The Dubious Debate of Devious Maids

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I just finished reading Julio Varela’s commentary on Latinorebels.com “A Sad Inconsistency: The Support of “Devious Maids” by MALDEF, NCLR, and NHMC” and although I had decided to steer clear of commenting one way or the other, I just had to chime in when I saw the conversation beginning to derail.

Marc Cherry/Eva Longoria’s Devious Maids is based on the Mexican TV series Ellas son la Alegría del Hogar, which translates to English as “They Are a Home’s Joy” and was heavily influenced by Desperate Housewives.  It’s based on an original concept by Gloria Calzada, Juan Meyer and Salvador Rizo.  It is a satire.

The definition of satire, according to the dictionary is, “The use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing or deriding vice, folly…” or in this case stereotypes.

NCLR logoNHMCMALDEFI make it a practice to not dis a project until I have had a chance to see it for myself.  Since I have not seen Devious Maids, I cannot comment at this time. However when I read Varela’s commentary, I was taken aback that Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), the National Council of la Raza (NCLR) and the National Hispanic Media Coalition’s (NHMC) integrity was being questioned because they are hosting screenings of Devious Maids.  Did it ever occur to anyone that the reason they are hosting these screenings is to give audiences and community leaders an opportunity to see and judge for themselves?

I have the utmost respect for the work that NHMC, NCLR and MALDEF do, and I am lucky to have collaborated with all three in their initiatives at one time or another.  Knowing their work, I trust these organizations when they say it does not put Latinos in a bad light.  But I will save final judgment for when I personally see the show.  But to doubt the integrity of these organizations because you do not agree with them supporting the show is just wrong.

I am sure that the majority of persons who don’t agree with these organizations’ opinion could not tell you the work that they do, and have done for decades.  Work that has surely benefited them, without them even realizing it.  I challenge these persons to use their Internet savvy and click on their websites and find out about their service to the Latino community. Because if they don’t,  what they will take away from your article, Julio, will be your opinion of the “sad inconsistency” to their missions.

Having said the above, I do not want to dismiss the comments made by the editor of Cosmo for LatinasMichelle Herrera-Mulligan, who HAS seen the show.  She obviously thought the show so offensive; she had some pretty harsh words to say — not just about the show, but Eva Longoria as well.

the harvestNot even the fact that Longoria is executive producer on two documentaries focused on the poor treatment of farm workers (Food Chains & The Harvest); that she helped get the Latino vote out as the co-chair of Obama’s re-election committee; or that she gives her time and money to a multitude of non-profit organizations that serve Latinos, were enough to attenuate Ms. Herrera-Mulligan’s disapproval of Longoria and the show she executive produces.

Yes, for too long Latinas have been portrayed as maids (I should know I played many when I was an actress and Latin Heat has written about many offensive ones since 1992).  But, with time and perspective, I have come to realize that it’s not that there are too many Latina maids being written in Hollywood – it’s about who is writing them and how.

Gregory Nava wrote one in the Oscar nominated film El Norte (played with a lot of heart by the late Lupe Ontiveros) and that maid, I would have loved to play.  Shelly Morrison (aka Rachel Dominguez) played the acerbic maid Rosario for seven years on NBC’s Will and Grace, and there are other examples I can cite, but I think you get the idea.

Eva&MarcWhen Marc Cherry wrote the (un-maid) role for Eva Longoria in Desperate Housewives, many praised his award-winning show and him in particular for casting Eva as one-half of an upscale rich Latino couple.  But Desperate Housewives also had its critics when it began.  The Chicago Tribune headline in 2004 proclaimed, “It’s pro-feminist satire. No, it’s a tired cliché”.  The series went on to run for eight seasons making Eva Longoria a household name and a global star.

Opportunity begets opportunity.  Eva has been able to translate her success to help causes, advise Presidents and executive produce her own projects, projects that employ Latinos.  She has been able to translate the opportunity given to her, into executive producing a series that has hired eight actors,  providing five Latinas starring roles and an opportunity to possibly translate their possible success in Devious Maids and afford other Latina actresses their opportunity – a pay it forward paradigm.  The end goal is to provide more work for writers, actors and producers to write, produce and play different kinds of roles – maids, lawyers, scientists and even a Latina maid that goes on to become the first female President of the United States.  It’s Hollywood – where anything is possible.

Let’s take this opportunity, no matter the outcome of the Devious Maid debate, and turn it into a positive as we move forward, because no matter what Hollywood chooses to portray — or not, the future for American Latino is bright and it’s in our hands!