I watched the first two seasons of Ugly Betty and I have to admit that I loved it. (when I got over the word ‘ugly’ of course.) I saw the title as satirical, a kind of tongue-in-cheek dig at Hollywood, a way of showing that it doesn’t take much to be ugly in that respect.
It was relieving to finally see a female character on TV which a) I could relate to and b) looked different.Her dress sense struck me as somewhat amazing and I thought the programme was doing something new; it was challenging gender roles and challenging the beauty ideal which is forced into our brains everyday.
I was actually surprised to when I saw Betty’s make-over. Maybe I was just too optimistic. When you compare Betty in season one to season four, the difference is clear; she becomes just another female ‘beautiful’ celebrity.
Now, I realise that her braces had to come off. I had braces (though it’s hard to tell that now) and though it felt like they were on forever, the reality was that it was 18 months tops. Betty’s braces however are not the problem. It is clear to see that Betty loses her quirky and daring dress sense and becomes as mundane as the other female characters on the programme.
What I find hardest to chew if how the programme seems to equate beauty with success. Just like every other programme.
Betty starts as a ‘nobody’ of sorts, and as she gets further afield in her line of work, she starts to conform more and more to standard models of beauty. So by the end of the series, she doesn’t stand out.
The moral of the show all along seemed to be that you don’t have to be beautiful to succeed, but surely the lead up to the end of season four just contradicts this. Her personality does factor in to her success, but you can’t ignore the impact of her new look.
Of course people change in appearance over a number of years, but this is clearly purposeful. Ugly Betty just reinforces the same old myth that looks mean everything when it comes to success.
And from whatever angle I look at it, Ugly Betty has seriously let us real women down big time.