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Culture wars

The Netflix hit that demonises men

Margaret Qualley in the Netflix series Maid

I have Netflix to thank for the startling discovery of “how easy it is to slide into man-hating”, says Mary Wakefield in The Spectator. Not a righteous feminist rage, but a sort of “dopey, palliative, unthinking misandry” – meaning hatred of men. In the streaming giant’s new hit series, Maid, “every male character is an absolute horror… every single one”. The sole decent-seeming man is a chap who saves our heroine from homelessness – only to boot her out again when she won’t sleep with him.

Maid is “hard to watch but it’s important”, said the reviews. Not a bit of it. It is “frighteningly easy to watch”, which is why it’s so popular, but also why it’s so pernicious. This is misandry “presented as an empowering chick flick”, especially seductive for teens, quietly absorbing this skewed reality and taking it for fact. But remember how much dosh there is to be made selling “bogus solidarity” to women sitting alone on sofas. “Settle in, make popcorn, enjoy the intoxicating feeling of sticking it to men, all men.”

I’m not so sure, says David Aaronovitch in The Times. Maid is partly set in a battered women’s shelter “where men are either absent or horribly present”, so it seems unlikely to leave us with a positive impression of the male. And it’s worth pointing out that negative characters in the early episodes also include an “entitled and horrible black woman” and the heroine’s “monstrous, psychotic mother”. Only bad men? Only good women? I just found the “same old same old”. I understand that Wakefield, “scarred by exchanges on social media”, wants young women to know that not all men are bad. And I can see the justice in that. But rather than misandry, I see something else: young women who are “overwhelmingly respectful and tolerant” of “young men who are respectful and tolerant of them”.

It’s not just Maid, says Bel Mooney in the Daily Mail. You can’t turn on the telly these days without seeing a “domestic dystopia” of women being victimised by men. Programme commissioners seem to relish tapping into the “new wave of misandry”. Of course, women have plenty of reasons to be angry, but demonising all men doesn’t help. The argument has become “dangerously skewed” in the direction of prejudice. It shocks me that educated and articulate women choose to view life through the “latest narrow prism of oppression and victimhood”. But it’s easy to see why TV producers think they can capitalise on a “fashionable sense of angry vulnerability”.