Maid offers so much with its content and social commentary. Along with the expert cast and the realistic production – is a script that raises awareness of abusive relationships, the struggles of poverty, and the tribulations of government support systems. Through Paula, the show depicts the effect of mental illness – with Sean, the impact of alcoholism. One might expect to be bored or annoyed by this very socially-responsible agenda; yet, the series absolutely entertains.
The creator, Metzler, brings drama to Land’s story and offers audiences a new look at an old tale by burying the hero’s journey archetypes inside the plot. The script-writers for The Maid adjusted Joseph Campbell’s “12 stages”, typically used within the duration of a movie, to meet the 10-episode demands of a series – by doubling up on the goals and mentors and adding to the gifts.
The Ordinary World
Alex is exceptional in her gift for motherhood. As Luke, Maximus, and Dorothy begin their journeys in Ordinary Worlds, Alex resides in the Ordinary World of her boyfriend’s trailer. Alex has stayed in that abusive relationship for too long, audiences understand at the onset of the story, which acts as her The Denial of the Call, her hesitancy to go on the quest. As Luke, Maximus, and Dorothy lose / leave their homes, Alex runs away from hers – in an effort to escape Sean and his violence.
Luke, Maximus, and Dorothy sought peace, revenge, or escape; Alex seeks to survive as a single mother and then to thrive and become financially self-sufficient. Luke learns to master the force; Maximus, to fight in the arena; Alex develops two skills; she learns the trade of housekeeping, and then, the ability to write. Like Kenobi, Proximo, and Glinda, Alex meets a Mentor, and each serves her two objectives: Denise from the shelter aids Alex as she climbs out of poverty. Regina guides Alex in her dream of becoming a writer.
A talisman helps the hero along the way. Luke’s charm is his lightsaber, Dorothy, her shoes. Maximus relies on the feel of dirt for luck. Alex receives several gifts as she faces her challenges: the apartment, the car, and the sweater. Like Luke dropping his lightsaber in his battle with Vader, Alex cries out in horror, “Not the car!” as if having lost her greatest weapon. Like these traditional story arcs, Alex makes friends and enemies before finally confronting her foremost challenge.
Luke overcomes Vader’s Death Star; Maximus battles Commodus, Dorothy, the wicked witch, and Alex faces Sean for a second time, and a horror scene ensues. Imprisoned behind the dirty windows of the trailer, Alex is paralyzed by fear. Plunged into depression and unable to pull herself from the couch, she’s lost her voice, her ability to communicate, and almost, her will to live. Facing her fears and leaving Sean requires an act of bravery, reserved for great heroes.
Luke destroys the Death Star and receives a medal. Maximus kills Commodus and wins the crowd. Dorothy dispatches the wicked witch and gets the broomstick. Alex’s reward is Regina’s high-priced lawyer and her writing scholarship to the University of Montana. At the end of the journey, Luke finds a new home, Dorothy returns to hers. Maximus unites with his family in the afterlife. Alex will begin her life again with her mother and child in Montana as she is now reborn with a new-found faith in herself and with hope for the future.
The use of Hero’s Journey archetypes elevates Land’s story, gives legitimacy to a struggle that deserves respect, and pays tribute to the honorable intentions of a single mother dedicated to her child. Alex may not travel across oceans or fight mythical beasts like the heroes of story-lore; still, she shares the qualities reserved for the most admirable among us: bravery, determination, honesty. Kudos to Land for having the courage to tell her story and to Meztler for so effectively packaging the message.
Maid: “A” for Assiduous : Engagement: 5/5, Production 5/5, Clarity: 5/5, Originality: 3.5/5 – 18.5/20
By J. Jirout
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