Devious Maids: No Such Thing as Bad Publicity?

By Inez Gonzalez, NHMC

Eva Longoria seems to be carrying some extra weight on her petite shoulders as the Executive Producer for "Devious Maids."  The Lifetime channel show, scheduled to premiere on June 23, has created some buzz and not necessarily all positive.  The cause of the flurry is Hollywood's eternal obsession with the Latina maid stereotype that Latinos are so tired of seeing on the small and big screens.

"Devious Maids" finally has a premiere date after months of uncertainty.  Last May, ABC passed on the show after being one of the original developers.  This move was surprising to some as the hit maker of "Desperate Housewives," and long-time ABC collaborator, Marc Cherry, is the creator. Despite the setback, Lifetime picked up the show in June.

As the premiere of the show approaches, community screenings begin, and the pilot gets circulated, the conversation about the maid stereotype has been reignited.  I've received a few emails from colleagues and friends siding with some of the critics who are unhappy with what they perceive as the perpetuation of the maid stereotype on television.  I do understand this initial reaction because it was the same reaction that I had when I first heard about the show last year.  But I decided to give the show a chance for two reasons: first, it employs a number of talented Latina actresses; and second, Eva Longoria is involved and she has earned my trust throughout her career.

In April of last year, Eva demonstrated a great passion for the show that got my attention.  In an interview with the Huffington Post, Longoria responded to the criticism about the use of the Latina maid stereotype.  Longoria mentioned the value of having several Latinas on lead roles on the show and the fact that maids are a realistic reflection of our society in the United States.  She further stated: "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?'"

I've now seen the pilot, I see what Eva was talking about.  Although, it's not the type of show that I usually watch (I wasn't a fan of "Desperate Housewives" either) and I was not necessarily overwhelmed by the script, I was thrilled to see five beautiful, smart, talented Latinas on the screen.  I was delighted to hear them speak amongst each other in Spanish, sing in Spanish, and even laugh in Spanish – if that's possible.  Let me tell you, these characters do not fall under the regular maid stereotype with the furry dog and all.

Most importantly, Eva has not let me down.  I, like many others, have followed Eva's career as an actor and activist.  She has earned my respect and my trust.  Seeing this pilot reaffirms what I knew to be true from her long history of volunteer and philanthropy work:  that she is on our side and wants the best for the Latino community.  I don't want to see this show fail before it gets a fair chance to get better.  And it will get better as I believe that the critics play an invaluable role by challenging the producers to dispense with stereotypes and weave a complex story with rich characters.  As Longoria recently stated, let's not judge the book by its cover.  I'll certainly be watching when the show premieres on June 23rd.