In Episode 5, “Thief” of Netflix’s miniseries, Maid, creator Molly Smith Metzler depicts the story of a kid burglar, “Barefoot Billy.” The protagonist, Alex Russell (Margaret Qualley), visits Billy’s abandoned house after his mother’s death. While cleaning the house, Alex finds some shocking truths that make her realize the impact and effect of childhood trauma on one’s sanity. Let’s explore further.
Who was ‘Barefoot Billy’?
According to the series, Barefoot Billy, born William Harlan Ritchie, was the only son of Lousie Alva Ritchie, who lived in an isolated neighborhood. The media report communicated that for an epic four-year crime spree, Billy burgled almost 50 homes. He frequently left muddy footprints, earning him the moniker “Barefoot.”
Yolanda tried to portray Billy as some sort of dangerous burglar, gossiping that there was a multi-state manhunt for the boy who broke into almost every house on the island. On the other hand, Alex ignored the hype and explained that Billy burgled homes to steal “doritos.” Alex’s remark was peculiarly placed in the narrative so that viewers attend to the notion of “What made Barefoot Billy” instead of who he was.
What happened to ‘Barefoot Billy’?
While cleaning Ritchie’s house, house cleaners Alex and Kelly found some strange items that belonged to Lousie Alva Ritchie. Kelly found a Nazi doll in a glass cabinet, and Alex spotted numerous locks throughout the house. The locks, especially on the outside of the doors, were designed to keep someone inside. Probably, Lousie used to lock Billy in the room.
The maids also found locks on the pantry. The woman used to lock up her food like she locked her son. While nothing was stated, it is possible that Lousie suffered from OCD and placed a lock on everything.
Lousie’s OCD had a traumatic impact on Billy. Alex surmised that the woman had locked her food, and maybe that was why Billy was obsessed with junk food. He burgled into people’s homes to steal Doritos.
When Alex arrived at the house, Billy was still a fugitive. Nobody had seen him around there in years. Alex questioned whether he knew about his mother’s death or not. While Billy never turned up, Alex often felt that someone was hiding in the woods and keeping a close watch on the house. According to media reports, Billy could case a house for several days before making a move. And thus, maybe, he did come home after his mother’s death, and Alex felt his presence.
The Influence of Billy’s Story
In popular media, researchers claim that many serial killers are survivors of early childhood trauma. This trauma includes family dysfunction, physical or sexual abuse, and emotionally distant or absent parents. Childhood trauma is a recurring trait in the lives of many serial killers. The damage caused by these incidents can often numb their emotions and consciousness.
Many psycho killers experience early separation from their mothers. As a defense mechanism to cope with the separation, their body suppresses empathy or limits emotional impulses. However, this trauma is one of the many factors that mold a serial killer. In many cases, the trauma lead to a precise outburst that we often deem normal, like the curious case of kid burglar Barefoot Billy.
In the Maid series, the creators only hinted that many characters who were abusive or lacked empathy went through some kind of childhood trauma. For example, in group therapy, Alex’s abusive husband, Sean, confessed that his stepdad used to beat him with a tire iron. It was probably the absent mother and physically abusive stepfather who became his reason for relying on alcohol. But then again, the substance is always a temporary escape, and not a permanent solution.
Alex discovered a crawl space in Ritchie’s house, where probably Lousie used to lock her son, Billy. Alex found drawings on the walls that depicted the horrors of a traumatized mind. She was locked inside in the dark for a second, and that caused a severe panic attack. Alex recalled a childhood trauma in which her father, Hank, hit her mother, Paula, and she hid in the kitchen cabinet. Indirectly, Billy’s story became a turning point in Alex’s life.
Alex and her Childhood Trauma
Alex remembered that her estranged father, Hank, hit her mother when Alex was just a kid. In fear, Alex hid herself in the kitchen cabinet. Later, Paula took Alex and left for Alaska. But Alex’s mother didn’t really have an escape plan. So she came back to the town.
When Alex remembered the trauma, she took Maddy from Hank’s house so that the treacherous man couldn’t have any influence on Alex’s daughter. Alex had her own mental scars caused by Paula’s physically abusive boyfriends/husbands. For Paula, it was normal, but as a child, Alex absorbed the despair that affected her sanity. Childhood abuse does not always result in the development of a serial killer. Still, it frequently results in other mental conditions such as depression, inhibitions, a lack of courage, and mental slowdown.
In the beginning, Maid purposely highlighted the importance of a healthy environment for a child’s mental growth. When Alex returned back to Sean’s house, and he abused her again, Alex found Maddy hiding inside a cabinet in fear. At this point, Alex found herself stuck in the cycle of abuse, and her daughter was sinking into the same pit of trauma. The revelations became a turning point in Alex’s life, and she decided not to let her daughter become a victim of childhood trauma. To give Maddy a better world, Alex took her and ran away from Sean’s trailer.
Billy’s story and Alex’s own childhood memory played an essential role in influencing Alex’s decision to run away.
Maid is a 2021 drama-comedy miniseries created by Molly Smith Metzler. All ten episodes are streaming on Netflix.