In my now growing tradition of asking Remezcla readers where they fall on pop culture I’m conflicted about, the creators of Desperate Housewives are putting together a new show called Devious Maids, with Eva Longoria in the producer’s seat. The show will follow the stories of four maids in Beverly Hills – played by four awesome Latina leads – with hopes and dreams blah blah blah. So what do we think?
A network television show, centering on, not one, but four Latin women. That’s huge. And the actors aren’t exactly slouches, either: Dania Ramirez, Judy Reyes, Roselyn Sanchez, and Ana Ortiz have all become very well respected television actors, and putting them all together in one show would seem to imply quality, at least from a performance standpoint. It can also draw in audiences that wouldn’t otherwise be interested in the subject matter, people that will recognize these women from their roles in Scrubs, Entourage, Ugly Betty and…I mean I guess Sanchez has been in things, too? Rush Hour 2? Some people saw that, right?
What’s more, centering the show on maids could be interesting in that it has the potential to acknowledge a stereotype while subverting it. These characters won’t be supporting characters or comic relief, but the center of the show, presumably with fully realized personalities, wants, aspirations, flaws, etc.
They’re maids. They might be really interesting maids, and there’s something to be said for directly confronting and subverting a stereotype, this seems sort of akin to making a show about Asian nerds…but you, know, Asian nerds with hopes and dreams and stuff. Is it better than a show with a stereotypical Latin maid character relegated to the background? Sure. But that’s a false choice. It reminds me of Latina Magizine’s utterly point-missing piece from August of last year, entitled 10 Latinas Who Have Played ‘The Help,’ which states:
In The Help, a new movie which opened in theaters yesterday, actors Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer star as African American maids in Mississipi during the early 1960’s. While the movie, which is based on Kathryn Stockett’s 2009 novel of the same name, doesn’t feature any Latina actresses in the roles of maids, Latinas have a long history of playing ‘the help’ in movies and on television. Here are 10 of our favorite Latina ‘help’ roles of all-time!
It was amazing to me, when I saw this, that the writer managed to ignore, not just the controversy about the film and novel The Help, but the possible issues arising from writing about “our favorite Latina ‘help’ roles.” Many Latin actresses, like Lupe Ontiveros who has played a maid 300 times, are trapped in these roles.
Ultimately, I think I’ll give this show a shot. I’m all for meta-commentary – I hope the show is played with a wink and a nod.
UPDATE: LatinoVoices presented Eva Longoria with the question, “There have been some bloggers that have said, ‘Oh, well, this is just reinforcing the maid stereotype’ [Editor’s note: THAT’S US, GUYS! And also Jezebel, which is the site this HuffPo article links to) Do you want to speak on that, a little?” She does, of course.
“I think most of the Latino community is proud,” she says, “that there’s a show employing four dynamic Latinas…”
“They are the leads, of a show. They’re not the guest star, they’re not the co-star, they’re not sub-characters…”
“…and they are playing maids, which is a realistic reflection of our society today, in America.”
“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 these people have no complexities in their lives because they’re maids?”