Must the “Devious Maids” All be Latina?

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Devious Maids, a show that debuts on the Lifetime Network later this month from executive producer Eva Longoria, centers around five Latinas in Beverly Hills who are bonded together by their jobs, their ambitions, their dreams and life struggles. But Longoria and others involved in the show’s production have come under fire for perpetuating certain stereotypes of Latinas.

Longoria says she stands behind the show and doesn’t think that it is the “wasted opportunity” many critics have called it. And Longoria contends that the show actually brings diversity to television by stressing the fact that these women are more than their occupation and that being maids is what they do but isn’t who they are.

Longoria’s statements are all well and good, and it’s easy to make those statements when you are on top of the financial and socio-economic hill looking down at all those poor people who are struggling. But being labeled as nothing more than the maid, gardener or nanny is not something she will ever have to worry about. As a Latina, I find the stated premise of the show condescending but what I actually find even more offensive is the term “devious” being included as the adjective to describe the maids. Now, we have to add “devious” to the list of derogatory adjectives used to describe Latina women?

I’m leaving it to the critics and Longoria to debate whether it is offensive or not to refer to Latinas by stereotypes such as maids, sex kittens, quick-tempered and loud. But as Longoria tries to convince us that the only way to break a stereotype is to embrace it and take away its power, it seems to me that the show, in fact, has created a new stereotype: the Devious Latina.

I think it is awesome that the show will feature an all-Latina lead cast, though I suspect it will be salacious and gratuitous. I guess they figure if ratings success can work for Sofia Vergara on Modern Family it can work for other shows featuring Latinas. You know, I am not offended to be stereotyped with a group of women who are known for being maids and nannies by profession. Why would I be offended to be called hard-working, clean and good with children? I wouldn’t.

But I do get offended when someone tries to sell a show by creating a stereotype that throws an entire race under the bus. For the record, Ms. Longoria, you and the shows other producers are not trying to destroy a stereotype, you are trying to make money by creating a new one. Why else are all the women beautiful, sexy and wearing short French maid costumes in the promo? Let’s not also give the Latina women of the world the added negative stereotype of being devious. If one of the five Latina characters was being portrayed as “devious” but others in other ways, perhaps we could discuss the idea of destroying a stereotype by embracing it. But five out of five?

Even without having watched the show since it hasn’t yet premiered, I do think it’s fair to make this assessment based on the title of the show, and Longoria’s comments and press they’ve received.

What do you find more offensive the maid stereotype or being stereotyped as devious?

Deborah Cruz is the chief creative officer of The TRUTH about Motherhood, a parenting and lifestyle blog where she divulges the brutally honest truth about everything with a lot of passion and a little humor. Her husband always knew she had a feminist streak but since becoming a mommy to her girls, it has become her personal mission to protect the uteruses of all womankind. When she is not Throat Punching people or giving you the low down on parenting, you can also find her freelance writing at Mamas Latinas, Aiming Low, Modern Baby, Everyday Family, Moonfrye and Smart Mom Style. In her “spare” time, she tweets like it is her job @TruthfulMommy and might have a small addiction to Facebook.

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  • Joan Haskins

    I noticed that in the previews, and wondered the same thing…

  • Suebob

    There’s a lot to comment on here, even though I will probably never watch the show. My problem with this is the same as any other show that stereotypes and objectifies people – it is just bad drama. It reduces the richness of real-life experience down to a handful of really bad stereotypes. It doesn’t capture reality or add anything interesting to our world. Instead, it regurgitates a handful of notions others – probably mostly white men – have of the kind of Latinas they wish they could interact with – gorgeous, skinny, long-haired, available, dressed in fantasy outfits.

    I imagine a show dramatizing the lives of a group of real Latina maids would be so full of great stories and drama and emotions – an older maid who has worked most of her life away from her family in another country and the consequences of that. A maid whose children will be the first in the family to go to college, and all the choices and challenges that experience brings. A young maid following in her female relatives’ footsteps. A maid who starts her own cleaning company and who has to deal with managing people who used to be her peers. See? In 3 minutes, I have already outlined a MUCH better show, a show I’d actually watch.

  • Tzipporah

    Good article! I haven’t heard of the show, but I admit to loving Modern Family, but the whole show is based off of making fun of stereotypes. It makes fun if the upper middle class white America, two different gay stereo-types, and sexy “hot-headed” Colombian women amongst others. The whole thing is a joke full of broadly painted stereotyping. That said I tend to stay away from insipid dramas that try to portray life in such shallow ways. It’s like fast-food drama TV. It gives me indigestion.

    BTW, it would be really nice if there were a “share” button under each article. It might bring a little more attention to the articles. Just a thought :)

  • Tzipporah

    Okay, there is very clearly a share button. Apparently I’m selectively oblivious.

  • Caroline

    Deborah, thanks so much for writing this piece. You said everything so perfectly. I’m really disappointed in the whole idea of he show…

  • Caroline

    sorry typo: “the whole idea of the show.”

  • Eduardo

    I agree the title and premise seem offensive. But having seem the first episode, I can say that the show itself is actually pretty great. This is definitely a book that should not be judged by its cover. None of the maids is actually “devious” at all, except in very innocent and sympathetic ways (at least so far). They are strong, positive, goal-oriented women that have secrets and strategies for getting what they want. And it is refreshing to see a show whose diverse main characters are all Latina.

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