“Desperate Housewives” breakout beauty Eva Longoria has taken to creating shows—rather than starring in them —in recent years, but her newest series is being harshly condemned within her own cultural community over what critics are calling a demeaning and stereotypical portrayal of Hispanic women.
“Devious Maids,” which Longoria developed with “Desperate Housewives” creator Marc Cherry, is the first show to boast an all-Latina cast including veteran actresses Ana Ortiz, Dania Ramirez, Roselyn Sánchez, Edy Ganem, Judy Reyes, and Susan Lucci. The Lifetime series follows five Latina housekeepers who work for rich Beverly Hills-based employers. Its hyper-sexualized trailer comes with the tag line “keep your friends close, but your maids closer,” and the pilot episode, which aired Sunday, kicked off with an employer threatening to deport her maid for having sex with the employer’s husband.
But the portrayal of Latina women in the series isn’t sitting well with some viewers.
Michelle Herrera Mulligan, the editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan for Latinas, referred to the television series as a “wasted opportunity” and “an insulting disgrace,” and in an opinion piece, Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, author of "The Dirty Girls Social Club" noted that while “it is not wrong to be a maid, or even a Latina maid,” there is something “very wrong with an American entertainment industry that continually tells Latinas that this is all they are or can ever be.”
“For decades Hollywood has consistently and almost obsessively cast Latinos in stereotypically negative roles,” Damarys Ocana Perez wrote for Latina.com. “Gangbangers. Drug dealers. Hypersexual Latin lovers. And of course, maids – slutty ones, saintly ones, subservient ones, sassy ones, ones with ridiculously heavy accents.”
One viewer tweeted that “Devious Maids” was “just offensive,” while others praised the series with tweets such as “loved loved, good new show” and “intrigue and funny at the same time!”
A representative for the National Hispanic Media Coalition also gave the Longoria creation the thumbs up.
“We saw the pilot and did not see a negative reflection of the Latino community. Yes, we are all very tired of the overused Latina maid stereotype. But here we have a show with five Latina regulars, this doesn't happen often enough,” the rep told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column. “There are two Latina writers and two Latino executive producers working on the show. This show is offering many good jobs for Latinos that have been looking for this break. We want the show to get a fair chance to develop its characters in a promising way. The critics have put good pressure on Marc Cherry and his team.”
Longoria too has spoken out in defense of the criticism in an online video promoting the new program.
“When we get any sort of backlash, ‘they are playing stereotypical maids,’ my immediate response is that, ‘so you’re telling me those stories aren’t worth telling?’”
Leading lady Ortiz added that she understands the criticism. She said she was initially offended when she first heard about the series, but had a change-of-heart after reading the script.
“I reject the premise that a woman… because she’s a maid, she doesn’t deserve to have her story told. Sometimes the hero is not the doctor saving a life or the lawyer getting the guy off. Sometimes the hero is somebody that you recognize or that touches your heart,” Ortiz, who called the show “groundbreaking television,” told Fox News Latino. “We’re really trying to address issues.”
The controversial show saw modest ratings for its series premiere. Around two million viewers tuned in to the new show.
But Longoria currently has two other projects in the development stage – one about two Hispanic politicians and another about a Latina mother and daughter law practice. And whether Longoria has the chops to successfully move behind the lens has yet to be determined.
The star’s highly-anticipated reality dating show “Ready for Love” proved to be a flop on NBC earlier this year. The network canceled the series after just a few episodes.
A rep for Longoria did not respond to a request for further comment, and Lifetime decline to comment.