Devious Maids hasn't even premiered yet, but the new Lifetime soap is already facing harsh criticism for promoting Latina stereotypes.
The show, from Desperate Housewives' Marc Cherry and Eva Longoria, follows five Latina maids, played by Ana Ortiz, Dania Ramirez, Roselyn Sanchez, Edy Ganem and Judy Reyes, who work for the rich and famous in L.A. Last month, writer Tanisha L. Ramirez called the series "a wasted opportunity" in an op-ed piece for The Huffington Post based on a minute-long trailer. Part of her criticism stems from Devious Maids' apparent portrayal of "Latinas as hypersexual, nosy, scheming and, at times, totally invisible domestic servants."
"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," Ramirez wrote.
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Executive producer Longoria defended the series, explaining that though maids might be "a realistic reflection of Latinas in America today... they are not a reflection of every Latina."
"As an executive producer, I choose to break the cycle of ignorance by bringing to light something we have not seen before, a deeper, more complex side to the women who live beyond the box that some choose to put them in. The only way to break a stereotype is to not ignore it. The stereotype we are grappling with here is that as Latinas, all we are is maids. And yet, this is a show that deconstructs the stereotype by showing us that maids are so much more," Longoria said.
"Are Latinas teachers, and doctors and lawyers in America today? Yes. Should their stories be told as well? Absolutely. But, this show is called Devious Maids, not 'Latinas in America,' Longoria added. "Isn't it 'shortsighted' to say we can only tell the stories of what others deem 'successful?' Isn't it 'shortsighted' to think that 'success' is only measured in social status, monetary gain, or job position? Are we saying maids are not 'successful' because we perceive them to be at the bottom of the socioeconomic scale?"
Ortiz told The Los Angeles Times that she was hesitant about the show at first. "Honestly, my first reaction was not unlike the blowback we're getting," she said. "I understand where people are coming from because, as a Latina and being in this business as long as I have, I was like 'Really? Devious Maids? What, are we all going to be called Maria? But it was a show from Marc Cherry, who I respect greatly, so I resisted the urge to write it off completely."
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But Ortiz says that she is happy she gave the show a chance and hopes others will as well. "I have never been given a chance to play a character that is strong, powerful and well-educated," Ortiz said. "We know there's a responsibility we have to make it successful because if it doesn't, industry people will be like, 'Oh, well that didn't work!' And then who knows when the next opportunity like this will happen."
Watch the trailer for Devious Maids below — or if you don't want to wait until Sunday (10/9c, Lifetime), watch the entire first episode here.
Do you think Devious Maids promotes negative stereotypes? Will you tune in to see more?