Ugly Betty

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Ugly Betty.jpg

Ugly Betty is an ABC Dramedy is and an Americanized version of the Colombian Soap Opera Yo Soy Betty, la Fea, which already had dozens of versions around the world. Ugly Betty ran from 2006-2010 - the show splits its time between Slapstick, fashion industry satire, occasional Deadpan Snarking, Soap Opera plots (kinda-sorta parodied) and Anvilicious Aesops about self-esteem and whatever other issues the writers want to make points about.

In a nutshell, the show follows the eponymous young woman as she pursues her dream of becoming a writer in the magazine industry. To achieve this, she works as an assistant at a shallow fashion magazine where her frumpy style and it's-what's-on-the-inside-that-counts philosophy don't go over well. Much drama and hilarity ensue.

While being advertized as a Fashion Show, clothing and modeling are really just a background to the helter skelter of the main character's daily lives. Having run for four seasons before being canceled, it delves deep into the lives and catharsis these characters share with one another. Every character, shallow as they try to act, is deep and has a fleshed out personality, and the show follows how deeply their lives are interwoven. Expect major character development and dramedy to ensue.

Tropes used in Ugly Betty include:
  • Aloof Big Brother: Alex Meade (eventually Aloof Big Sister).
  • Alternate Universe: Episode 17 of Season 4 (see Dream Sequence below).
  • Always Camp: Played with.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Justin Suarez.
    • Less so, now that he has a boyfriend.
  • Animal Motifs: Butterflies, symbolic of Betty's own metamorphoses.
    • Hilda tends to wear clothes with animal prints, which add to her Queens woman image.
  • Bandaged Face: Some woman who, for the first half of Season 1, is implied to be Fey Sommers. (It's actually Alex Meade with a hardcore sex change. She even changes her name to Alexis Meade.)
  • Baseball Episode: Softball variety, but yeah.
  • Battle Butler: Marc St. James
  • Beard of Sorrow: Daniel grows this several times over the run of the show.
  • Best Woman: Bradford passes up his son Daniel as best man and instead asks his transsexual daughter Alexis to stand up with him.
  • Big Blackout: Season 4 episode "Blackout" revolves around this, having Betty, her co-workers and her neighbors trapped in their dilapidated apartment building during a karaoke party just hours after she had the landlord install an electric door; leading Amanda to believe that "Betty's voice (In the karaoke) brought darkness to the land."
    • "-Amanda! Is that you?" "-Sorry, I thought that was MY butt."
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Wilhemina Slater and Charlie.
  • Brought to You by The Letter "S": Betty wears a necklace with a large capital B on it. This necklace is actually modeled after one worn in real life by Anne Boleyn.
    • In the episode "Smoking Hot", Amanda wears a long necklace with a huge letter A on it, mimicking Betty's tiny necklace, adding comedic effect to the fact that nobody can tell both girls are actually wearing the same outfit.
  • But Not Too Black: Wilhelmina Slater, averted with her daughter.
  • But Not Too Gay: Marc never got to kiss any of his love interests (and yet he did kiss both Betty and Amanda for comedic reasons). However, they were able to show a ground breaking kiss between the 15-year-old Justin and Austin, since the show had already been canceled by that point so there wasn't much risk.
  • Camp Gay: Marc St. James.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Betty once ignored a call from her sister due to a work obligation. Naturally, this call was to tell her their father was in the hospital so everybody could guilt-trip Betty for putting her job ahead of her family (which she otherwise almost never does).
  • Celebrity Paradox: Fey Sommers of Mode is clearly based on Anna Wintour of Vogue (even their names pun: summer/winter). But later episodes mention Wintour as a separate person.
    • Also no one mentions how much Kimmie looks Lindsay Lohan, who was mentioned in an early episode.
  • Character Development: All the main players.
    • Even the people who don't like Betty end up respecting her by the end of the series. Amanda is more-or-less the same self-centered, somewhat cruel ditz she was at the beginning, but she goes from despising Betty to having the biggest girl-crush imaginable on her.
  • The Chessmaster: Wilhelmina Slater.
  • Church of Happyology: Daniel Meade, Season 4.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Amanda, upon seeing her picture on the "out" side of Wilhemina's "in or out" board, responds that the picture wasn't a very good one.
  • Coming Out Story: "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and "The Past Presents the Future".
    • In "Backseat Betty", Justin is voted homecoming queen and manages to laugh it off. His family acts as if he just came out, and Justin definitively states that he's not gay. No one believes it, but Marc respects his wishes.
    • Also subverted in "Fire and Nice". Twice, Marc assumes that Justin is about to come out to him and leads him in the right direction, but Justin doesn't act in the way expected.
  • Daddy DNA Test: Amanda attempts this on Bradford Meade when she suspects him of being her real father. he isn't.
  • Deal with the Devil: Christina in "In or Out" and Betty in "Family/Affair"; both "deals" were made with Wilhelmina.
  • Dojikko: Betty Suarez.
  • Dramedy
  • Dream Sequence: Episode 17 in Season 4 when Betty falls and hits her head and dreams of what her life would be like if she was born with perfect teeth.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Tyler in episode 19.
  • Drunk on Milk: Betty with Chili Cheese Fries.
  • Elephant in the Living Room: Justin's sexuality has become this in the fourth season.
  • Fag Hag: Amanda and her relationship with Marc.
  • Fashion Hurts: In "The Icing on the Cake", Amanda receives a "dress" that is unexpectedly uncomfortable. Later, during Wilhelmina's wedding, Marc gets his average boyfriend Cliff to dress up fashionably for the occasion, which results on him complaining about how he could barely breathe.

