The ‘Maxton Hall’ curriculum: Clichés with an elective in romance

In Prime Video’s six-part German romance, what does the latest addition to the ‘poor girl rich boy’ trope have in store for all of us who prefer swoon-worthy happily-ever-afters?

Published - May 27, 2024 03:23 pm IST

A still from Amazon Prime Video’s ‘Maxton Hall’

A still from Amazon Prime Video’s ‘Maxton Hall’

The online community is currently besotted with Maxton Hall — The World Between Us, an Amazon Original series which revolves around a scholarship student, Ruby Bell (Harriet Herbig-Matten), and an arrogant heir, James Beaufort (Damian Hardung). The series, which is currently the talk of the town, is based on Mona Kasten’s book Save Me.

The show opens with James who reeks of old money and his family which is a potpourri of problems. Fifteen minutes in and you step into a dimension with privileged elites who are up to no good, with a scholarship student who is the epitome of all that is good in the world. The first spark between the protagonists (however unsavoury a snob throwing a wad of cash at your face may be) is all thanks to James’ sister, Lydia Beaufort (Sonja Weißer), and her affair.

A still from Amazon Prime Video’s ‘Maxton Hall’

A still from Amazon Prime Video’s ‘Maxton Hall’

Rivalry ensues. Enmity flares. So much so that James sends strippers to an event that Ruby organises at Maxton Hall. James’ attitude and Ruby’s ambition to excel at Maxton and eventually enter Oxford drives the plot and pits them against one another. In its execution of the ‘enemies to lovers’ and the ‘rich boy, poor girl’ tropes, this campus romance is comme il faut, making it a rather predictable series.

However, this is not the end, as the writers decide to add even more cliches to the plot. An overbearing family, break-ups, jealousy and patch-ups follow. Regardless, it has its moments as the lovers find themselves and their happiness along the way. The first season concludes in a shocking cliffhanger that has its audience teetering at the edge of their seats as they await the release of the second season. With Kasten’s series of novels having two more instalments, Save You and Save Us, rest assured, the series has enough material to adapt.

The ‘rich boy, poor girl’ trope that the series employs has attracted diverse audiences with a vitality that refuses to recede. For those who have experienced the fantastical realms that the Barbie franchise has to offer, Barbie: Princess Charm School is sure to ring a few bells. Exchange an arrogant male lead for a charming Ken and you have the child-friendly version of Maxton Hall.

With the Hallyu or the Korean wave reigning strong, a series that finds itself in most ‘Top 10 binge-worthy K-drama’ lists despite mixed opinions almost a decade after its release would be The Heirs. The series traces the relationship between the protagonists with the ‘rich boy, poor girl’ trope and Korea’s infamous chaebol system thrown in the mix. Even the critically acclaimed Crazy Rich Asians (2018) falls prey to the same trope.

A still from Amazon Prime Video’s ‘Maxton Hall’

A still from Amazon Prime Video’s ‘Maxton Hall’

Literary enthusiasts would easily discern this as a recurring theme in novels. The brooding Byronic hero who transfigures into Rochester in Charlotte Brontë’s masterpiece is the typical rich boy that Jane Eyre decides to pursue. The only catch, of course, is the ‘mad-woman’ in the attic.

Fan obsession with the ‘rich boy, poor girl’ trope or its inverse seems to stem from the attainment of success, the fulfilment of unfathomable desires, the catharsis of a fairytale ending and a yearning for social mobility. Maxton Hall’s popularity is but a testament to the enduring success of the trope and its influence on societal trends.

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