Eva Longoria As Producer of Devious Maids Defends Show.
It was announced a few weeks ago that ABC is preparing a new pilot titled “Devious Maids“. “Desperate Housewives” creator Mark Cherry and co-producer Eva Longoria are the creative force behind this new series, which will feature four Latina maids who work for the privileged few of LA. So far, Judy Reyes (Scrubs), Roselyn Sanchez (Without A Trace), Ana Ortiz (Ugly Betty), and Dania Ramirez (Heroes) are slated to star. At first, I was irritated by this new show, but after reading a blog post by Juan of Words and hearing an interview with Longoria…I’ve altered my perspective.
When I first read about Devious Maids, I quickly became annoyed. ABC is creating a new show (yay, love new shows!). This show is going to star four Latinas in the lead roles (awwwwesome!!). This show is called Devious Maids (come again?!). I was disappointed because I thought, are you kidding me? Maids? Really, maids? There is no other possible occupation the Latina lead characters could fill? It seemed to me that the networks were hedging their bets: allowing Latina faces on the screen, but keeping them in strict stereotypical roles.
So, red flags were flying, and I was prepared to throw down the gauntlet with a fiery editorial and pan this show sight unseen. Then along came Juan of Words’, “Why I’m Looking Forward to Eva Longoria’s ‘Devious Maids’” post, and he included a clip of Longoria, who offers a defense. Juan and Longoria make some really good points that have softened my initially harsh interpretation. One quote from Eva particularly stood out to me as she responded to the critique that the “maid role” is pandering to stereotypes…
“When we get any…sort of backlash…for they are playing the stereotypical maids…my immediate response is: So, you’re telling me those stories aren’t worth telling. That those people are lesser than. That their stories aren’t worth exploring. That they have no complexity in their life because they’re a maid?” -Eva Longoria
She also suggests that the role of the maid, and other service positions like nannies and valets, are a reality and positions Latinos have occupied and touched many lives through, and that this reality deserves a voice. In his post, Juan’s reflections on his childhood, and his family’s experiences further reinforce the nature of the reality that Longoria describes. This is the perspective I was ignoring in all my righteous (and well intended, critically motivated) fury.
I missed the fact that this show, in bringing four Latina maids to the forefront as the stars in this type of role, has the potential to kill the stereotype. If the show producers follow through with this potential, and bring complex, dynamic well-rounded characters and a rich, engaging story to the table, the opportunity is there to break out of the mold and offer a representation that is truer to the reality: i.e. maids are more than just maids, they are real human beings with complicated lives and interesting/relevant stories that influence the fabric of American culture/society.
I still have reservations though! This is a network show aimed at a mainstream audience. The danger for over-simplification, and the re-enforcing of negative representations remains. Yet, I hope this show fulfills its potential. I hope too that it will usher in other shows with Latinas/os in lead roles and in other occupations, teachers, lawyers, doctors, whatever. We need the media to recognize/reflect the complexity of the social fabric of the U.S…in all its manifestations.