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DEVIOUS MAIDS on Lifetime

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.

5 Lessons I Learned from “Liz & Dick”

I was beyond excited for the premiere of Lifetime’s Liz & Dick. I was only expecting to see a campy made-for-television movie that would have all the best (and worst) parts of films like Mommie Dearest and The Room. Lucky for me, I even got to learn something from this hot mess.

1) Cheek fillers are awful.

Yes, we know: plastic surgery is terrible for actors because they can’t emote. But somehow, I’ve grown used to the frozen Botox expressions and face lift aliens that have graced my TV screen. Seeing Lindsay Lohan’s overstuffed cheeks battle with the rest of her face for world domination was a horrifying experience. It was almost as bad as her acting.

Speaking of which…

2) I am bored. I am so bored.

Lindsay–I mean, Elizabeth says this line with 100% commitment and believability while lounging at her estate. I couldn’t help but feel the same way while watching the movie. There are only so many times I could watch Liz and Dick fight, sex, and drink themselves until a poorly timed trailer for Playing for Keeps.

Please go away.

3) Our ADD isn’t that bad.

In a world where cell phones, data plans, and social networking have completely ruined our focus, it’s easy to believe we can’t pay attention to anything longer than a minute. Liz & Dick proved that not to be totally true. Every scene was shorter than two minutes, and I got cinematic whiplash in my attempt to understand it all.

4)  Story-telling is important.

All of the above (even the cheesy Lifetime soundtrack!) could have been forgiven if there was some narrative to latch onto. There was a hint of it when Richard Burton announces to Eddie Fisher that he and Elizabeth are having an affair. But that soon dissipates into poor writing, acting, and film editing.

5) The myth of Lindsay Lohan is dead.

Despite the arrests, lawsuits, and fame-hungry parents, the media has continued to latch onto Lohan’s story because there was a feeling that potential was being wasted. That if she got her act together, Lindsay Lohan could be a decent actress again. But Liz & Dick took that notion, ripped it to shreds, and presented it to every American home with a basic cable plan. It’s over–for now.

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