TV Dictionary - Maid

Creator's Statement

The first TV Dictionary entry I watched was on The Chair. In his video, Ian Garwood brought several definitions of the adjective “critical” into conversation with a single scene from the series, accentuating the scene’s tragically-comic tone while playfully drawing out some of the series’ thematic undercurrents. The structure and effect of the video essay having stuck with me since, I had similarly planned to use only a single scene for my own entry.

Having watched Maid,[1] with its recurrences and echoes of space, this plan made less and less sense to me the more I thought about it. In my case, the advantage of showcasing separate but interlinked definitions of the noun “space” was that it allowed me to form interpretive connections between images appearing across the series. For instance, the second definition I use remains on-screen while clips from two separate episodes appear. In this instance, the verbal suggestion of confinement (“a limited extent”) acts as an interpretive bridge between a crawl space and a narrow hallway.

Like Maid, I wanted to take the viewer on a journey through different arrangements of space. I also wanted to mirror the protagonist’s predicament by recreating an experience of claustrophobia and relief through editing. In this sense, I was consciously “adopting” Maid’s tone rather than “deconstructing or subverting” it. [2]

As I rewatched my video essay in preparation for writing this statement, however, I discovered one area in which I had clearly diverged from the series. While the protagonist, Alex, is a vocal character throughout the show, it seems I’d essentially silenced her until the final episode. Only after the last definition of space – “the opportunity for privacy or time for oneself” – appears on-screen is Alex allowed to speak. In her monologue, she discusses her writing practice and the way it helps her to think, to feel.

The fact that I included Alex’s monologue on the (re-)discovery of her voice while also making this her first act of verbal speech in the video was not the result of a conscious decision on my part. I had thought intensely about how I might structure the video essay in order to most effectively draw out the ways in which Maid centers on contended spaces. In short, while my process cannot be wholly described as “Make first, think later,”[3] it seems that any number of editing decisions will always occur before/around/underneath conscious thought, adding undercurrents of meaning that are felt rather than consciously articulated.

[1] Maid 2021. Netflix.

[2] Avissar, Ariel. 2022. “The TV Dictionary: An Introduction.” CST Online. [Last accessed: 6 September 2023]

[3] Keathley, Christian & Mittell, Jason. 2019. “Scholarship in Sound & Image: A Pedagogical Essay.” The Videographic Essay: Practice and Pedagogy, Christian Keathley, Jason Mittell and Catherine Grant (eds.).



Niki Radman is a video essayist, writer and occasional filmmaker based in Vienna, Austria. She holds a Master's degree in English Literature from the University of Glasgow and began exploring audiovisual criticism during her undergraduate studies in Film & Television. ‘Eye / contact,’ her video essay on the cinema of Barry Jenkins, was included in Sight & Sound’s poll for the ‘Best Video Essays of 2021.’

Upon rewatching Radman’s entry on Maid and my own on Severance, I find myself wondering how these pieces might have looked like if their respective words had been switched; after all, various definitions of both “space” and “break” seem equally apropos to both, and I find the choice of word in all TV Dictionary entries to always be, on some level, somewhat arbitrary. These parallels and unexpected connections, these fortuitous linkages between and across words, between and across television series, in various pairings and endless combinations, are for me part of the appeal of television viewing – and of the TV Dictionary collection.

Many entries in the TV Dictionary – starting with the very first one I myself made, on Fargo – are comprised of just one, continuous clip from their chosen television text. This approach makes the dauting task of videographic engagement with serial narratives somewhat less daunting, which also contributes to the succinctness and conceptual focus of many of these pieces. And yet, it is fortunate that Radman’s initial idea to do the same here ended up discarded for a much more elaborate edit of clips taken from an entire season of television. The result, while undoubtedly more time consuming to produce, is highly rewarding to watch. It is an insightful, in-depth and sensitive character study.

My own entry on Severance also plays as a character study. While Radman and I have created two very different entries, some striking similarities occurred to me in watching them together. Both pieces weave together clips taken from multiple episodes in a non-linear fashion (though Radman’s piece does create a more coherent sense of narrative whole, whereas mine is constructed in a more fragmented, abstracted fashion). Both focus on female characters who find themselves trapped, both figuratively and literally. These women are trapped within circumstances they have little control over, trapped within lives they feel alienated from, trapped by various domineering institutions and (male) oppressors, trapped within enclosed, claustrophobic spaces. Indeed, both pieces are comprised primarily or exclusively of clips shot indoors, featuring compositions that frame the female characters as visually contained within tight spaces, as shown, for example, in the following images:

Moreover, in both pieces the female characters are silenced – not only by the institutions and circumstances that seek to control them, but also by the edit, as Radman has herself addressed in her written statement. But while in my entry, Helly R is entirely voiceless, Radman ultimately allows Alex a reclaiming of her voice and of her narrative. Whereas both our pieces portray these women’s attempts at breaking free from their varied form of confinement, Radman’s offers a way out. Mine… does not. In my edit, Helly R remains isolated and helpless; Radman shows how Alex finds solace, support, and a safe “space.”