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'Devious Maids': The controversy behind the new Lifetime drama

Some don't see show as an opportunity for Latinos in Hollywood

Cindy Y. Rodriguez | 6/25/2013, 7:35 a.m.
The cast of "Devious Maids" from left: Roselyn Sanchez, Edy Ganem, Ana Ortiz, Dania Ramirez and Judy Reyes. TV history will be made Sunday night with the premiere of "Devious Maids," the first prime-time program featuring an all-Latina leading cast. But even before the first episode has aired, the Lifetime show is receiving a slew of criticism. Courtesy Lifetime

— TV history will be made Sunday night with the premiere of "Devious Maids," the first prime-time program featuring an all-Latina leading cast. But even before the first episode has aired, the Lifetime show is receiving a slew of criticism.

Marc Cherry of "Desperate Housewives'' is the creator and executive producer, and he's joined by two fellow "Housewives" alums: Sabrina Wind and Eva Longoria. The soapy comedy-drama is about five Latina maids who work for wealthy families and dream of a better life.

The pilot opens with a Beverly Hills hostess scolding her maid: "I think what you people do is heroic. You wash clothes you can't afford. You polish silver you will never dine with. You mop floors for people who don't bother to learn your name," finally ending with, "That said, if you don't stop screwing my husband, I'm going to have you deported."

"Devious Maids" is loosely based on a Mexican telenovela "Ellas son la Alegría del Hogar," and stars Judy Reyes ("Scrubs"), Dania Ramirez ("Premium Rush"), Ana Ortiz ("Ugly Betty") and Roselyn Sanchez ("Chasing Papi"). Newcomer Edy Ganem plays Reyes' daughter.

Recently, some in the Latino community have expressed their disappointment for the show, calling it a "wasted opportunity" in that it will only perpetuate the ongoing issue in Hollywood that Latinas can play only stereotypical roles such as maids, gardeners and nannies.

"It is not wrong to be a maid, or even a Latina maid," wrote Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, author of "The Dirty Girls Social Club," in an opinion piece, "but there is something very wrong with an American entertainment industry that continually tells Latinas that this is all they are or can ever be."

Longoria responded to the backlash on The Huffington Post: "I take pride in the fact that these characters are not one dimensional or limited to their job title. As the minority becomes the majority and the United States becomes more diverse, it is important that the protagonists on television embody this diversity."

"However," she continued, "television is a business. If we don't support shows that have diverse content, we won't see shows with diverse content! They will simply go away, and the hurdles to make the next show with diversity will be even more challenging."

Michelle Herrera Mulligan, editor in chief of Cosmopolitan for Latinas, countered: "Well, Eva, I've watched the show, and I'm genuinely sad to say that I disagree. It's not a complex portrait; it's an insulting disgrace."

"I saw the first [episode] and thought it was annoying," Valdes-Rodriguez said. "I just don't like the flamenco guitar tone every time there's a Latina on the screen. It's very unimaginative and predictable. I have no interest in the show at all."

The National Hispanic Media Coalition is supporting the show, stating members of the coalition watched the pilot and saw nothing wrong. They said if Lifetime were depicting Latinas in negative stereotypical roles, the coaliton would be the first ones to criticize the show.

"Some of the issues that Latinos go through in this country is characterized by each of these maids, things they are trying to overcome," said Alex Nogales, executive director of the coalition, interview with CNN. "If I came from a poor migrant experience, does that mean that story doesn't get told? That's silly."