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Though I’ve only seen two episodes, I am hooked on “Ugly Betty.” It’s cheesy, dramatic, funny — all the key elements of a soap opera. It’s television shows like this one where I can’t decide whether I should boycott it or question the urge I have to watch it all day.

Betty is lovable. I can’t get enough of her. I relate to her because she is unlike most characters I see on television. However, the show plays on a lot of racial, class, and gender stereotypes, which in turn affect women’s ugly-betty_3.jpgself-esteem and body image.

Some of my feedback from the pilot episode:

Betty is smart, funny, ambitious, and confident. Her confidence strikes me, because usually when we see “nerdy” women on television, they are too wrapped up in their all-consuming geekiness to place value on hygiene or anything related to maintaining “femininity.” They try to accept their inherent geekiness with pride. Betty seems to know she doesn’t fit in. She doesn’t seem concerned with defining her identity within the standards set by her co-workers. Her niche includes women who are also Mode Magazine outcasts. They seem woman-centric and supportive of one another, which apparently isn’t valued at Mode. Why are the so-called “popular women” (a.k.a. fashionable and superficial ones) usually portrayed as catty, jealous, and competitive in mainstream media?

Here are a few more questions the pilot episode raised for me:

  • Why do ambitious women often get portrayed as catty, competitive, mean, superficial witches or innocent, nice, unattractive (by mainstream standards), clumsy, wool-wearing simpletons?
  • What are some stereotypes Hilda, Betty’s sister, perpetuates about Latina women?

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And one more thing–Daniel was sexually harrassing his first assistant. Apparently if you are a beautiful and sexy (by mainstream standards) woman, you can’t expect to be taken as a serious professional. However, if you are geeky, and unattractive, you can expect to be respected…that is, after your boss feels bad for working you into the ground in an attempt to get you to quit!

If you’ve seen “Ugly Betty,” I’d love to know what you think. More to come…

–A.J.