Hate them, like most intellectuals, or love them, like the majority of Dutch television viewers, everyone in the Netherlands knows or has heard of the Meiland family. They star in their own reality television show, which began in 2019. That year, the family acquired a manor house in the Limousin region of France, which they baptized Château Meiland. It never produced a drop of wine, and the family’s well-documented efforts to transform the manor into a guest house also came to naught.
Now the family is back in the Netherlands, where their show continues under the same name and the cameras follow their travails as they move from one country pile to the next.
Even without the French touch, the program continues to be the most watched of its kind, reaping rewards and turning the participants into well-known public personalities. Now, daughter Maxime is being canceled after her parents criticized Dutch immigration policy and the Left accused them of Islamophobia.
The father, Martien Meiland, is the undisputed star. He recently turned 60, and some 20 years ago he came out of the closet as a gay man of The Birdcage variety. In a recently published book, his wife, Erica, vents her fury at Martien’s “betrayal.” For a while she even considered poisoning him. But as she hardly ever cooks, Martien would have become suspicious if she served him a possibly fateful dinner. Ultimately, she opted for reconciliation. Now, Erica is the rock-solid, down-to-earth lady of the house, where her companion Martien darts around on the verge of nervous outbursts, drowned by generous helpings of wine.
Their two daughters, Montana and Maxime, generally remain in the background. Maxime’s life on screen has blended into the real thing, after her marriage with the cameramen of the show, the father of their infant daughter. Thanks to her television fame, Maxime, who also has a child from a previous marriage, has developed a talent as an influencer, with more than 570,000 followers on Instagram.
And she’s now paying the price for what her mother wrote in that no-holds-barred book, in which not only Martien, but also Muslim immigrants come in for a kicking. Erica, who is 58 years old, goes totally against the quasi-official Dutch state doctrine of enforced multiculturalism. She agrees with Martien that there are too many immigrants in the Netherlands from Muslim countries, considers herself a feminist, and therefore opposes the wearing of the Muslim veil on Dutch streets. She writes, “I can’t imagine any young girls willingly wearing those headscarves, especially in summer, when, on their bikes, they want to feel the wind in their hair. That’s what liberty is all about. On the street the other day, I saw women wearing burqas, which is completely intolerable. Those penguins, I want them to bugger off.”
Erica’s remarks caused only a modest storm under the permanently indignant Dutch Muslims who claim to speak for the whole community. Instead, their role was taken over by Dutch chat-show hosts criticizing Erica for her Islamophobia.
As a result, one company after the other canceled its contracts with Maxime, claiming that they embrace “inclusivity” and refuse to be associated with people who clearly do not. Martien had earlier incurred the wrath of the Left by saying he’s an admirer of the conservative politician Geert Wilders, a fierce opponent of Muslim immigration. Wilders lives under permanent and heavy police guard, moving from one safe house to the next.
Why pick on poor Maxime, who avoids politics like the plague? Perhaps because her mother and father don’t care what people say about them, as long as they remain in the spotlight and have no other business to defend than their show.
Towards the end of November, a mattress merchant, Emma Matrassen, was the first to break its contract with Maxime, arguing that her family had violated the values the company holds dear. Others followed Emma’s cowardly lead, like the skincare company Nivea, chocolate manufacturer Milka, card giant Hallmark, meal delivery firms, and a manufacturer of online photo albums.
The mattress people gave Maxime the possibility to save her contract if she distanced herself from her mother. This reminded some of the “cultural revolution” when Chinese children were expected to denounce their “reactionary” parents. Maxime refused, saying she was not responsible for her mom’s opinions, and wisely left it at that.
A columnist of the liberal magazine EW sees Maxime’s boycott “as proof how deeply our society has been penetrated by the power of Islam.”
One would think that other leading Dutch intellectuals would stand squarely behind the right of Erica Meiland to voice opinions contrary to their own. Well, up to a point. A journalist of the newspaper NRC Handelsblad, staple diet for the country’s intelligentsia, strongly advised against buying “a book which fuels hate and is more dangerous than the writings of Geert Wilders.” To those who ignore his advice, the writer suggests to cut out the pages that unleashed the revenge on the author’s daughter.
Rene ter Steege is a Dutch journalist writing on the consequences of immigration in Europe.