I have been itching to blog about this really cool academic article since I stumbled on it sometime ago. It is about Ugly Betty , yes Ugly Betty – the girl with the funny glasses, huge braces and a weird sense of what fashion is though she works with a fash-mag.
The article is written by Madeleine Shufeldt Esch (did you bite your tongue? Sorry ).
It is titled Re-articulating Ugliness, Re-Purposing Content: Ugly Betty Finds the Beauty in Ugly. As popular visitors to this blog may have realized, it is my job and joy to crack the jargons and make you smile.
Maddy started out thinking that Ugly Betty may actually be re-defining what it means to be beautiful in the woman’s world. Betty’s ugliness in the drama series seemed to actually seep out of our T.V. screens onto the internet and into our minds, challenging what was once the standard definition of ’beauty’.’.
I was at the Salon with a friend a few days ago, and we were talking about how a particular country (let’s call it X) picks on fashion trends overseas and even takes it 3 steps farther ahead than the originator. Then she told me the funniest thing I have heard in a long time. She said in country X, the trend now is to be a plus-sized woman because it shows you how much of a ‘cash-madam’ you are. My first thought was, what happens to those who have starved to become size Zero, LOL.
Oh well, at least Anorexia may have just found a cure in ‘cash-madam-tablets’ . I am only glad being plus-sized is no longer a ‘taboo’- let’s go back to the UGLY gist.
So Madeline’s point at the start of her research work was that the fact that UGLY is being sold in advert campaigns, e.g. Be Ugly 07 , shows that the idea of Ugly Betty is being expanded beyond mere drama. Fictional characters are finding a way to impact reality. It has allowed media producers, and even brand manufacturers create multiple ideas of what beauty is.
Her question was (in my own words) : Does this rearticulation of ugly pose a challenge to our tradtional understanding of what beauty is. Or perhaps, it is a phase that will go away?
In her study, she investigated Ugly Betty as literary concept, a marketing strategy and an alternative to our long-held definition of beauty.
Research once showed that constant exposure to unrealistic images leads to low self-esteem and increased body dis-satisfaction among girls. But any 21st century chic would beat Betty hands down, especially without the braces, I think.
Oh, and Madeline went into loads of complicated and deep sturves about racial stereotypes, how Sex and the City popularized Manolo Blahnik stilettos, how websites reach a wider audience and give media producers more control, the list goes on etc.
However, she concluded that in Betty’s ugliness, fans are encouraged to just like Betty, focus on their inner beauty. Thus, the “celebration of Betty’s self-esteem rather than alternative image limits the potential challenge to traditional standards of beauty and fashion. Then, when the viewers are invited to be ugly, we need to question what that means.”
Do you think the present standard of what BEAUTY is, is going to rise or drop in the near future?