Holy stereotypes, Batman! Have you seen the teaser trailer for Eva Longoria's new Lifetime series, Devious Maids?
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.
In defense of the show's premise, Eva Longoria told The Huffington Post, "They are leads of the show, and they are playing maids, which is a realistic reflection of our society today in America. When we get any sort of backlash for -- 'Oh, they're 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?'"
In response to Longoria's questions, I have four questions of my own:
1. Are we really being told the maids' stories? Devious Maids' tagline is, "Whoever holds the dirt, holds the power," suggesting that the maids are privy to -- and willing to -- tell stories about their wealthy, predominantly white employers. It seems, then, that the maids' stories and identities exist almost exclusively in relation to their employers.
2. Are maids a realistic reflection of Latinas status in America today? A majority of the U.S. Latino population are second, third- and fourth-generation individuals, many of whom probably never even considered becoming maids. In fact, many of the Latinos who belong to this demographic -- a demographic widely sought after by network advertisers -- are attending college at higher rates than ever before, and breaking stereotypes left and right as they become lawyers, doctors and entrepreneurs.
3. To that point: Aren't Latina teachers', doctors', CEOs' and entrepreneurs' stories worth telling, as well? Devious Maids marks the first time in American media history that a mainstream series features five Latina main characters -- a perfect opportunity to portray diverse characters, who in turn, have diverse careers.
4. Haven't maids' stories been told before? Hello, Maid in Manhattan, The Help, and every telenovela ever produced.
I get that at the heart of it all, Devious Maids is a telenovela -- a genre founded on pathos, drama and the exploitation of racial and gender stereotypes. However, there are ample opportunities to adapt more progressive Latina/o-driven content for mainstream audiences. For instance, ABC's Ugly Betty was inspired by the telenovela Betty La Fea. Also, Latina-produced book series such as The Dirty Girls Social Club combine strong story lines with positive representations of diverse Latina women. Surely, novelas that perpetuate stereotypes are not the only "original" content we have to draw from, right? Right!?
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.
Devious Maids premieres June 23 on Lifetime.
What are your thoughts on the trailer and the show? Tweet me your thoughts @TanishaLove.