Is there anything you can’t learn from TV?

Entertainment, Writing

At the risk of sounding like I’m obsessed with this show, here is another post on Ugly Betty, starting with some random oil paintings created by Betty’s on-screen boyfriend while they were broken up, which appeared in a fourth-season episode (they were later auctioned off IRL to raise funds for Save the Children).

You can see the rest here. I think you have to remember that they were created by a heartbroken ex, otherwise they’re kind of offensive.


The series finale aired this past Wednesday, and I have to admit I got very emotional. I don’t even watch the show regularly, but when I do, I can’t help but relate to Betty’s character – from not being conventionally pretty to trying to make it as a writer. But the final few episodes really hit close to home with Betty trying to decide between risking it all to move to London for a job that she feels is right for her and staying put in New York and playing it safe.

At one point, she worried about leaving her father alone (since her sister was also planning to move away at the same time), and she asked if it was selfish of her to leave. She got quite a bit of grief from her father who tried to convince her to stay, and I could understand her guilt for leaving him alone. She also felt like she was being naive or foolhardy for leaving a reliable job at a magazine that was estalished, where she had spent 4 years working her way up, to pursue a more interesting position at a magazine in London that was just starting.

Ultimately, though, she got her happy ending (as so often happens in TV shows). She took the riskier option, and left everything to pursue her dreams. The montage at the end of the episode shows her adapting to London life, working hard, making friends and generally being pretty happy with her decision. I think there’s a pretty clear message there. Oh, and by the end, her father gives her his blessing to go. Awww… (That was partly sarcastic.)

Sometimes when I find myself pulling meaning, guidance or relatability from entertainment – like I am right now – I feel silly for a moment. And then I realize that stories exist for a reason. Besides entertaining us, they offer truth, often universal, and almost always simultaneously mirroring and influencing our lives. Yes, even silly TV shows that are often guilty of being oversimplified and somewhat unrealistic have something to offer, depending on what you’re looking for.

And then, when I think of my silly dreams to be a writer and I worry that not only is it unattainable, but that it often feels simply unimportant, I think about how much TV shows, books and movies have made my life better, and then it doesn’t feel so silly.

Ugly = Sad, and Pretty = Bad

Culture, Entertainment

As if there wasn’t already so much evidence in support of this sad, sad truth, here’s another.

In the recent episode of Ugly Betty where Betty finally gets her braces off, she ends up hitting her head and seeing what her life would have been like sans braces in an extended dream sequence.

Key points:

Bitchy Betty

Pretty/Bitchy Betty

1. Born with perfect teeth, Betty grows up to be a bitchy, materialistic… meanie because without that imperfection to keep her grounded and humble, she doesn’t know how to be a good person.

Ugly/Fat Hilda

Ugly/Fat Hilda

2. Betty’s older sister, Hilda, who is known as the “pretty sister,” is actually ugly (read: fat) in this alternate universe because there can only be one pretty sister and the other one is ugly (again, read: fat). And, of course, Hilda is pretty miserable and never had a kid in high school (because being fat is better than birth control).

Ugly/Sad Mark

Ugly/Sad Mark

3. Mark, who is generally very put-together and confident in the show, is a miserable push-over and lacking in self confidence in this alternate reality because the Evil Betty took his job and was mean to him. Of course, this miserable version of Mark is ugly (read: wears glasses and has somewhat greasy hair).

I know the show is an ongoing commentary (of sorts) on popular definitions of beauty, but their usual comments on the subject don’t tend to bother me. This episode, however, bothered me. Why did having perfect teeth make Betty a vain bitch?

Okay, I know, I know… I get the rationale that the inevitable difficulty that comes with having an imperfection (according to our society’s standards) can keep a person humble and builds character, blah, blah, blah… But I don’t agree with the idea that pretty people end up being vain or shallow. It’s possible to care about outer beauty without forgetting about inner beauty.