Culture

Netflix Miniseries 'Maid' Deconstructed

(Image via Netflix)

There’s been a lot of cultural gab lately about Dave Chappelle’s Netflix special in which the comedian upbraids the transgender community, admonishing them to get a sense of humor and stop lumping their “struggle” in with the challenges faced by black people. First, some conservatives lauded the streamer for not backing down in the face of a tedious social media firestorm that followed the special’s premiere. Then they backed down. 

There’s another recent Netflix offering, a miniseries, that company execs will never have to justify or step back from.

Far from tweaking the rabid left, Maid—based on Stephanie Land’s memoir Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive—hits all the right notes from the standpoint of artistic creation and the “progressive” mentality. Moreover, it is a perfect example of the kind of social justice biasing that Hollywood and the entertainment industry at large have made their stock and trade, especially since the 1960s, but most pointedly in the past quarter-century.

We take you now to a recreation of the acquisitions meeting at which Maid was first pitched. You want sausage, you got sausage.

Three creative executive buyers, a white male we’ll call the lead buyer, a female, and a black male, sit in the room, ready to hear from their team. The lead buyer speaks up.

“Okay, people, what have you got for us today?”

“We’ve gotten a first look at a treatment about FBI agent Peter Strzok, called A Matter of Honor,” says one team member. “It looks pretty good.”

There is some murmuring among the executive buyers.

The female executive pipes up. “That’s going to be a hard pass. We just did Comey, and however heroic Strzok may be, we don’t want to roil the waters in front of the midterms.”

Another pitcher speaks up. “I’m looking at an interesting property that centers on a group of bodybuilders in Saudi Arabia who idolize Pumping Iron-era Arnold Schwarzenegger. It’s kind of a time-warp deal. These guys could care less about the gubernatorial term, the maid service scandal, none of that. Instead, they see bodybuilding as a claim to fame and just want to develop muscles as Arnold did.”

The black executive asks, “Wouldn’t it be difficult to work in a gay angle, given the location?”

The pitcher pauses to consider. “It would be tricky, but there might be a way to insert it sideways without actually saying it.”

“I’m going to say no,” says the lead buyer.

“Speaking of maids,” says another team member, “I think this book by Stephanie Land might be worth considering. It’s the redemptive story of a single mom’s journey out of an abusive family legacy.”

“Talk to me,” says the lead buyer.

“For starters, all the white guys in the story are bad people. The father of the child in play is a troubled alcoholic, prone to violent outbursts. While he never hits the female protagonist, he does put his fist through the wall of their mobile home. You know it’s only a matter of time.”

“Go on,” says the female executive.

“It comes out during the story that the protag’s father battered her mother. The mother herself is a certifiably damaged hippie—damaged, of course, by the white husband who beat her. The protag’s mother’s current boyfriend—also white—is an unscrupulous cad with a gambling addiction, who cheats the unbalanced mother out of her home.”

“There’s only one ‘good’ male character in the story, a person of color, of course. He is good in the sense that he offers to help the protag, but bad in the sense that he is attracted to her, which infers there will be strings attached to the help. At her nadir, the protag rejects him and instead returns to the bed of her abuser.”

When the executives offer no comment, the pitcher knows they’re listening.

“We’ve got three sympathetic Latina characters. A crusty housecleaning service operator with a heart of gold. A woman the protag meets at a shelter for battered women, who, through emotional circumstances beyond her control, ends up returning to the bastard who abused her. And finally, a pregnant single mother of three who is an unstable hoarder. Themes of mentally-unbalanced women run through the entire story, the subtext being that men made these women the psychiatrically tenuous people they are.”

“How about the representation of black Americans in this story?” asks the Netflix lead buyer.

“They’re all exemplary. I would describe the woman who manages the women’s shelter as a reincarnation of Representative Maxine Waters as an angel. A salutary thread is similarly developed when a wealthy black woman who the protag cleans house for is first painted as a dismissive bit—, but turns out to have the proverbial heart of gold. She and the protag become bosom-buddies as the story progresses.”

“How does the story flesh out in terms of the journey?” asks the black creative executive.

“In her quest to escape her situation, our protag faces a labyrinth of governmental agencies. We’ve got social workers as peripheral characters, making obligatory comments about the staggering level of governmental red tape, and yet presented as ultimately there to help.”

“Gay folks?”

“Yes. A financially advantaged lesbian couple rides to the rescue when the protag and her daughter need a place to live and only presents her with walking papers when the child’s father shows up drunk and disorderly—he breaks a costly vase—at a house party.”

“You mention several financially stable characters,” says the female executive.

“Yes, all of them politically liberal.”

“Where is the story set?” asks the lead decisionmaker.

“Washington State, the Puget Sound region.”

“Transgenderism?”

“We could not identify an example of that in the book.”

“Any legal angles?”

“Throughout the story. When the emotionally abusive husband won’t roll over on custody, a ball-breaking female attorney comes on board pro bono with a strategy for destroying him. He rolls.”

“Talk about our protagonist,” says the female executive.

“Well, she’s bright, well-mannered, ethical, attractive, a wonderful mother to her little girl. And she’s also the best house cleaner in the bunch.”

“Would such a woman even have to resort to working for a maid service?”

“That’s the sticky-widget which may require some suspension of disbelief.”

“Does she possess any other overarching character traits?”

“Yes, a finely-honed sense of entitlement. She musters through scene after scene surprised and subtly indignant at the amount of s%&t she has to go through, how many forms she has to fill out, to get help from various agencies.”

“Happy ending?”

“A lovely denouement. The sense millennials have of being the center of the universe is strongly evoked in the final scene. Our protag, Alex, showing promise as a writer, receives a scholarship to the University of Montana at Missoula. You may or may not know that there is a huge M on Sentinel Mountain, which overlooks the campus and the city.  Alex plans to tell her daughter, Maddy, that the M stands for…wait for it, Maddy.”

“Nice,” says the lead buyer.

The female exec has a final question. “Would you say that there are any characters in this story that could be described as conservative or Republican?”

There’s a long pause. “No, not at all.” Another pause.

“Well,” says Maid’s pitcher, reflectively, “I guess some conservatives might say that yes, there are conservatives and Republicans in the story, but you never see them.”

The pitcher raises his arms, making the air quote gesture. “The ‘quiet, law-abiding, self-sufficient, and patriotic folks’ living in the burbs and on the rural eastern side of Washington State, areas that vote overwhelmingly Republican, which supported and continue to support Donald Trump. The people who elect politicians who fight to limit high taxation rates that make all of the programs depicted in the series possible. The people who contribute to the woes of the sympathetic characters in the story.”

“Also, some conservatives, and possibly even some regular people, may describe Alex as a woman who makes horrible decisions and often contributes to her own negative outcomes.”

Silence falls over the meeting room. Then the lead buyer says,

“Okay, very good. We’ll get back to you on this, but I think it’s safe to say we’re interested.