Jul 24, 2020

"Ugly Betty": The Gay, Transgender, and Racial Diversity Has Not Aged Well

I've been re-watching Ugly Betty (2006-2010), the soap opera/comedy adaption of the Colombian telenovela Betty la fea, about a Latinx girl of unconventional attractiveness (America Ferrara} who gpes to work in the svelte, "new now next" world of fashion magazine Mode.  The two worlds, working-class Queens and the upper East Side upper-crust, compete, collide, and merge in humorous or heartbreaking ways (this is a soap opera,after all).

Alhtough only 10 years has passed since the series ended, our  world is completely different, and Ugly Betty has not aged well.

1. The executive producer, some of the writers, and halfof the cast was Latinx.  The show won Alma awards for Hispanic representation.  But some of the depictions of Hispanic persons are cringeworthy today.  They're not all crass, gauche, loud, and flashy.

2. I find it a little annoying that Betty is supposed to be la fea, but she has to beat off the suitors.  In the first season, she has an on-off romance with a Queens boyfriend and Mode accountant Henry (Christopher Gorham, below), and gets several other suitors.

2. Women, especially women of color other than Betty, are scheming, manipulative, devious, underhanded, and treacherous. Mode creative director Wilhelmina wants to become editor-in-chief, a job for which she is exceptionally well qualified.  But magazine mogul Bradford installs his ne-er-do-well son Daniel (Eric Mabius, top photo), who knows nothing about fashion (except how to bed supermodels) and doesn't even want the job, except as a chance to prove to his father that he's not a screw-up. Wilhelmina is the villain, a veritable Wicked Witch of the West.

Other scheming women of color during Season 1 included: Sofia (Salma Hayak), who tricked Daniel into falling in love with her so she could write it up as the lead article in her magazine; and Constance (Octavia Spencer), the case worker of Betty's father Ignacio, who develops a wacky Fatal Attraction obsession with him.

3. Gay men are even worse.  In the first season, there were only two, both  flamboyant, flitting, fabulous fashion plates (plus a straight guy who pretended to be fabulous to get all of the wonderful benefits that gay people get, har har): Betty's nephew Justin, who doesn't actually come out until Season 4, in spite of his mother constantly saying how suppportive she is;and Wilhemina's "flying monkey" assistant Mark. She demeans, belittles, berates, and gay-bashes him every chance she gets, making it obvious that she ccnsiders him less than human.  She even "sells" him to a competing rich bitch.

4. The representation of transgender people is still worse.  Daniel's older brother Alex disappeared for two years and was assumed dead; then he returns as Alexis. It takes awhile,but eventually the other characters get used to she/her pronouns. But everyone, even Alexis, believes that she changed gender rather than confirming the gender identity she had all along: "I used to be a boy, but now I'm a girl." 

And "they cut it off," which is not at all what happens in sex confirmation surgery.

And back when he was a boy, Alex dated and had sex with girls, because, you know, everybody with a penis likes girls.  Now that she has "changed into girl," she dates boys. That's not how it works.  Your sexual orientation doesn't change along with your genitals. But heteronormativity and all that.

Did I mention that Alexis is even a bigger villain than Wilhelmina?

I still like the show, but it's amazing how much the world has changed in just 10 years.

See also: The Heterosexual Gay Kid of Ugly Betty

Jul 23, 2020

The Toast of London: Is Everybody in the Theater World Homophobic?

British humor is distinctly British; 90% of the time, we residents of that country across the pond don't get it.  Do you really sit through all of Monte Python, or do you fast forward to the Dead Parrot sketch?  For every Absolutely Fabulous, there are a dozen Drop the Dead Donkeys.

The Toast of London is a Drop the Dead Donkey

Matt Berry, who you may recall as the effeminate, pandsexual vampire on What We Do in the Shadows, plays a theaterical actor named Toast, who is having problems.  I'm not sure about all of them , but the main ones are:

1. Purchase (Harry Peacock, top photo)a failed actor who now works as a police artist, caught Toast in bed with his wife.  His attempts at revenge fuel most of the plot.  According to wikipedia, he is homophobic, but this doesn't come out in the first episode.

2. Due to financial problems, Toast is forced to stay with fellow actor Ed Howzer-Black (Robert Bathurst), who lives with an elderly agoraphobe, who may or may not be his lover.  When he convinces her to leave the house for the first time in two years, she is accosted by a flasher. Purchase frames Toast.

3.  Trying to find another place to live, Toast visits his estranged brother Blair (Adrien Lukis), a war veteran with an amputated hand, a bit of a looney, a lot of a homophobe.  He wants Toast to give up acting for the army, since there aren't any "homosexuals" to bollock things up.  Later, Purchase attacks Toast in the bathroom, and Blair thinks that they are having sex, and freaks out.

4. Toast gets a voiceover job which requires him to say one word: "Yes."  But the crew make him say it over and over until he loses his temper.

5. Toast must audition for Cliff Promise (Geoffrey McGivern), who is in prison for Holocaust denial.  I didn't know you could actually go to prison for that.  So Toast goes to the prison and reads a scene about an extra marital affair.

Promise tells him that the character is gay, so Toast camps it up.  The other prisoners think that they are a gay couple, and attack.

So, two scenes where people think that Toast is gay, and react with contempt or violence.  And we didn't even get around to Purchase's homophobia.  And I'm supposed to find this funny?

My grade:D

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...