Latinas on Television: Holding a Broom or a Baby
I don't care how attractively devious or sassy the maids on Devious Maids are portrayed to be, I don't like it. And I don't support it. The stereotype of the Latina domestic is an old tale retold way too many times and almost always by a white person. The novela-esque show, Devious Maids, perpetuates the stereotype of the Latina domestic, created by a white man, Marc Cherry, but of course with the support of Eva Longoria because if one Latina supports the premise of the show (and gets paid for it) then clearly the entire community is OK with it, or rather blinded to the blatantly racist premise of the show. The show doesn't empower Latinas at all portraying us as little more than domestics at the mercy of "oh-so-kind" rich white people, domestics who are lucky if they catch the eye of an attractive, wealthy (and more often than not white) man. If Latinas were over-represented in the way that white men are on television then this stereotypical representation of us would not present such a problem (though it's still troublesome), but we are not and so it is of extreme importance that the roles for which Latinas are casted are not based on overdone and insulting stereotypes.
I've grown accustomed to not seeing myself on television. I have yet to see a Latina on prime time television I can relate to. How about a formally educated Latina with a diverse group of friends, living, working, dating, and thriving in New York City? No. Those roles are not given to or made for Latinas. Instead we have roles like those on Devious Maids, shows in which you hold a broom and are "friends" with your rich, white employer. Seriously? Oh, I can also play a "hot" woman with accentuated curves and a "sexy" accent dating a much older white man like Gloria on Modern Family. How about Jane the Virgin? What about Jane the Virgin? Initially I was happy to see Gina Rodriguez, a Puerto Rican actress, on television. Being Puerto Rican myself I was excited, finally, I thought, someone I can relate to! Wrong. The show is styled like a soap opera with over-the-top humor and narration. The writing is actually funny which is quite deceiving. They even speak Spanish! And her grandmother is a spot on portrayal of an overly religious grandmother (something I know quite well). Jane, "the virgin", and protagonist of the show, is an educated Latina pursuing teaching but with a real passion for writing. I can totally relate to this in particular, being a teacher and having a passion for writing also. BUT of course she becomes pregnant. WHAT?! Yes she gets pregnant. In fact she's mistakenly inseminated (however ridiculous that sounds) and becomes pregnant without ever having sex. Wait. A. Minute. Finally a role for a Latina I can relate to and she's got to be pregnant? I was infuriated and refused to watch the rest of the show. Are we really restricted to holding a broom or a baby?
Being a Latina on television usually means you're holding a broom or holding a baby but making this commonplace is dangerous for a variety of reasons. It's dangerous to grow accustomed to this and complacent instead of demanding diverse roles for Latinas. The role of Harlee Santos in Shades of Blue played by Jennifer Lopez is a step up, however, she's still portrayed as a single mother, a reality for all shades of women in New York City but often a role given to women of color. I refuse to support shows that restrict Latinas and perpetuate stereotypes so many of us fight against everyday. I have hope that one day I'll be able to see myself on prime time, but it's almost 2017 and it hasn't happened YET. Too few of us are pissed off and I think it's about that time.