Maid: Netflix Show Sheds Light on Domestic Violence and Other Important Issues

Netflix’s Maid Raises Awareness About Domestic Abuse

After two years of the pandemic, it comes as no surprise that Netflix’s top hit shows such as Squid Game and Maid are about the desperate realities of people in our society. Netflix’s new 10-part drama, Maid, talks about issues like emotional domestic abuse, alcohol dependency, poverty, homelessness and lighter topics like aspirations and empowerment. 

Maid is a miniseries inspired by Stephanie Land’s best-selling memoir in 2019, Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay and A Mother’s Will to Survive. The show tells the story of a 23-year-old mother (played effortlessly by Margaret Qualley) and her 2-year-old daughter Maddy (played by the talented Rylea Navea Whittet) who escape from the emotional abuse by Sean (played by Nick Robinson), Maddy’s father and start their “new” life.

After their escape to a domestic violence (DV) shelter, Alex is frazzled by the bureaucracy which she has to go through to get her life together and make ends meet for her daughter. From trying to access childcare, getting a stable paying job to filling out a labyrinth of forms, Alex does it all to make herself deemed fit by the state for succour. In a riveting performance, Alex triumphs over the mountain of hurdles that await after leaving a place of abuse and into a “new” exhausting life. 

Alex takes on a housecleaning job to support her and her daughter while struggling to find a proper living space for themselves. They go back and forth between the Domestic Violence shelter, a transitional housing full of mould, friends’ or relatives’ places and even once back to the trailer shared with Sean. Alex goes through all this while also dealing with her mentally unstable mother (Andie MacDowell, onscreen and real-life mother) and her father’s past abuse. 

Margret Qualley, Rylea Naveah Whittet and Nick Robinson. (Photo: Netflix)

Through the tender and authentic portrayals by the actors, the show shines a light on the discussion about such sensitive topics. It helps viewers understand that abuse comes in different forms; that a victim of abuse does not necessarily have to be physically exploited; and that raising a child in such conditions is a highly vulnerable position to be in. Despite all the hardships Alex faces, the show highlights the empowerment that Alex eventually finds by reigniting her passion for writing. 

Shows like Maid help increase awareness about delicate issues like domestic violence while giving hope to the helpless victims in real life to raise their voices and get help.

Hong Kong’s Hidden Shame: Domestic Violence

Domestic violence is not uncommon in Hong Kong despite it being a hub for “silent crime”. Especially during COVID-19, abuse in households has become more prevalent, and staying at home with the perpetrator is no longer an option.

According to the Social Welfare Department, there has been an increase in reported spouse battering cases from 620 cases in the first quarter of 2020 to 690 cases in the second quarter of 2020, about an 11% increase. Even with the given statistics, there might be many more unreported cases where the victims are utterly helpless and fearful of speaking up for themselves for the sake of their young children. 

Domestic abuse is not only faced by spouses or children in Hong Kong but also by the live-in foreign domestic helpers (FDH). Hong Kong is a city with over 390,000 live-in maids who are predominantly women, and many have reported having faced sexual attacks or physical abuse by their employers. 

After the prominent case of an Indonesian helper Erwiana Sulistyaningsih who reported the six-month-long physical abuse by her employer in 2014, many FDHs came forward with their abuse stories and seek help from NGOs and authorities. Even until recently, reported cases of abuse by employers have not halted completely. In June 2021, another FDH came forward to Asian Migrants’ Coordinating Body (AMCB), detailing to them her abusive female employer’s mistreatment. 

Domestic workers who are victims of abuse and rights advocates from AMCB at a press conference. (Photo: HKFP)

Unfortunately, Hong Kong as a diverse metropolis has created a system that effectively enables and even passively endorses domestic abuse. Hopefully, one day Hong Kong will be free of the shame of domestic violence and mistreatment that traumatize the lives of children and victims and FDHs. The victims of abuse should all receive the justice they rightfully deserve so they can bravely find their way through life as Alex does in Maid.

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