The Netflix original highlights the many ways in which poor people, especially poor, single mothers, are made to jump through hoops just to get by. How they fight to survive in a system that’s built to trap them.
Alex doesn't report her partner, Sean (Nick Robinson), to the police when she leaves him after he had a violent outburst ‘near’ her. When a social worker says it’s not too late to call the cops, she responds: “And say what? That he didn’t hit me?” But, later, the fact that she didn’t call the cops will come into play in an ongoing custody battle.
Alex wants – and needs – to get a job in order to survive. She can’t get the benefits of subsidized daycare without first getting a job, but she can’t get a job with a young child on her hip. She needs to pay $500 for a background check, to chip in money for her own supplies and uniform, in order to begin working as a maid, where she'll earn just enough to make it to the next day.
Her experience stands in stark contrast to the rich people whose homes she’s cleaning, and offers up an honest view into what it means to "live in scarcity."
It's no surprise the show has faced such delicate issues with authenticity, as it's based on the bestselling memoir, Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive.
And while the core story remains the same, there are a few differences between Stephanie Land's own experiences, and what happens to Alex in the show.
In the series, Alex is in her early 20s and looking to study in college when she becomes pregnant with Sean. In Land's memoir, she met her partner, Jamie, when she was 27, and found out she was pregnant at 28.
As with the show, Land's own unplanned pregnancy caused problems in the relationship. Land left Jamie when her daughter, Story, was nine-months old. In the show, Alex leaves when her daughter, Maddie, is two.
One major difference is that Land's mother lived in England with her boyfriend, while the show puts Alex's mother Paula (Andy MacDowell) in close vicinity. Paula is an artist who lives near her daughter, and has undiagnosed bipolar disorder.
While there may be a few changes to the story as it's been adapted for screen, Land has revealed she feels the team have done her story justice.
"Throughout this whole process of giving my story to the hands of strangers, I had to force myself to trust they’ll do it justice. They have. By far," she wrote on Instagram in September. "And it’s because they took a true interest in learning, and used their own experiences, to truly understand how it feels to be food, work, and housing insecure."
She continued: "I keep using the word relief lately. It’s not easy, anticipating millions of people watching moments from your life that you wish your body would forget, but it has been a huge relief to know my story is in such good hands."
Maid premieres October 1, on Netflix.