Lifetime's new sitcom "Devious Maids" features five rich Beverly Hills families and their Latina maids – a stereotype that has ignited a huge storm of criticism. This, and the steamy theme of maids sleeping with their male employers, draws ire from the Christian and secular communities alike.
Richard G. Howe, professor of Philosophy and Apologetics and Director of the Ph.D. program at Southern Evangelical Seminary, condemns the sexual immorality in the show. In the first episode, a rich woman threatens to deport her maid for sleeping with her husband. Howe explained that cultural themes have made breaking the bonds of marriage less unacceptable.
"We've begun to become jaded to what we otherwise would recognize as immoral behavior," he said. Just as "you can do certain things to your eyes that hurt your vision, hurt your ears to weaken your hearing," so "it's possible for us to become hardened and jaded to the moral law and our conscience," just like a serial killer.
Howe pointed to the Dick Van Dyke show, where "Rob and Laura Petri were a married couple that didn't even sleep in the same bed on the TV show." Over time, he argued, the society has overcome "a lot of natural, built-in barriers concerning modesty."
According to Howe, the steamy side of "Devious Maids" marks it as "another installment of the decadence that has come out of Hollywood."
"That's the tried and true recipe, regardless of the ethnicity of the characters," he explained. "Appealing to those types of things – sexuality – will almost guarantee viewers," just as car ads often feature scantily-clad women.
Eva Longoria, the show's prominent Latina producer and former star of the sexually-driven show "Desperate Housewives," said "Devious Maids" features "five strong, female, Latina characters, so it's like the three hurdles we had to overcome to get this on the air in Hollywood."
Longoria is working with "Desperate Housewives" creator Marc Cherry to create "Devious Maids."
But Alisa Valdes, a Latina screenwriter who was asked to write the script, voiced frustration. "It is not wrong to be a maid, or even a Latina maid, but there is something very wrong with an American entertainment industry that continually tells Latinas that this is all they are or can ever be," she wrote in an opinion for NBC Latino.
And Damarys Ocana Perez wrote for Latina.com about "Devious Maids," "For decades Hollywood has consistently and almost obsessively cast Latinos in stereotypically negative roles. Gangbangers. Drug dealers. Hypersexual Latin lovers. And of course, maids – slutty ones, saintly ones, subservient ones, sassy ones, ones with ridiculously heavy accents."
The pilot of the new series was released on June 23 and the second episode will air on June 30.