Five Latina lawyers strike out against injustice while wearing short skirts and having great sex.
Five Latina medical residents bunk up in a Chicago loft and learn how to heal when hung over while wearing short skirts and having great sex.
Five Latina maids navigate the great-white-shark-infested waters of Beverly Hills while wearing short skirts and (presumably) having great sex.
Bing! We have a winner.
It's no surprise that Lifetime's "Devious Maids," which centers on five Latina maids in Beverly Hills, has stirred up a heated debate about whether or not this show is good or bad for Latina women. Pros: It's produced by Eva Longoria, who has a master's in Chicano studies from Cal State Northridge. And let's face it — it's a miracle to have five women, let alone Latina women, headline a series. Cons: Do they have to be maids? Why can't they be doctors or lawyers?
Both Longoria and Marc Cherry, creator of "Maids" and Longoria's former boss at "Desperate Housewives," have become very articulate on these matters. The cast is also on top of it. The show has been brimming with controversy for some time now, so they've had time to hone their debate skills. Consider these remarks that Longoria made in April to HuffPo's LatinoVoices:
"As an executive producer, I choose to break the cycle of ignorance by bringing to light something we have not seen before, a deeper, more complex side to the women who live beyond the box that some choose to put them in. The only way to break a stereotype is to not ignore it. The stereotype we are grappling with here is that as Latinas, all we are is maids. And yet, this is a show that deconstructs the stereotype by showing us that maids are so much more.
"Are Latinas teachers and doctors and lawyers in America today? Yes. Should their stories be told as well? Absolutely. But, this show is called 'Devious Maids,' not 'Latinas in America. Isn't it 'shortsighted' to say we can only tell the stories of what others deem 'successful'? Isn't it 'shortsighted' to think that 'success' is only measured in social status, monetary gain, or job position? Are we saying maids are not 'successful' because we perceive them to be at the bottom of the socioeconomic scale?"
The show recently celebrated the premiere at the Bel-Air Bay Club, and Ana Ortiz — who plays maid, Marisol Duarte — touched on Longoria's themes while talking to Us Weekly: "There's a responsibility we have to bring these characters to life truthfully and honestly. They're funny and sexy and tragic and all of that, and listen, my grandmother was all of that! And she worked her butt off, and she raised a family. She kept it all together, she put my father through college, she put my father through Columbia Law School, and what's a success? Is that not a success?"
One person who saw this all coming without the benefit of a magical crystal ball, mind you, was Cherry. He told Access Hollywood that he "always knew there would be controversy with the show."
And that wild-card factor must hold an appeal for the creative team as well as the network. It's a tough market out there, and knowing that your show will get publicity — whether good or bad — offers some level of comfort in a busy season of similar summer programming (i.e. "Mistresses").
Cherry maintains that "Maids" is like any good show: "I think we've done five super-positive portrayals of Latina women who are both devious and smart, but have dreams of their own and are pursuing them with all the gusto in the world. And I think people are gonna get a kick out of watching these characters on their journeys."
Actress Roselyn Sanchez, who plays Carmen Luna/Carmen Verde, told Access that all this controversy will go away once people see the show and realize it's freaking fun. She's seen it happen before: "Many people who haven't seen it that have a preconception or were annoyed already because of the title, ... [when they see] the show ... they go, 'Oh my God. It's very pleasant and very funny, and we enjoyed it.'"
So that's one approach. Think of it as being like an ice cream cone on a hot summer night. Before that first bite, you're fretting about calories, but then you taste it. Ahhh.
[Related: Dania Ramirez: What's In My Bag?]
On a more serious note, Sanchez says what a lot of Latina actresses are probably thinking: "I appreciate that this is [the] first time that a network and a producer take a chance at saying, 'I'm gonna write something for Latinas; I don't care what the profession is. They're the leads.'"
If that's true, then the world we live in right now has some kooky rules. We can have a show featuring Latina women ... but only if they're portrayed as maids who cater to rich (mostly white) people. Oh, America, you haven't come a long way, baby. But at least this is one small step in diverse programming, and at least there are swimming pools and "Dynasty"-style high jinks to keep us entertained.
Watch the full episode of the "Devious Maids" pilot early:
"Devious Maids" premieres Sunday, 6/23 on Lifetime.