Devious Maids is premiering on Lifetime tonight. And I am split two ways.
The happy Puerto Rican flag-waving me is super excited to have a show that is starring a ton of Latina actresses I know and love (Ana Ortiz! Judy Reyes!) and other Latina actresses I don’t know but am looking forward to love. I’m equally excited that Longoria is executive producing the show, because it’s just as important to have brown people in charge behind the camera as well as in front of it. It’s also great to see a new prime time show that is based on a novela (and captures the novela sensibility), which I haven’t seen since Ugly Betty.
But the angry ¡Viva la Revolución! activist me isn’t completely comfortable with having the all-star Latina cast playing only maids. I’m even less comfortable that the cast of Latina maids is cleaning the homes of a cast that is only white. As Alisa Valdes points out in her blog post about the show, the original novela had Latinas working for Latinas. The American version does not. With this racial divide, Devious Maids is conflating class and race in a way that’s problematic in an already racist society. It would be interesting to see what an exchange would be between one of the Latina maids and her employer if her employer was also Hispanic. Which is something that *gasp* actually happens in the United States. It’s also disheartening to see actresses like Judy Reyes (who played a nurse in Scrubs) and Roselyn Sánchez (who played an FBI agent in Without a Trace) have to revert back to stereotypes in Devious Maids.
Do I blame any of the Latina actresses for taking the gig? No way. I’ve auditioned for and have played my share of maids on stage, and if Marc Cherry called me in for an under 5 scene with Susan Lucci, my only answer would be “Where do I sign?” And like Eva Longoria has said in the defense of the show, there is nothing wrong with showing the stories of maids, as that is a truth to Latinos in the United States and is nothing to be ashamed of.
Yet there is a sense of shame where this show is the main event for Latinos on TV. That it’s not one of many other shows debuting tonight (or any other night) with an all-star Hispanic cast. (You know, like the many shows that premiere every year with an all/mostly-white cast.) That there aren’t so many television shows and movies that show Latinos of all ages, ethnicities, and professions—with only a small number of those shows and movies featuring them as the help.