Bye Bye Betty

Watched the last episode of Ugly Betty last night. Teared up. It had at least another season in it, but I’m glad they wrapped it up properly, even if it was predictably rushed. I wasn’t a fan of the sudden “Daniel has romantic feelings for Betty” thing – it seems lazy to me when every great relationship on television has to get sexed up – but perhaps I could read it as, they just care very much for each other, and leave it at that. Because America Ferrara and Eric Mabius have zero chemistry.

However, Vanessa Williams and Grant Bowler have enough for several couples. Wilhemina got the best ending of all. Despite all her scheming, she truly deserves to be on top at MODE, and I’m glad she was given a chance to redeem herself. It made sense that Daniel finally recognized he needed to earn his own way, taking on board the lessons learned since Betty came into his life.  I also enjoyed Amanda finding her father – and the fact that he had actually tracked her down deliberately, so it wasn’t a lame coincidence that he happened to be her client – and Mark perhaps getting some romantic resolution, although it really should have been with Cliff! Couldn’t they get David Blue back in? Who is this Troy pretender?

Ugly Betty hasn’t been perfect – sometimes the scheming became too convoluted – and Betty herself could be incredibly irritating and judgemental (followed closely by Hilda and Ignacio – acorn doesn’t fall far from the family tree and all that) – but I could count on it for an hour of colorful, quirky escapism and a lot of heart. I would often be surprised at how sad the characters could make me – like when Matt’s heart broke to see Henry and Betty kissing or Wilhemina got stood up her wedding day. The fourth season has been especially good, which makes it even more of a shame it got cancelled – while shows like How I Met Your Mother (once my most favoritest) continue to pollute the airwaves with tired storytelling.

I particularly connected with the show because of my pursuit of journalism, although I would never choose to work on a fashion magazine (I guess she didn’t either!), and because people have said I quite resemble Ferrara and I thought one of her love interests looked like one of mine. Still, even within the fashion world, Betty’s desire to tell meaningful stories mirrored my own, andsince the show began I have also made strides towards where I want to be career-wise. There’s even more symmetry in how she ended up in London, my former home.

I also appreciated its brave exploration of gender and sexuality, which can be easy to take for granted in this current televison season, where just about every popular show has a well-developed gay or lesbian character. Justin got a great, groundbreaking arc. Mark will always be one of my favorite characters. The Alex/Alexis storyline was a mild silly – and they really misused Rebecca Romjin towards the end of her run – but that was brave too.

As for the looks issue central to the show… that was important too, but I don’t think they ever really made as a strong case for it as they could have. Mainly because they rushed Betty’s physical transformation, her look did gradually improve, but there was a sharp transition between her usual style and then all the characters’ noticing how pretty she actually was. Plus this whole makeover thing always gets me. I’m a total sucker for the sequences… but the idea behind them is very flawed. The people getting the makeovers are typically incredibly attractive to begin with – if they’re not (say on a reality show) they have to resort to dieting and plastic to get there. All this conformity!

Anyway, I’m griping… I guess what I mean is that I don’t think of Ugly Betty as a show that really shook things up when it came to the looks issue and that I will remember it more for its handling of gender and sexuality. And all the times it made me laugh and cry in the past four years. Ugly Betty, I’ll miss you.

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