A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
This drama powerfully illustrates the abuses poverty doles out to those in need: security guards who roughly move you along, machines that are always out of order, cruel and dismissive strangers, small fees that add up. Strong messages of courage and integrity are visible in storylines about characters who triumph over adversity (eventually).
Positive Role Models
Alex is a woman who others discount: she never finished high school, never had a professional job, and otherwise is on the bottom rung of the socioeconomic ladder. And yet she cares deeply for her daughter, and considers her first when making any decision. She fights fiercely to support her daughter and give her stability. Other characters, such as Alex's partner Sean, and her mother Alex, have sustance abuse and mental health issues; we understand that they are flawed, but they're struggling too, and we see their humanity in this complex drama.
Main characters are White and on the lower end of the U.S. socioeconomic scale: Alex is a former waitress, Sean is a bartender; they live in a trailer and have few hopes of making more money and realizing its advantages. We see how their relative poverty narrows their possibilities, and how it forces them into unpalatable choices. Some side characters are people of color, particularly Black and Latina women. We understand that Alex and other characters are bound together by their struggle for survival, and that Alex is given more chances than others because of her race and gender.
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Violence & Scariness
Sean has a drinking problem; we see scenes in which he rages and throws things, including a glass that breaks over Alex's head, shattering in her hair but not cutting her. There are other moments of startling and authentic violence, such as one in which a car is hit and totaled with a child inside.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Sexuality is not a main focus of this drama, but there are moments with references to sex, such as one in which Alex and Sean meet for the first time and flirt, and one in which Paula accuses Alex of flirting with her partner Basil, saying she's "sticking" her "little titties out."
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Cursing includes "f--k," "s--t." There's also language that insults others for their race and social cachet: "white trash piece of s--t."
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Products & Purchases
The difference between Alex's finances and those of her clients are clear, as she goes without food to pay for the things her family needs while the clients waste food without a second thought and live in large, elegant homes.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Sean has a drinking problem and gets angry when he drinks; he throws a glass at Alex's head and screams at her. He says he's attending "meetings" and that he's going to change, but Alex doesn't trust his promises. At Paula's house, Sean says he finds Maddy playing with a "vape."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Maid is based on Stephanie Land's memoir Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive and stars Margaret Qualley as Alex, a young mother on the run from an abusive relationship who soon learns she can expect little help from others, including from her volatile mother Paula (Andie MacDowell, Qualley's real-life mother). Alex lands a job as a maid, but finds that her miserable pay makes it very, very difficult to keep her and her daughter from becoming homeless. Maid starkly illustrates the slings and arrows of poverty: unexpected fees that leave Alex too poor to buy food, uncaring social service agencies, the Catch-22 of daycare that requires clients to already have jobs before they can get subsidized help. Against this backdrop, some characters have substance abuse issues; we see how they contribute to the issues poverty brings, and the humanity of those who struggle with addictions. One character has rages while drinking; we see scenes of him screaming at his partner and throwing a glass that shatters just above her head. Sexuality is not a main focus, but there are scenes in which characters flirt, and one in which a woman uses vulgar terms to accuse her daughter of flirting with her boyfriend. Cursing includes "f--k," "s--t," and language with racial/socioeconomic dimensions, e.g., "white trash piece of s--t." Main characters are White but other characters are people of color, generally women who also struggle with poverty. The show powerfully illustrates how socioeconomic status can bring about similar experiences, while realistically demonstrating how being White gives Alex more advantages than other characters. Strong messages of courage and integrity in the struggles characters undertake to care for their families.
Is It Any Good?
A powerful portrait of a powerless woman in America, this book-turned-movie starkly illustrates how an average person might land on hard times and find themselves utterly, dangerously alone. The moment we meet Alex, she's already on the run: watching her volatile partner carefully, making sure he's asleep, before she picks her way through the broken glass from the night before and takes her child away from that place. But with just over $18 in her wallet, she has few options; we watch each unexpected expense tick by on the screen, subtracting from the total inexorably. By the end of the first episode, she's reduced to sleeping in the public ferry landing, not sure where her next meal is coming from.
The indignities and abuse handed to Alex by everyone around her in Maid, even those paid to help her and others in need, is painful and feels authentic. Alex doesn't have a job, or a real possibility of getting one; how can she get a job and prove she's eligible for subsidized daycare for her daughter when she needs daycare before she can get a job? But what she does have is a promise she's made to herself and her daughter: She'll never pick glass out of her daughter's hair again. And with her daughter's future uppermost in mind, Alex keeps making attempts to climb out of homelessness and into a life that might offer her daughter better chances than Alex herself has had.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.