During Devious Maid’s screening last week, I tried to keep my gagging to a minimum as I watched the representation of the Latina as a stereotype. Unfortunately, the irony being that Eva Longoria, a Latina herself, produced/allowed for this representation to be aired. Created during the false idea of a post-racial America, Devious Maids tries to reduce the portrayal of the stereotype by calling attention to it, showing it in a comedic fashion. Perhaps Eva believed that the stereotype of a Latina can be ameliorated in the ‘post-racial America’ where comedy would shadow the negative representation.
However, “By pretending it is not part of the national discourse, we do people of color more disservice” (Esposito 522). The notion of the “color-blind society” and a “post-racial America” has been vehemently destroyed or finally revealed for its truth post-Trump election. Perhaps Esposito would now say, “I told you so”.
Interestingly enough, the screening paired with the readings created a comparison between Bill Cosby and Eva Longoria in my mind. How did these two media figures traverse the media landscape representing their race? Christine Acham provides answers for Cosby’s persona stating he is a “well-known assimilationist comic” denoting a distancing of Cosby with the black community and aligning himself with mainstream White America. This was strategic with Cosby’s narratives in that they ran as ‘color-blind’ and the “narrative qualities and ideas of universality were evident from the beginning” (Acham 106). Acham exemplifies this in her analysis of an episode where Dr. Cliff Huxtable speaks to his son on the importance of ‘pulling oneself by the bootstraps’ and working hard towards achieving one’s goals. Presenting this ideology is dangerous in that The Cosby Show negates race as a factor in the lack of achieving the ‘American Dream’. It also enforces that “...one’s class status is solely a matter of individual choice rather than the result of a systemic problem” (Acham 109).
By allowing this representation while ignoring racial issues, The Bill Cosby Show set up a narrative into mainstream White America who can then, unfortunately, point to as evidence of their agenda. Acham points to Gary Bauer’s statement proclaiming that the Bill Cosby show (a fictional narrative) is more important than real federal programs that would produce physical changes in the lives of black children. Another example is Trump’s rhetoric against Mexican bodies as “bad hombres”. We must hold accountable every representation of people of color; “…we must critique and examine representations of racialized bodies, especially those bodies already marginalized within the system of racial hierarchies” (Esposito 522). If not now, then when will we press Hollywood to realize the consequences of the narratives produced?