Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Betty La Fea (Betty the Ugly) Mas Bella Update VIII

One of the things I mentioned in my last update was the importance of the secondary plots and characters in establishing the tone and heart of "Betty La Fea" and its current remake, "La Fea Mas Bella." The present secondary plot running is a good example. One of the "feas," Berta in "Betty" and Marta in "La Fea," started the show as an always-eating heavyweight, but, after getting into a p-ssing match with the blonde bombshell secretary, decides to do something about it. Her cab-driving husband and daughter have scraped together a substantial savings to enable her to finally buy a car of her own to get her back and forth to work, but she decides instead to put the money into liposuction. It works. She returns to work with centripetal rather than centrifical curves and stuns the blonde, at least temporarily. But it's a definite "be careful what you wish for" scenario. Now she realizes that she's going to have to diet and work out to keep the new shape, her (literally) squeakily sleazy supervisor now has his lecherous eye on her, and, worst of all, her husband understandably wants to know where the new car is. Does he like her new shape? Well, yeah, but he liked her old one, too, and, besides that, where is the new car???

See what I mean? As a short story unto itself, it's not particularly profound, but it's done nicely and, inserted into the longer narrative, gives viewers a separate concern to keep their attention while the bigger story unfolds. And, even if not profound, it's still a good thing to be telling an audience (male as well as female, although, besides me, how many guys really watch these things? I've had my y-chromosomes tested and the results were inconclusive). She looks better but still has the same old needs and habits, and the people she wanted to impress besides herself maybe should have been left alone. As long as it wasn't unhealthy, then there might be better things to spend hard-earned cash on than drastic changes in our looks. It's common sense, but most common sense isn't all that common.

The reason the topic came up in the last post was my fear that, given the structure and available time of US tv, the ABC remake of "Betty," "Betty the Ugly," due September 22, will not be able to do as much or well with the secondary plots and characters like this. But there's another worrying point. Some of the things I've read have indicated that ABC might decide to go for more "drama" by emphasizing issues like weight and obsession with looks.

In other words, rather than just let the stories, like Berta's/Marta's, tell themselves and let the audience get the message through the narrative itself, ABC may decide to beat the hell out of us with the message. Berta's/Marta's story is poignant and ironic enough without added "drama" by Hollywood television writers. Remember, these are the same people who set up "boy meets girl cute, boy and girl get together, but because Hollywood types can't make relationships work and don't know how to write them, they can't ever keep them together in funny and/or interesting ways, so they have to break them up unless/until the finale because their own lives are so miserable and selfish" sitcoms and serials. I believe I can wait for their "messages" about female self-image.

Here's the deal. "Betty" and "La Fea" are about female self-image from start to finish. Yes, it's Ugly Duckling/Cinderella and "Betty La Fea" will be "Betty La Guapisima" by the end. The original caught hell for not letting her get the guy and stay the same unibrow heartstopper (and not in a good way). Please. You have a choice between beauty and ugly and you advocate ugly? Not my idea of a world worth living in. And the hero is in love with her before her transformation and has discovered her inner beauty before her transformation and all the necessary setup to prove his love is real. So people get the point about the importance of valuing the inner person through both Betty and Berta (Leti and Marta) because it's the theme of the whole show. One of its treats is watching how they take the "good" ugly people and show their warts and take the "bad" pretty ones and make them sympathetic (somewhat--and not really the Mario/Omar guy). They manage to do a funny show (which has more than enough drama without forcing it) and still to portray complexities. They don't do heavy-hand messaging (except for the bizarre product placement stuff, which will be a future post).

So that's why ABC's stated intent for the show bothers me. They can say what they want to say without "switching the focus" to specific themes, just by following the model they're working off of. If they go berserk on this, they will inadvertently get the message across in reverse. It's not hard for US tv to take something bonita and make it fea. That's not what I'm wanting "Betty the Ugly" to be remembered for.