Welcome to a blog dedicated to enthusiasts of the colorful and exciting world of Betty La Fea. Philippine's "I Love Betty La Fea" soap opera is based on the Columbian telenovela ,Yo soy Betty, la fea, that has spawned over 20 editions worldwide. This website has been established to offer a portal connection for fans of any Betty La Fea adaptations around the globe. The Betty La Fea saga is not just a franchise but a universal organization for everybody to share their country's culture and sensibilities.

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Friday, July 4, 2008

The ugly truth about "Betty La Fea"

A telenovela heroine for our times betrays her feminist fans.
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By Sandra Hernandez
Source: Salon.com

More than 80 million people in the United States and Latin America tuned in to "Betty La Fea," the telenovela in which an ugly woman navigates a world where beauty is generally all that matters.

(Image courtesy of UglyBettyNews.com)

High-profile Spanish-language columnists, politicians and pundits touted the show's feminist message, a rarity in the formulaic world of telenovelas. Respectable publications such as Colombia's leading daily, El Tiempo, dedicated entire columns to the soap's heroine, Betty, an unattractive but brilliant economist.

Betty message boards buzzed with e-mails from fans eager to discuss the previous night's episode. Even newspapers in the United States, which generally ignore Spanish-language television, reported on the "Betty" phenomenon as it captured record television ratings in the countries, including the U.S., where it had its finale in May.

Why, then, did this groundbreaking cultural event end with angry words from critics and widespread hostility from fans? Simple. It reverted to type and dashed the hopes of those who had watched it with a giddy sense of a revolution.

When Betty began airing last August on the Telemundo network, I tuned in wondering just how big a risk a telenovela would take. The soap was already generating buzz in Latin America, where critics were raving about the show's social message: Beauty is only skin-deep.

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Like their English-language counterparts, Spanish-language filmmakers and advertisers had begun to learn that women are so eager to see realistic portrayals of themselves in the media that they are willing to throw their support behind any show that promises even the slightest hint of reality.

Telenovelas, however, have stubbornly maintained a traditional view of women's aspirations, one that equates female success with being beautiful and married. While there have been a few exceptions, most recently the Mexican telenovela "Mirada de Mujer," which told the story of a middle-aged woman who confronts life on her own after discovering her husband is having an affair, soaps have mostly remained faithful to a single plot involving a beautiful ingénue's search for love.

It was against this backdrop that Betty the Ugly One began.

It was clear from the beginning that the show's creators understood how to get attention. In a world where heroines tend to look like Salma Hayek and Jennifer Lopez, they created an antiheroine who lacked the kind of stunning looks and physical attributes that cause men to propose marriage after just one meeting. With her thick glasses, braces and unibrow, Betty wasn't much to look at, by Latin standards. Her poor sense of style, squeaky voice and intelligence only made her plight that much more desperate.

And just in case viewers weren't convinced of the burden of her ugliness, the show's creators put Betty to work in a fashion designer's "house" and made her love interest a man who was breast-fed on beauty. Betty's Romeo was the owner's son -- a guy who had grown up thinking the average woman wore a size 2.

The premise was stunning: a woman whose appeal is her intelligence, humanity and humor struggles to be seen, heard and, ultimately, adored.

The show drew even hardened skeptics like me who believe telenovelas are made for housewives, retirees and recent immigrants whose language constraints force them to watch bad television.

I had watched a few soaps while growing up. My mother watched them religiously and through her viewing habits I came to know the formulaic plotline that usually involved a poor but beautiful girl falling for a rich guy whose family wasn't about to put up with their love affair. I came to regard telenovelas as the cinematic equivalent of Harlequin romances. They offered a kind of fuzzy, airbrushed image of love and life that lacked any realistic wrinkles or messy details

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