Ugly Betty. What does that mean to you? This was a question I considered when I embarked upon my journey of binge-watching all four seasons of this American comedy from start to finish. I can clearly say that Ugly Betty should be somewhat of a modern icon. It is gloriously symbolic of the constant battle of self-worth, intelligence and the elegantly-disguised pressures of the ever-changing world of fashion.
I firmly hold the belief that this programme is one of TV’s underrated masterpieces. Ugly Betty remains as insightful, progressive and inspiring as it was in its inception over 10 years ago. Every single character encompasses a new issue and each storyline tackles this with dignity and wit. From the strains of poverty and addiction – shown through the intertwined relationship between Betty and her bimbo high-society boss Daniel- to transgender and sexual identities, and the pressures of learning to be yourself in a place that you clearly don’t belong. Through this open transparency, we become drawn in to the characters and their lives… We feel like a part of them. From being envious of Betty’s close-knit family in Queens, the Meade’s opulent existence to Wilhelmina’s constant scheming and her passive aggressive yet affectionate relationship with her assistant Marc. I related to every one of these characters. They are all so beautifully complicated and that’s why I think we love them.
The importance of programmes such as this is their ability to challenge our traditional standpoints and, for me, Ugly Betty touches upon an uncomfortable nerve. When we look beyond the braces, glasses and Betty’s slap-stick escapades, one thing becomes clear. We as an audience have imposed an invisible barrier upon Betty Suarez. We have decided that any move to be bold, be different or even to try and fit in at Mode Magazine is futile, simply because of one thing. Her looks. Never has the saying ‘Never judge a book by its cover’ been more relevant to me than in this moment. Nevertheless, it doesn’t seek to devalue the beauty and the artistry of the fashion world, it preaches that acceptance works both ways. As Betty grows and changes, so does everyone around her. It is living breathing proof of the success that hard work and motivation (and a bit of Betty’s relentless optimism) can bring.
This show is something that is rare to find nowadays. I feel like I have made a family in Ugly Betty and I am truly sad that I can never re-discover it again. If I were to take anything away from this, I would say that Ugly Betty has taught me that there is no better thing than being yourself. Whatever it is you want to be, no matter how many people may judge you. Self-acceptance and the love of those around you, who truly love you, are the most important things – everything else is but a drop in the ocean, a lost moment in time. What’s not great about that?
Words by Joe Lewin