Welcome to Queer Fudanshi! Let’s Talk. Today’s Monday and that means it’s time for a random post topic. Today, I’ve decided to talk about Ugly Betty!
New to Queer Fudanshi’s Monday Posts? Every Monday I choose a random topic to discuss with the QF community. These posts could be personal anectdotes under the title Story Time. It could be a random topic such as How Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and Scorbus failed the LGBT Community or Why #GiveCaptainAmericaABoyfriend is Plausible, but Not Possible. Or it could be an Echo Blast/Character Study in which I give you guys some info on why certain LGBT media and their characters are great (and sometimes not so great).
For this post specifically, I will be talking about the American show Ugly Betty. I’ve actually done a few reviews for Ugly Betty. If you’d like to check that out, click on this link to the first episode. I stopped reviewing the show simply because next to no one was reading the posts. That said, the show is so good and so Queer friendly, that I had to give it an Echo Blast.
So Let’s Get Talking
*Note: The Youtube video will cover the Spoiler Free Echo Blast just expressing why I think the show is good. This blog post with the character study will explain with Spoilers the same topic, but with more detail.
Where to Watch/Buy:
**Note: Ugly Betty is currently available to watch on Hulu for free. That said, Hulu has just announced that it will soon go to a pay-for-subscription site for all of it’s shows like Netflix. This means you will soon not be able to watch the show for free, so if you don’t want to pay go watch it now.
The Show Overall
Ugly Betty is such a great show. It ran from 2006 to 2009 with 4 seasons. The show was a remake of a Telenovela from Mexico and it was about Betty Suarez, who wanted to one day run her own magazine. In addition, Betty wanted to write editorials worthy of magazines like The New Yorker.
At the start of the show Betty gets an entry level job with Mode magazine as an assistant to the editor-in-chief. It turns out that the only reason that fashion backward Betty got the job was so her boss wouldn’t want to sleep with his assistant. Betty then spends four years making her way up in the company, making her coworkers and employers love her, and finding her place in life.
The thing about this show is that it was not only funny, but full of so much heart. The show ended up losing it’s way in it’s third season, which is why it got canceled, but it found it’s way back in the fourth season. I guess the writers and showrunner realized that what made the show popular in the first place wasn’t just that it was out there crazy, but also that it was a show about family and a hard look at “beauty.”
The lead character Betty Suarez, played by America Ferrara, was kind, thoughtful, intelligent, hardworking, and responsible. She may have been bad with her clothing choices, something they eventually narked in the last season, but she really was the type of character you wanted to watch and you wanted to root for. Then of course, she was surounded by interesting and funny characters.
Marc St. James
Marc St. James. Oh, Marc St. James. This guy grew up a lot in the show. He started off as basically being nothing other than a foil for Betty. He was Wilhelmina’s assistant and she was Daniel’s assistant. In fact, for the first half to basically the full first season, Marc’s primary roll was just to be Wilhelmina Slater’s lackey. For example, think of the Disney movie Hercules. There was the main villain Hades, and then there was Hades’s two henchmen demons, whose names I’ve now forgotten (I think they were like Pain and Sorrow or something). In the same respect, there was the main antagonist Wilhelmina, and then there was her assistant Marc.
Eventually that changed however as the show went on. Marc became his own person. Marc became not only friends with the secretary Amanda, but even with Betty as time went by. Of course, as with the “mean girl turned best girl” cliché, he didn’t openly express his love for Betty that often.
In addition to that, Marc gained his own separate personality and purpose other than being Wilhelmina’s henchman. In fact, his goal was to become the next Wilhelmina (or at least as close as he could get). Marc, and Betty, eventually got promoted and became Creative Associates for the magazine. In addition, he had his own personal struggles with love and self-worth. By the end of the show Marc was like a new person and not just the typical slightly effeminate, slightly bitchy white gay man we’ve all seen too much on our tv screens. He was Marc St. James.
Alexis Meade started off with a bang, that slowly dimmed into a near extinguished light, that then fully disappeared into nothingness.
Alexis Meade, played by Rebecca Romijn, started off sensationally. It was revealed that Daniel Meade, Betty’s boss, had lost a brother in a freak accident. Later in the first season, it was also revealed that Alex faked that accident to hide the fact that he was transitioning into a woman. That’s right, Ugly Betty, a show that premiered in 2006 and was aired on the Network channel ABC, had a trans character at the forefront of the story.
Alexis’s character was compelling and interesting and originally wrapped up in mystery before jumping out in one of tv history’s most stunning coming out events. Then, after the wind settled, Alexis became a regular on the show. Sadly though, the show’s writers started to change the direction for the character such as making her homicidal and having a secret baby from when she was a man show up. This eventually led to the actress’s departure and the writing off of the character.
And then, the piecè de résistance (at least to me), Justin Suarez. Justin Suarez made me feel prouder to be gay. Even better, he gave me hope.
I grew up with Justin Suarez and it was great to see a young gay man of color reflected on tv as he discovered his sexuality at the same time as me. Justin Suarez was Betty’s nephew and from the start was so effeminate that it was assumed he’d be gay (something the writing played with often). He was the skinny little effeminate boy that got bullied at school for not being macho enough. He loved fashion and he idolized his Aunt Betty’s workplace.
What’s great about Justin is not just his character but also how the writers and other characters handled him. Marc’s relationship with Justin for instance was heartwarming and sweet. Marc recognized a similarity between him and Betty’s nephew and even though he and Betty weren’t on the best of terms, he still mentored Justin whenever he could. In fact, when the time came to it for the show to address Justin’s sexuality and Justin said he wasn’t ready to come out, it was Marc who said “if he says he’s straight he’s straight.”
ONCE AGAIN, if you haven’t not seen the show PLEASE GO WATCH IT!!! I say this because I do not want to spoil this next topic for those who have not seen the show yet. This episode meant so much to me growing up, and I want as many people as possible to experience that without my spoiling it in advance.
The thing that really got me for Justin however was one particular episode in season four. Season 4 was the season when Justin finally tackled his sexuality and eventually came out, with a boyfriend. In the episode, Justin discovers that this bromance rivalry with his friend Austin over a girl was really to cover up a reciprocal attraction for each other. This is the direction I wish Jack Thorne and Scorbus had gone.
Just watching that kissing scene was so important to me. I remember watching it and thinking, “I will have that.” That scene was so magical, and beautiful. It was so new and exciting that it was emotional for me. I thank the writers, directors, and cast for handling that scene so well. It still means so much to me to this day. THAT is why I am writing this character study and echo blast. THAT SCENE ALONE is worth all my hype for Ugly Betty.
You can watch the scene here.
It still makes me smile. All of it. From the slightly cheesy acting, to the colorful set, to the music. This scene still gets me.
Ugly Betty is great. It’s heartwarming, funny, sad, crazy (in both good and bad ways), and full of love. The three main LGBT characters were fun to watch and acted as great representation. They were not just queer characters, but they were their own characters who were also queer.
In addition, once particular scene in this entire show raised me up in a way that few other media have ever been able to. I love Ugly Betty and I wanted to share that with you all.
So what do you think? Have you seen Ugly Betty before? If you haven’t, are you willing to watch it now? Let me know all of your thoughts down below.