Cultivation theory and stereotypes of Latinidad in “Desperate Housewives”

Rosanna Reyes, University of Texas at El Paso


In contemporary society, individuals may be influenced by television, and the viewing audience may often picture the real world like the one portrayed on television. There is concern for the effects television images may have on society. One important effect of television is the cultivation effect. Cultivation theory refers to the long-term, repeated exposure to television that may shape people’s perception of the world. This study examines the rhetorical construction of Latina/os in the television series Desperate Housewives created by Marc Cherry for ABC Studios. The research investigates portrayals of stereotypes in the drama series, and consequently, it should help create an understanding of how these portrayals affect viewers’ social reality. Generative criticism is used to describe the commonalties the images share with extant research on stereotypes, which include: harlot, the hot Latina, cantina girl, vamp, and Latin lover and the concept of machismo. I also analyze representations of Latinidad which include signifiers such as: bright colors, food, spicy food, celebrations, rhythmic music, religion, religious symbols, and language. The study focuses on the analysis of seasons one through three of Desperate Housewives, specifically looking at the actions, attitudes, and dialogue of the dominant Latina/o characters Gabrielle, a housewife character within the show, and Carlos Solis.

Subject Area

Mass communications|Hispanic American studies

Recommended Citation

Reyes, Rosanna, "Cultivation theory and stereotypes of Latinidad in “Desperate Housewives”" (2008). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI1458449.