Much has been said these past couple of weeks about Devious Maids, the new Lifetime show by executive producer Eva Longoria, for its portrayal of Latinas as scheming nosy sexy maids.
The show has not yet aired and already the trailer and promo have stirred up deep-rooted sentiments among the Latino community with some viewing it as a wasted opportunity that fails to deviate from stereotypical roles and others further calling it an insulting disgrace that does a tremendous disservice to Latinas in the United States. While I agree with the views expressed based on what I’ve seen of the show thus far, I believe the harsh criticism should not fall solely on Eva Longoria. After all, she has made great strides in bringing Latino issues to the forefront in a medium that perpetuates stereotypes and lacks diversity.
Devious Maids is an adaptation of the popular Mexican telenovela series Ellas son la Alegría del Hogar, (They’re the Home’s Joy), which centers on the lives of five maids who move the story along through dramatic events and help solve a murder case. The adaptation, written by Marc Cherry, seems to be in line with the original series and has the makings of becoming a successful series that Latinos can be proud of if indeed the stories are told truthfully.
Unlike the original series whose cast was entirely Latino portraying different class statuses within, Devious Maids goes beyond the class divide to delineate characters by race and seemingly relies on old and tired stereotypes that haunt Latinas in the United States to further the story. Thereby coming across as insensitive to those of us who work hard to change society’s perception of the Latina female.
Although Eva Longoria chooses not to believe in stereotypes because she sees them as being “constructed and perpetuated by those who believe in them,” the truth of the matter is that stereotypes are not illusions. They do exist and they have placated the roles of Latinas in Hollywood since the Silent Film Era when Latinas were first “depicted as the heathen seductress with little morals, physically aggressive and with an insatiably sexual appetite.”
In the world of Devious Maids, it would appear that not much has changed since the age of the silver screen. However, it’s too soon to tell how the stories of these five Devious Maids will unfold and so we should remain hopeful. But how hopeful can we actually be when the stories of these five Latina maids are being told through the eyes of a white male?
While Eva Longoria sees the world of television as having a palette of content “colored with many ethnicities, races, classes and genders,” the 2013 Writers Guild of America West TV Staffing report proves otherwise. The report indicates that despite modest job gains by minority writers, they remain underrepresented on TV staffs by a factor of more than 2 to 1 in comparison to their population percentage. Among executive producers, minorities are underrepresented by five to one with white males dominating the executive ranks, holding 76% of the executive producer jobs.
So kudos to Eva Longoria for securing an elusive job for minorities in the TV industry. However, in a world where content is king (or queen), the figures detailed in the TV staffing report leave a lot to be desired and she would be remiss in not having Latino writers on staff to assist Marc Cherry with telling the truthful stories of these five Devious Maids.
“In the Hollywood entertainment industry, unfortunately, there has all too often existed a disconnect between the writers hired to tell the stories and an America that’s increasingly diverse with each passing day,” said sociology professor Darnell Hunt, author of the report and director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA.
I get that trailers and promos are meant to be sensationalistic to capture our attention. Therefore, I remain hopeful that our perception of Devious Maids will begin to change once the show airs on Lifetime this coming June 23. Otherwise, Devious Maids will just be another bad example of what happens when a white male in a white-male-dominated Hollywood writes our stories.