Friday, April 16, 2010

'Ugly Betty' finale (by Suzie)

(Spoiler coming right this second.) Woohoo, Betty chose the job over the man!

The TV show that ended Wednesday after four years was based on the popular Colombian telenovela “Yo soy Betty, la fea.” Both starred beautiful women who are made to look less attractive. Both find work in the fashion industry even though that isn’t their interest, and it hardly makes use of their talents. Eventually, they rise in their companies and become more attractive. Both grow fond of their rich, playboy bosses.

At the end of “Betty, la fea,” she marries her manipulative boss. That angered many fans who had seen the show as a departure from soap operas in which a beautiful but poor woman gets her rich man in the end.

As a producer, Salma Hayek helped get a U.S. version on ABC, with America Ferrera starring. Both are feminists. “Ugly Betty” was the first network TV show to focus on a Latina. In addition to skewering the fashion and beauty industries, the show examined gender, class, ethnicity and sexuality.

Betty could have stayed in fashion and done well. Instead, she upends her life to run a new magazine, described as a young person’s New Yorker, in London. She leaves even though she's close to her boss, Daniel, who begs her to stay. After time goes by, he quits the family magazine to see if he can make it on his own. He comes to London, and Betty offers him a job as her assistant. He says he’ll send her a resume and asks her out to dinner. Fans are left wondering if he really will work for her, and if the two will become a couple. There’s talk of a movie.

Silvio Horta, the producer who ran the show, said of the finale:
I wanted it to be about Betty's journey, about Betty making it in her professional life, first and foremost, overcoming the obstacles in her past and really succeeding. … I think with any TV show, the romantic angle is always what people really care about, but that was never the intent of this show.
“Ugly Betty” and other shows have been criticized for casting attractive women to play women not considered pretty. (For related issues, read what Melissa Silverstein and Rebecca Traister say about Tina Fey.) Melanie at Feminist Fatale sums up my feelings:
Betty has lost some weight, her eye brows have been tweezed and shaped, her hair has been de-frizzed and the signature braces have come off. … Betty still does not remotely resemble the ultra-thin women crossing our screens most of the time. … Betty is not a fundamentally different woman after four years at a fashion magazine. That’s a major feat. It’s difficult to stay true to your core values, beliefs and goals when the world around you is poking fun at you and pressuring you to conform.