April 14, 2010

For the love of Betty

I love Betty mostly because of America Ferrera and Salma Hayek’s profound role in creating a leading character and a show that has challenged our cultural images and stereotypes of “the other.”

“The other” is a term that was used by Simone de Beauvoir in her ground-breaking book The Second Sex published in 1949 and instrumental in influencing many second wave feminists. But de Beauvior is certainly not the only person who has used this term and “the other” does not only reflect women’s experiences. Arturo Madrid, prize-winning scholar of Latino literature, uses the term to describe all people located on the margins, on the periphery, of social and political life. Immigrants, women, gay/lesbian/transgendered people, the disabled, people of color, and people of lower socioeconomic classes. And one of my personal heroes and influences, the incredible Audre Lorde introduced the concept of “the mythical norm,” the normative standard of the white, thin, wealthy, young, thin, Christian, male that so many of fall outside of.

Ugly Betty‘s examination of the intersection of race, class and gender and the incredibly limiting dominant beauty norms have been a staple feature since the show’s Latin America roots. Scholar and writer Yeidy M. Rivero lauded the show’s adaption for U.S. television in early 2007 but ends the article wondering if her expectations of a network television show are too high. Will the creators continue to examine these issues as the show progresses? Essentially, will Betty sell out?