Devious Maids: English Language Novela Surprisingly Confronts Racism, Classism & Sexism

I have been hooked on Lifetime’s new show Devious Maids.  Let me begin by saying I haven’t read any of the critical press or online commentary.  Also, it’s Lifetime network television, so my expectations are calibrated accordingly.

First of all, I’m thrilled to see so many Latina actresses in their 30s & 40s working in Hollywood, and the show is produced by Eva Longoria.  Second of all, within the soap opera formula, they are engaging issues of race, class, and gender in impressive ways.

The story follows the lives of five Latina women working as domestics in Beverly Hills, at least one is Puerto Rican and one is Mexican.  So the pilot episode begins with a murder mystery–winning hearts of genre fans like me.  The murder victim is a maid in a household with some sexual/romantic drama going on, and the young man holding the bloody knife doesn’t appear to be the killer.

Some of the drama is standard soap opera fare:  romances between domestic workers and their bosses.  But I didn’t expect the sharp portrayals of racism where white women flaunt entitled expectations that Latinas will care for the white children and neglect their own.  Also, the sexual harassment and exploitation appears in many different forms.  I’m particularly compelled by the class dynamics, including some women who are working as domestics because they have particular agendas in building relationships with their employers.  Again, it’s not an indie film, but it’s funny, engaging, and filled with “oh-no-she-didn’t” moments that I’ve enjoyed.

I first watched the pilot dubbed in Spanish, because it was pre-released on the web before the English version’s premiere.  And then I watched the English version to catch all the vocabulary I missed.

The Latina domestics represent a range of characters, as do the white men and women they work for.  I’m eager for the next episode and curious to see how the writers will maintain tension as the initial murder mystery is solved and some of the hidden agendas are revealed.  So far, it’s been a pleasure, and an only slightly guilty one.



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