Maids in Media

Hattie, famous Maid in "Gone with the Wind"
A major character in many best selling novels and award-winning movies has been that of the maid. Many television situation comedies over the years have written in the maid as a major personality. In a few of those, the maid was actually the main character in the story line. Many times in suspense novels or murder mystery movies it turned out that the maid or the butler committed the crime. The phrase "the butler did it" has been used to predict the outcome of mystery movies for many years. What are some of the ways that authors and producers have portrayed the character of the maid?

In the early television and movie days, most maids were cast as older African American women. o­ne best selling novel from the early 1930s, which went o­n to become an award winning movie and is still shown o­n television today, featured a maid by the name of Prissy. Her character was a younger, pleasantly plump, outspoken black women. The actress played the part very well and added a special touch of humor to the movie.

Some writers' plots had the maids being mistreated and sometimes sexually abused. These depictions represented the dark side of being a maidservant in the years during and immediately after slavery, and hopefully for the most part, were based o­n fiction.

Many times the maid in a move or television show did not actually have a speaking part, but came into the room quietly and served meals or served guests. Occasionally the o­nly time they would be seen was when they answered the door.

In many shows maids have been portrayed as almost part of the family. Many comedy shows have featured a maid who was loyal, hardworking, jolly, nosy, and took care of the family as if they were her own.

It seems that modern-day writers of novels or movies do not utilize the character of a maid as much as in times past. Perhaps they are abandoning what could still be a viable resource for interesting story lines.