There’s a lot of debates going around about Lifetime’s newest series Devious Maids. The series is about five Latina maids with big dreams working in Beverly Hills’ rich and famous homes. The show was originally planned to premiere on ABC, but the network dropped the pilot (wise choice), and the show ended up on Lifetime.
What’s unsettling is the fact that Latinas as maids is an ongoing racist and sexist Hollywood trope. Several writers have expressed their dismay over the show all agreeing that the series does nothing but rehash a damaging stereotype about women of color.
As I read the articles I realized that Hollywood is still in the business of portraying people of color (POC) as servants to rich and powerful whites. We’ve had movies from Hearts in Dixie and Gone With the Wind to much recent films like The Help and the soon to be released The Butler, a film about the life of Cecil James, a black man who served for eight different U.S. Presidents from 1952 to 1986. To the average moviegoer The Butler sounds like a must-see movie. To others it’s just another ‘servant for white folks’ movie.
It’s no secret that when it comes to race and women, Hollywood proudly fails to combat issues that affect anyone who’s not white or male. Instead, it sees “other” people as two-dimensional characters. To the worldly people in Tinsel Town, stereotypes are not only authentic, but they are way more entertaining and profitable. (I was being sarcastic, by the way.)
But there is more to it than just money and fame. It is about the goal of maintaining white supremacy on the big and small screens. The servant trope is one idea to re-enforce the notion that women and POC are meant to serve whites. It’s no secret that there are white people today who hold that belief in their hearts. Some of them miss the “good ole’ days” where whiteness was king of the world, and they terrified that it’s losing its throne.
What they miss the most is when POC were in their proper place, at the beckon call of white people when they need that quick fix feeling superior. They miss the days where there blacks and browns were quiet, devoid of free will and obedient. Hollywood helps bring back those days producing servant films to audiences who won’t move on and consider that maybe, just maybe POC would like to be seen as…people.
Don’t expect such films to stop coming out of the assembly line any time soon. Hollywood is still heavily whitewashed. Remember, there is nothing wrong with being a maid, butler or servant in general. But, there is something wrong with an industry that sees a people as nothing but.