitchen or drunk outbursts. 

Alex’s story ends more happily than many domestic abuse cases do, but there is nonetheless a commonality between her story and those of real women regarding the relationship between mothers and their children. These women do not often escape abuse for themselves, but for their sons and daughters. In the hardest moments of both Alex and Maddy’s lives, their mother-daughter relationship proves to save both of their spirits, and seemingly, their lives.