Molly: Everything I'm wearing hurts. That's good right?

  • Fashion Magazine: Mode Magazine.
  • Fashion Show: Averted overall. Fashion is more of a background while the focus are the characters and their daily lives.
  • Heel Face Revolving Door: Kimmie, several times in one episode.
  • Heterosexual Life Partners: A rare aversion to this trope, Amanda and Marc are of the opposite sex, but Marc is gay and Amanda shows no attraction to Marc, but the closeness of their friendship still fits this trope
  • Hide Your Pregnancy: A somewhat extreme case with Rebecca Romijn; her character Alexis had to be written out of the show when the actress became pregnant, what with Alexis being a transsexual and all...
  • Homage: Wilhelmina and Claire's Cat Fight into the fountain is a blatant homage to Dynasty, right down to the clothes and hairstyles they were wearing.
  • Hooked Up Afterwards: Possibly implied with Betty and Daniel, in a rare Alpha Couple example.
    • To elaborate: Daniel has realized his feelings, but Betty still hadn't been given enough time to possibly see it their relationship that way. In the end, the ending was left ambiguous with his catching up with her at her new job. She has to run but smiles as she walks away, leaving fans on either side to draw conclusions.
  • I Can't Believe a Guy Like You Would Notice Me: Subverted. Betty doesn't have a crush on Daniel like in the other versions of the show, and in the end it's him that develops feelings first.
  • Idiot Ball: The people running Meade Publications clearly are insane. After everything she does to screw them over, why the hell don't they just fire Wilhemina?
    • Daniel not realizing just why he's lucky to have Betty as his Hypercompetent Sidekick. She's probably one of the reasons the company wasn't run into the ground a long time ago.
  • Important Haircut: In Season 4, Betty is getting ready to remove her braces, styles her hair slightly nicer, and stops wearing clothes in a rainbow of clashing colors. Throughout the season, her outfits start to get more coordinated and her hair becomes more and more stylish, to the point that Wilhelmina develops a stress ulcer after complimenting her outfit. By the final episodes, Betty is a star at the office and everybody seems to be in love with her makeover.
  • Invisible to Gaydar: Cliff, Austin.
  • Lady Drunk: Claire Meade, even though she's supposed to be cleaning up.
  • Last-Minute Hookup: Daniel and Betty, as well as well as the much less developed Marc and Troy. Possibly not entirely by the writers' choice.
    • Kind of averted, since Claire was seeing sporadic, but evident, signs of this since Season 3.
  • Les Yay: Betty and Amanda, especially from Amanda's direction, specially during their awkward love triangle with Matt and Amanda's increasing guilt fantasies. Also, Claire and Yoga full-stop in Season 2, with lampshading.
  • Longing Look
  • Love Epiphany: Daniel, seemingly, in "The Past Presents the Future".
  • Love Triangle: A lot of them.
  • Mama Bear: Do NOT mess with ANY of Claire Meade's children.
    • Same goes for Justin. Hilda will hurt you.
  • Multi National Shows
  • Naked in Mink: Wilhelmina.
  • Odd Couple: Betty and Amanda as roommates.
  • Open-Minded Parent: Hilda, Claire, and Ignacio. All for different reasons but supportive nonetheless
