Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Core Post 2: TV & Race

Do we see race in Devious Maids?

     All three articles we read for this week touch on television and race under cultural politics. Each presents on a particular period in US history and how that political environment relates to race on screen. Jennifer Esposito’s piece set in the most current era, the Obama administration. She uses one episode from “Ugly Betty” to illustrate that race is still a relevant issue in today’s society, and we have not yet reached the “post-racial” status. Christine Acham’s piece closely examines how The Cosby Show from the 80s creates a utopia, post-racial environment, and how that representation contradicts the reality. The LA riot emerged on almost the same day with the last episode of The Cosby Show. Bill Cosby tried to make the show universal and deliberately excluded the reality in the black community, but he ignored the reversed world outside. Acham’s piece leave the question of what function should the television play if television is powerful enough to structure audience’s perceptions. Should it create a pure illusion or should it be responsible for the current event and directly response to that? What if The Cosby Show is on aired today, would it receive different criticism? While Acham’s piece oriented on the creation process of The Cosby Show, Herman Gray’s article took a different path and illustrated how the blackness on television was a result of the network industry in the 80s. The television crisis in the 80s made the network realized that it is profitable to make cheap domestic comedy to attract minority. Gary explained that besides the textual analysis, the proliferation and cultural significant of the show should also rely on the cultural, social, and economic circumstances (P62). With the narrowcasting, niche marketing, and programming, the network markets the black audiences specifically and separately. Thus, the blackness on television is one strategy of the industry.  Gray’s piece made me think of the episodes from Devious Maids I watched over the weekend, and how I realized that race could be used as a selling point by the industry.

     To me, Devious Maids is like another version of Desperate Housewife, except that ABC network changed the main casting crew from beautiful white females to beautiful Latina females. In Devious Maids, race is not directly associated with occupation. The Latina maids in the show are not just maids. Rosie fell in love with her boss, a white male; Marisol is a professor; Carmen, the former maid, is paid to pretend as her boss’s girlfriend; and Zoila, the older maid who has developed a close bond with her boss for years. Besides, Opal and Flora are two white females who are also maids. Therefore, “Devious Maid” portrays a perfect post-racial world where a white female could be a maid, and a Latina woman can be a boss, and race is not an issue. However, the problems that minority people meet in the real world, poverty or immigration problem, all serve as plot twists in the show. The show is about scandal, mystery, gossip, good and evil, and it is never about race. Race maybe attracts audiences of color initially, but the plot is the reason that they eventually finish the show. It is simply another version of another mystery, family, soap opera. Therefore, I wonder if we need to discuss race in Devious Maids at all because it is a manufactured selling point.

     Reading Gray’s article made me realized that race in this show could be a decision generated by network industry. Featuring a minority casting crew does not suggest that the network cares for the minority, or the public is liberal enough. As Gary states in the very beginning of his article, that the proliferation of certain program could be the result of the structural transformation of the television industry, including political economy, industrial organization, and technologies (P57). This show could be another example of a low-risk, high-profit task. So I am curious about the decision ABC made for producing this show and how their marketing data As I believe in this theory in the cast of Devious Maids his made me curious about the current market research for Latin audiences, and the decision ABC made for producing this show.

     Finally, I would like to share a short conversation from Devious Maids Season two, Episode One when a wealthy upper-class white couple tells their vacation in Rio to their guest.  Not entirely related to the topic, though.

Guest: So you didn’t care for Rio?
Wife: No. The Poverty was unimaginable.
Husband: Streets filled with beggars, children running around in tatters.
Wife: Every time we looked out our hotel window, we were confronted with the reality of human suffering.
Husband: Finally, we called the concierge and got a room facing the pool.
Wife: SO much nicer.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with your point that Devious Maids is similar to Desperate Housewives as both shows have the same creator and producer. However I can't agree that race isn't directly associated with the occupation and the show portrays a post-racial world. The show's plot may not be centered around race specifically but the implication from the race and occupation of the main characters is perpetuating a continuous stereotype of Latinas/os as maids and gardeners. It's great that it's an all Latina cast, but why couldn't it have been an all Latina/o cast of doctors, lawyers, or another profession that doesn't add to the Latino racial stereotype? In reference to the show being post-racial, I think the show is far from being post-racial. I saw the first episode when it first aired and nothing about it said post-racial to me. The comments and remarks made by the wealthy whites they work for are belittling and offensive to the people working for them.

    I think this article from CNN about the show when it first aired is a good read. Eva Longoria, as a producer of the show and Latina, defends the show while others see problems with it. It's great that it's a show with Latinas and you see them on screen, but it would've been better to see them in a non-stereotypical role.