The beautiful America Ferrera won the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series last night for her role as Betty Suarez in Ugly Betty.
While my husband believes the themes in Ugly Betty are too adult for our five-year-old daughter, and they are, I love Ugly Betty’s message about beauty.
I think it’s a provocative look at beauty and the value we place on women. The social climate at Mode Magazine begs the question are women valued for their brains and abilities or are they valued for how much they participate in the ideal of beauty?
With lots of glamor, fashion, paparazzi and soap opera gender themes it seems the only thing everyone on the show wants to be is the ideal of a beautiful woman.
Take Wilhelmina Slater, played by Vanessa Williams, she’s beautiful but what she really wants is to be taken seriously by the publisher. She wants to run a magazine. She wants to be valued for her abilities, she’s obviously the most capable of running a fashion magazine. But, as the “beautiful woman” she keeps getting the “assistant’s” job.
The cattiness and image obsession of the receptionist Amanda is like a caricature of what mean girls grow up to be. Beauty is so important she’ll do anything to get it.
Even the men are caught up in the obsession with fashion and beauty. The less-than-masculine boy, Justin, and the homosexual assistant place place an equally distorted importance on beauty and fashion. They become completely absorbed in the whole glamorous world, in which they can never be the ideal, as they are male. They accept worshiping it from the sidelines.
The two heirs, both male, chase the ideal of the beautiful woman with equal vigor – one, Alexis Meade, surgically becomes one, while the other, Daniel Meade focuses on sexually obtaining many. Much like their father, Bradford Meade, who has built a dynasty around photographing the beauty ideal and writing about the importance and significance of beauty to encourage that other women, his audience, to seek it.
It even brings in the cultural influences of beauty with Betty’s sister, Hilda, obviously beautiful by the standards of her Queens neighborhood going to beauty school.
Betty, completely oblivious to the vicious competition for becoming “the prettiest”, always seems the most truly beautiful person in the room. She broadens the scope and definition of beauty, being refreshingly a-typical of young Hollywood.
DVR Ugly Betty, Thursdays on ABC this fall. It will make you think of beauty, the ideal of the beautiful woman, and the importance of beauty in lots of new ways.