Devious Maids, the new show being pushed left and right, features Ana Ortiz, Roselyn Sanchez, Dania Ramirez, and Judy Reyes as maids to the rich and famous of Beverly Hills. The women, all of Latina origin, must face the trials and tribulations of the average American while trying to reach goals of their own.
I’ll admit – I initially watched the show thinking that it was going to portray Latina women as two things: sexy gossips. And, even though it did exactly that, it also surprised me by how it approached the maids as normal, levelheaded characters, as opposed to their white counterparts. So, let’s look at a few things the show does well…
For one, the show portrays the women as normal Americans (even though not all the characters are). They are all fluent in English, and only one has an accent. I honestly expected the characters to all have very strong accents for two reasons. One: that’s what America expects. And two: it would increase their sex appeal. So, I applaud the show for making them “Americanized”, especially in a time with high tensions over immigration reform. Portraying them any other way would have emphasized the racist American belief that Latino people don’t care about learning English and that they are all undocumented. I also appreciate that, despite extremely difficult immigration processes, Dania Ramirez’s character pursues legal channels to bring her family into the country.
The show also called out the racism in our country. As Ana Ortiz’s character reads a story in the newspaper about the death of a fellow Latina maid, she points out that the story was on the 43rd page, then emphasizes that it would have been front-page news if the maid were white.
Devious Maids surprised me. I expected the show to be flourished with countless stereotypes and only reflect poorly on Latina women. The show calmly displays the average American life of these “devious maids”, portraying them as (mostly) good women who only want what everybody else wants – the chance to live the American dream with loved ones at their side. If one really looks into it, the show is actually a great example of the economic disparity in American society, where the median wealth of white households is 18 times that of Latino households.
But let’s be honest, shall we? Most of America won’t pick up on any of that.
Instead, they will see sexy, Latina maids who are only good at three things: cleaning, gossiping, and being teases. In fact, the show opens with one character being, well… devious. She strips out of her clothes and takes a dip in the pool of the house she works at. She also uses the opportunity to convince her male friend, one that is in love with her, to put off work for a bit so she can enjoy herself. Those Latinas… always using their bodies to get what they want!
Let’s point out the obvious here. The show is about nothing more than Latina maids in Beverly Hills. The show could have worked almost the exact same way with white actresses. Not all maids are Latina, and not all Latina women are maids. Simple as that. Instead, the show takes the easy way out and goes with what it knows best.
Could they be trying to appeal to a new audience? Perhaps the younger Latino generation? As the fastest growing demographic in the country, it makes sense that the producers would want to tap into this new group. But, why maids? Why couldn’t they be executives? Lawyers? Teachers? Politicians? I could even look past the sexy gossip stereotype if the characters worked as something that children could aspire to.
Listen, there is nothing wrong with being a maid. It’s hard work and makes money, which, to a lot of families, is most important. If that’s what you do and it feeds your family, then good for you. My problem lies in the fact that there are other professions that young Latino children can look up to besides the stereotypical ones.
From 2011-2012, I spent nine months in Los Angeles teaching and mentoring 6th grade students. They were 11-12 year olds with the reading levels of 5 year olds. They were all first or second generation American, and all had learned English as a second language. They were from different countries, but most came from Mexico, Guatemala, or Honduras. My students worked hard and tried their best to succeed, despite the obstacles they faced. We worked together to improve their chances of graduating high school and succeeding in life. It’s not fair to my former students, and other children like them, to watch this show and dream about cleaning the houses of the wealthy only a few zip-codes away. This show tells Latino children that they can achieve nothing better than being the maids of rich white people.