Friday, November 4, 2011

Ugly Betty and the Differentization of the Media


Ugly Betty and the Differentization of the Media

So, I don’t really like watching TV. I like TV shows, because they allow  for real story and character development. But I can’t really stand being anchored to the tube at the same time every week. I live a crazy life, not exactly conducive to that plan…plus a lot of times I just forget. My solution? DVDs of shows that I stumble upon, mostly through the recommendations from friends. I can watch them in my odd free hours, and semi-ignore them while I write. White Collar, Pushing Daisies, and Psych are some of the great recommendations I’ve taken up.

So, one of my closest friends (A life diver currently working in Africa and sculpting her Rising BFD status) has had a perpetual bug in my ear to watch the TV show, Ugly Betty. I was a little excited, because I loved the movie (and book), The Devil Wears Prada, which has many similar concepts. And it seemed like a bit of an interesting spin on the coming of age story. I had my doubts, however, because she also introduced me to Smallville, which is the only show that I’ve stopped watching mid-season.   I am muddling my way through the series right now (Season 4, disc 2). And, well, it’s a little bit crazy. There enough things about the show to enjoy, and even be challenged by, that I made it into the final season. But on the other hand, there enough things that are so ridiculous that once per episode, it seems, I’m pausing the disk to let the awkward tension pass (I get involved in stories).

Ugly Betty Rocks Because:
1. America Ferrera. Seriously, this woman is amazing. She’s absolutely engaging, animated, stunning, and despite being made-up, touched up, and retouched, she looks a little like a real person.
  And Betty's character is loud, and mismatched, a little dense, and clashy, but we love the living daylights out of her.
2. A protagonist who is, ostensibly, morally sound. And, moreover, serves as an ethical guidepost for the people in her life, as much as possible.
3. The costumes are absolutely fabulous. I mean, it’s really nice to see men and women dressed to the nines. I haven’t been this excited for media wardrobes since the Ocean’s 11, 12, and 13.
4. Interesting relationships and the dynamics thereof. Emotionally stunted boss and more than able, assistant/friend.  Neurotic parents and resentful children. And how can we leave out, romantic partners and the cadre of issues following them (jealousy, resentment, infatuation and unrequited love).
5. There’s also the huge issues of capable underdog, conquer your fears, be your awesome genuine self.  Papi gets on a cooking show. Hilda starts a boutique. Justin is crowned homecoming queen. Daniel finds love and a soul.

Ugly Betty Totally Sucks Because:
1.  Whenever Betty is in a crisis which requires judgment in her personal life, she turns to her egocentric short sighted, if not well meaning sister. With recommendations ranging from, revenge, to theft, to violence, Hilda’s advice consistently leaves Betty in a much worse situation than the one in which she began.
2. Excessive use of cliffhangers is not a device, it’s nauseating.  There’s no need to drop a major bomb in EVERY episode. In poetry we’re taught that you shouldn’t accent every syllable. If you do, the impact of the accent is lost. No one told that to the writers and producers of the show that.
3. Maybe it’s my unquenchable optimism, but there seem to be a preponderance of people who are totally obtuse, and not in the, “ignorance is bliss,” type of way, that’s more Betty’s deal. Amanda and Marc accept the goodness of Betty without noticing it at all. Wilhelmina Slater absorbs the help and goodwill of others like a black hole of decency. There’s enough narcissism in this show to leave me with a sucking sensation right around my humanity.
4. This series is four seasons of “The Murphy’s Law Show.” It’s one train wreck after another. My boyfriend starts to mature/ man up and dies/discovers his son. My boss’s admiration of me perpetually alienates me from my co-workers. The thieving friend gets in league with your sworn enemy, right before you lose your wife. I step up to parenting my lost son, right in time to discover…You get the idea.
 Like life, there’s very little in the line of real resolution, but these people never get so much as a breather, it’s exhausting to watch.

O.K. So Ugly Betty tries to leave us with a good message but at the same time, drags us through a surrealist nightmare to get there. If you’re a Soap watcher, or an addict to straight shots of drama, you should get Ugly Betty, tonight.
If it doesn’t exactly fit, maybe go with, The Devil Wears Prada, and Finding Forester, and maybe You’ve Got Mail, to get the range of personal ethical questions, emotional upheaval, and fantastic clothes.
You will have to go elsewhere to get your America Fererra dose (I’d say go with, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, or maybe, Real Women Have Curves).

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