• Day 49: Why “Ugly Betty” Was So Beautiful

    Date: 2010.04.17 | Category: Celebrities | Tags:

    Regrets?  I have at least one.  My life will always be somewhat wanting because I was not a cast member of “Ugly Betty,” which ended its 4-year run last week. Not only did it look like the most fun job on the planet, the actors were some of the best on TV and the writing was unparalleled.

    You can have “The Wire.”  I’ll take Suarez & Co. –  the show smart enough to make the sidekick the star.

    True, they hardly ever showed a snippet of a sex scene between Betty and some of her improbably hot boyfriends – and it was a little difficult to imagine nerdy Betty, awkward, cheery, mouth full of braces, in bed.

    But she must have been good, right?  I mean, Betty’s suitors just got better every season.

    Never judge a book by its cover, a point brought home by TMZ.com’s resident blond surfer boy, Max Hodges, yesterday on TMZ’s live stream. Hodges, the Jeff Spicoli of TMZ, was talking about Sandra Bullock.  He said what everyone secretly thinks about “America’s Sweetheart,”  who willingly spent five years sleeping with a tattooed, philandering, neo-Nazi pit bull aficionado, but nobody dares say.

    “She’s gotta be a superfreak,” said Hodges. “I’ve known a lot of straight girls like that. You can’t believe what they’re really like when you get them home.”

    But Betty was no Bullock.  Yes she came from Queens, her father was an illegal alien and she showed up for work at Mode magazine on her first day with bangs, beetle brows and a red Guadalajara poncho.  Yes, the whole Vogue-like staff mocked her mercilessly – but it never really got to her.

    Unlike Bullock, Betty had bulletproof self-esteem.  She never hid anything. When she was hurt or humiliated, she felt it and showed it. Then picked herself up and focused her attention back on the prize.  She didn’t have any game going to hide her shame so lucky her, she got past it.  No need for a Jesse James to take on her dark side for her.  She worked it out herself.

    So the four-year “Poncho to Honcho” storyline (for you non-Betty fans, she went from Mode Magazine underling to London editor by the last episode) never seemed far-fetched.  I’ve known some Bettys.  Dolly Parton is one.  They don’t let anything get in their way – without being evil and while being true to themselves.

    I think I saw every episode of “Ugly Betty” but the scene that stood out was this season when Betty’s teenage nephew, Justin, who wasn’t even out yet to himself, never mind his family, suddenly kissed a boy.

    When I watched the scene I thought of two gay male friends of mine in their 50s, both of whom told me how they felt suicidal at times during their adolescence and what a difference it must be to be a gay teenager now and see a scene like that.

    Betty, and the fantastic actress who played her, America Ferrera, are at least 20 pounds heavier than most female leads on TV.  Weight was never an issue for Betty. The only character with a food problem was skinny Amanda and her “stress-eating.”

    As a result, watching “Ugly Betty” felt nourishing.  I noticed the contrast when, a few months ago, I inexplicably started watching the seven-year-old TV series, “Two and a Half Men” for the first time.

    Of course it’s a totally different show aimed at a different audience.  But I was struck by how by how flat, brittle and hollow the actresses come off on the show – especially Jennifer Taylor, who plays Charlie Sheen’s girlfriend Chelsea.  She’s pictured below in a scene with Sheen and another, similar actress.

    Taylor and Marian Hinkle, below, who plays Jon Cryer’s ex-wife on the show, are the kind of women you only see in Southern California – and especially on a certain kind of TV show or movie.

    I live in France where the women are slim, but it looks natural.  If you live in Europe and return to LA after a long time away, as I did last fall, it’s a shock to see these hard, tranny-like looking women with their Botoxed faces and fat-free bodies.

    The contrast between their thin, muscled arms and big tits is so weird and amazing.  Nobody looks like this in France.  Taylor and Hinkle radiate coldness when you watch them.  Their bodies are perfect – or considered perfect in Hollywood, I guess – but it seems as if the strain of making them that way has starved them of all warmth and humor. It’s hard to imagine them having fun. No nourishment here.

    In contrast, during the final episode of “Ugly Betty” last week, there was a scene in which Betty was wearing a sleeveless dress.  Her upper arm was fleshy without much definition.

    Somehow, it looked good!

    Bye Betty, good luck America!