Before we get to what Eva Longoria wrote yesterday about “Devious Maids,” let’s start from the very beginning. Last year the Latino online community pretty much criticized Longoria for saying that “most” of the Latino community was “proud” about a all-Latina show about maids. Devious maids. With Marc Cherry as its creator. The same Marc Cherry who created “Desperate Housewives.” Eventually ABC passed but Lifetime picked it up, and the show will premiere on June 23.
The show’s marketing message so far is not subtle, and a HuffPost opinion piece by Tanisha L. Ramírez published on May 3 took the show to task. Well, actually, the network’s show trailer, which is posted here:
Ramírez wrote the following:
The minute-long trailer manages to efficiently portray Latinas as hypersexual, nosy, scheming and, at times, totally invisible domestic servants, one set of pushed-up breasts, devilishly squinted eyes and sassy hair flip at a time. What the trailer doesn’t do, however, is allude to the supposed actual premise of the show. According to MyLifetime.com, the show is supposed to center on “a close-knit group of maids who are bonded together by their jobs, life struggles and the melodramatic ‘upstairs-downstairs’ universe that engulfs their employers.” This formula, the network promises, will paint class warfare both fun and dirty! Because, you know, class warfare has always been so very boring. Thanks, Lifetime!
That being said, Devious Maids seems to be a wasted opportunity. The series is the first mainstream, English-language television drama featuring five Latina main characters, which is —for better or for worse— a novel concept even in this day and age. Not novel, however, is the fact that all —count ’em, all!— of the main characters play “devious” maids. It just all seems like a missed opportunity to diversify the roles played by Latinas.
Later in her piece, she writes: “I love that Eva Longoria is trying to blaze the trail for more Latino/a-produce content to hit the mainstream airways; however, her means to that end is endlessly disappointing and shortsighted.”
Yesterday Longoria responded to Ramírez’s post with her own HuffPost piece. Here are just a few excerpts:
“Devious Maids” is a show that centers on five (count ’em), five Latinas who are bonded together by their jobs, their ambitions, their dreams and their life struggles. The five women are maids by occupation only; it is what they do, not who they are.
Are maids a realistic reflection of Latinas in America today??
Yes, but they are not a reflection of every Latina.
Stereotypes are constructed and perpetuated by those who believe in them. I choose not to. As an executive producer, I choose to break the cycle of ignorance by bringing to light something we have not seen before, a deeper, more complex side to the women who live beyond the box that some choose to put them in. The only way to break a stereotype is to not ignore it. The stereotype we are grappling with here is that as Latinas, all we are is maids. And yet, this is a show that deconstructs the stereotype by showing us that maids are so much more.
Later in the post, Longoria writes:
Are Latinas teachers, and doctors and lawyers in America today? Yes. Should their stories be told as well? Absolutely. But, this show is called “Devious Maids,” not “Latinas in America.” Isn’t it “shortsighted” to say we can only tell the stories of what others deem “successful?” Isn’t it “shortsighted” to think that “success” is only measured in social status, monetary gain, or job position? Are we saying maids are not “successful” because we perceive them to be at the bottom of the socioeconomic scale? What about the maid who raised a doctor or the maid who raised the mayor of San Antonio? Isn’t that “success” by definition? However you define it, domestic workers are an integral part of the American fabric. They raise our children, they clean our homes, they wash our dirty laundry, and contribute to the world around us.
So far the reaction to Longoria’s post from our readers has been tepid at best. It seems that young Latinas are the target demographic for “Devious Maids,” and when we posted Longoria’s opinion piece, we received the following comments:
“I have nothing but respect for Eva Longoria. And I have in the past defended movies about Mexican gardeners (A Better Life) and Latina maids (Maid in Manhattan) as stories worth telling and/or entertaining, respectively. But even I can’t help wince at the concept of “Devious Maids.” WINCE. The show may be deliciously and darkly funny for all I know….. but it sure drives home how Latinas are thought of and what it takes to get them on the air. Ouch.”
“If the show was indeed to focus on the “maids” aspect rather than the “Latina” aspect as Eva stated… why are they all Latina? We do need diversity on TV, but I think it would be more effective if that diversity was found within individual shows rather than having shows that focused on one (be it stereotyping or not) ethnicity as they often do.”
“I understand Eva’s point, but why are all the maids Latina? Why aren’t they as diverse as the housekeeping staff out there? And can’t we show the diversity & strength of different cultures by having characters AGAINST stereotypes? Look at the The Cosby Show did! It presented people of color in non-stereotypical roles & was successful in many ways.”
Nonetheless, we also received this comment supporting Longoria:
“You guys have no idea how difficult it is to successfully pitch a show of all Latino leads. Eva has pulled off the impossible. You should all cut her a break. As a screenwriter I get tired of watching films and television shows where the leads are all lawyers, doctors, and of course, writers. Before I was paid to write, I was a grocery store bagger, a web master, an auto body assistant, a loan store manager, and a corporate writer. Hell, I even wore a Chuck E. Cheese outfit on the job. I know Eva had to fight hard to get this show on the air. I am aware of some behind the scenes stuff with a company I am dealing with myself. This is going to be tasteful, well written, and portray Latinos in an honest and entertaining way.”
The jury is still out until the show airs in June, yet this story does raise several interesting issues. Do Latinos have to support shows with all-Latino casts, no matter the content? Is the future of Latino shows dependent on the success of “Devious Maids?” Will Latinas watch this show? And if the show doesn’t pan out (we know Longoria will fight for it, for sure), does that close more doors in Hollywood, or is this a case of a show that the public just didn’t want?