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Scott D. Pierce: Are you racist if you like 'Devious Maids'?

Published July 17, 2013 2:23 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

"Devious Maids" is a groundbreaking TV series. Not because of what's in it, but because of who's in it.

The series, which airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on Lifetime, centers on five Latina actresses. And that has never happened on an English-language American TV show before.

It's ridiculous that this is even worth mentioning. It's 2013, and about 17 percent of Americans are Latino — more than 52 million people.

In 2012, only 4 percent of the characters on prime-time network TV were Latino. So Latno advocacy groups are jumping up and down for joy about "Devious Maids," right?

Wrong.

The problem is that the five Latina characters are maids. They mop and clean and even do windows.

Well, some of them do windows.

Because they're maids, Raul Reyes wrote in USA Today that the show "reinforces stereotypes" and "does not represent progress for Latinas on TV."

Is a light-hearted soap opera/comedy supposed to represent progress for Latinas? Is Lifetime a charitable foundation?

Author Alisa Valdez wrote for NBCLatino that she is "annoyed by the perpetuation of stereotype," adding, "There is something very wrong with an American entertainment industry that continually tells Latinas that this is all they are or can ever be."

It's fair to argue that there aren't enough Latinos on TV. But it's unfair to target "Devious Maids" — which is essentially "Desperate Housewives" with more than a couple of Latino characters — for all that is wrong with television.

There's a parallel to the attacks on "The Cosby Show" almost 30 years ago by those who thought it was unrealistic to have a show about an African-American doctor and his African-American lawyer wife. They do exist, you know.

So do Latina maids.

The criticism of "Maids" ignores that one of the rich employers is Latino. It ignores that the "Maids" are smarter and more sympathetic than their employers.

It misses the irony when one character tells 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.

"That said, if you don't stop screwing my husband, I'm going to have you deported."

You can take that out of context, or you can realize the character was (a) wrong, (b) a terrible human being and (c) funny.

If you want to argue that minorities should be better represented on American TV, I'll fight that battle with you.

If you attack "Devious Maids" because it's not a show about five Latina Mother Teresas, you're on your own.

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.