Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Good Intentions, Bad Decisions

I wasn't going to get too involved in this but since I can't get it out of my head I think the topic calls for a blog.

For the past couple of weeks I've been seeing ads on television about a new show from Eva Longoria called "Devious Maids."

First reaction: That looks dumb.

I hadn't noticed at first that all of the maids were Latinas (probably because I wasn't paying that much attention). It took two or three commercials for me to sit up and take notice...and get a little angry.
Angry on several levels. As a Latina; as a writer trying to break the stereotypes of Latina(o) representation in the media; as a supporter of Eva Longoria; as a writer!

Closer to the premiere of the show I caught a couple of blog posts. The first was by Tanisha Ramirez in the Huffington Post, here. The second was by Alisa Valdes author of "The Dirty Girls Social Club" (read it here). Ms. Valdes is trying to raise $250,000 to turn her book into a movie because, according to her, she doesn't want the characters to undergo the "Hollywood treatment." To see what she means by that, watch this:

Eva Longoria went on to defend the show. Wait for it...I'm posting another link...here.
Needless to say, she defends the show with as much passion as Ramirez and Valdes used in criticizing it.

I don't blame Eva Longoria. Well, not completely. The show wasn't created by her. She is simply an executive producer, which basically means that she put her name behind the show probably so that the creator wouldn't get the backlash.

You're a real gentleman, Marc Cherry!

But I am seriously disappointed in her. How the meetings went, I don't know. What pretty words they told her to convince her that this was a good idea, I don't know that either. But I am pretty sure they sounded like the words she is throwing at us to convince us that what is happening is the right course of action. She is saying: let's not concentrate on the fact that they are maids, let's concentrate on the fact that there are FIVE Latinas carrying a primetime television show.

Perhaps years from now there will be a retrospective on Eva Longoria's career and they will say "she was a trailblazer, she put out the only television show with Latinas as the main protagonists." Years from now I'll still have a problem with it. I will continue to ask: Why did the maids have to be Latinas?

That's my main problem. Ms. Longoria believes that maids' stories are worth telling as much as the stories of doctors and lawyers. Fine, why do they have to be Latinas?
Because they wanted to give the opportunity to underrepresented actresses to appear on a primetime television show as the lead characters. Fine, why do they have to be maids?

You see the problem? Any way you argue the show it comes down to this: it is a stereotype that we are trying to break away from and with this show it has been reinforced. Eva Longoria, a prominent and well-respected Mexican-American, WITH POWER, chose to back THIS show. Let me just throw something else in the mix: she has her own production company. She could've gone back and said "listen, let's tweak this a little bit." This didn't have to happen.

But wait! You say. What if the show is a success? What if I'm judging it just on a few ads that I saw and Eva Longoria is actually a genius that saw a diamond in the rough. What if this is the beginning of a new era?

For you, dear reader, I bit the bullet and watched the pilot episode of "Devious Maids."

Beverly Hills. The place where heartless, rich, doped-up White people live (according to the show). And some guy named Alejandro. Alejandro is there so that we don't rant about the fact that all of the rich bosses are White. The show, much like Marc Cherry's "Desperate Housewives" (a genius, this guy), starts off with a mystery.

Oh no, wait, back up, it actually starts with this lady threatening the maid with...wait for it...DEPORTATION because the maid is sleeping with the rich, fat, asshole husband. Got it? Because in case you didn't know, all maids are not only Latinas, but also illegal aliens.

Eva Longoria: "Actually, we are trying to show that this is what people THINK of Latina maids. If you keep watching you'll see a character declare that she is, in fact, an American citizen. Did I mention two of our head writers are Latinas?" *pats self on back*


So the maid gets killed. In "Desperate Housewives" the show starts when one lady commits suicide and then tortures the audience with her voiceovers from the beyond. The font colors of the title are the same on both shows?

Marc Cherry deserves and Emmy!

Let's meet the other maids. I forgot their names. Please hold.

Marisol is the new maid on the block. She speaks English without an accent. Literally the boss-lady says "I've never met a maid without an accent."

Marisol is also the above-mentioned American citizen, AND she went to college (actually, what the boss says is, "You sound like you went to college"). Which means that she can't possibly be a real maid. Which *spoiler alert* she's not.

No one saw the issue with this? No. One?
My blood pressure is rising.

At first I thought Marisol was a cop investigating the murder. Now I think she works in the legal field...and she's investigating the murder. Which means that sometime in the future Evan Longoria will say, "I told you so."

And we will reply with, "You're still missing the point."

Zolla has a boss that uses a lot of drugs (Susan Lucci, who should also be upset about the typecasting). Her daughter Valentina is in love with the boss' son and she makes us all proud by throwing herself at him in every which way possible. I can already tell you where this is going both for Zolla and for her daughter.

Carmen works for Alejandro and she is an aspiring singer. I don't know what Alejandro does or is but all he is seen doing is working out and being protected by some lady. The only African-American on the show works for Alejandro and has the hots for Carmen.

Ten points if you can guess where that storyline is going?

And poor Rosie has to work taking care of her boss' little boy, while her own little boy is in Mexico and can't come over. There so much irony in this story it would make Alanis Morissette's head explode. They also have an overly dramatic telephone call in the first episode, which did not melt my cold heart but rather made me roll my tired eyes.

Now that I think about it, these stories are stereotypical regardless of the maids' race. Which begs the question...say it with me, I know you can...WHY DO THEY HAVE TO BE LATINAS?

Did I mention the soundtrack? Let me just say that I don't know what goes on in your guys' head, but I'm pretty sure flamenco guitars and maracas don't play ever time I walk into a room. I like to hum the Imperial March sometimes when I walk :-D

PS - I know the pilot is a setup to the stories, but we only got to see one of the maids go home. Which means that those "stories to tell" are probably going to end up being workplace gossip. Curious, I wonder if they could've done the same setup in an office? hmmmm...

PPS - I just read a great article in EW magazine on Michael B. Jordan. He's a fantastic actor who starred in "Friday Night Lights" and "Chronicle." Mr. Jordan, an African-American, is on the shortlist to play Johnny Storm in the new "Fantastic Four" movie.

THAT is progress.