  • Parental Abandonment: What Bradford Meade tells his son Alex Meade when he comes clean about his desire to be a woman.
    • Marc technically also counts, with his mother rejecting him when he comes out of the closet to her, though it seemed she was aware and simply willfully ignorant.
  • Pet Homosexual: Marc St. James.
  • Pet the Dog: Almost every villainous character at some point.
  • Plucky Office Girl: Betty, in spades. This is, in fact, the entire point of her character.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Thanks to numerous norms, mistrust, lies, backstabbing and conspiring, many of the characters are unable to solve their problems through communication. Because of this, many problems that could be solved through being honest aren't, or aren't taken seriously.
  • Pretty in Mink
  • The Rabbit Died: Becomes an elaborate motif and multi-level pun in the third-season episode "Rabbit Test". While the episode initially revolves around Easter and its associated festivities, the plot eventually turns to focus on young William McKinney and his actual parentage, with Christina and Wilhelmina both taking part in a DNA test to discover which of them is his natural mother. (It Makes Sense in Context.)
  • Real Life Writes the Plot Alexis Meade is written out of the show as a result of her actress's pregnancy. Why? Because Alexis is Transsexualism and cannot get pregnant.
  • Really Gets Around: Amanda. And she's very proud of it. Marc likes to brag about this, but Amanda's claims, specially in "After Hours", state just the opposite. Zander, Meade's security guard, couldn't care less about genders in spite of pleasure.
    • Averted with Betty, when she admits she's "not that experienced" during Matt's psychiatric session.
  • Revenge of the Nerd
  • Rich Bitch: Aside from Betty and Christina, basically any female character who works at MODE.
    • Amanda pretends to be, but she's not rich in the slightest. Played very straight with Wilhelmina though.
  • Romantic False Lead: Charlie.
  • Rule of Drama: The show pretty much runs on this.
  • Rule of Funny: This too.
  • Rummage Sale Reject and Impossibly Tacky Clothes: A lot of Betty's clothes from the first few seasons.
  • Sassy Black Woman: Ignacio's case worker, and Lamanda, the weekend security woman.
  • Say My Name Trailer: A few of the show's ads have done this.
  • Ship Sinking/Writer Revolt: Failed. Word of God first stated that Daniel and Betty would never get together, causing the hardcore Detty shippers to stop watching the show. However, that was soon recanted to a Shrug of God. When the show was canceled, it ended with Daniel clearly in love with Betty, with Betty's feelings unclear but not averse to the idea. After which the show creator admitted that they were the core of the show, whether as friends or lovers, and neglecting their relationship had been part of the show's downfall. Cue the cries of "I TOLD YOU SO!" from the vindicated but still unsatisfied shippers.
  • Should Have Thought of That Before X: In episode "A Tree Grows in Guadalajara".

Alexis: [Hates the fact that Daniel is seeing her ex-girlfriend]
Daniel: You're just jealous because I've got the one thing you can't have. Guess you should have thought of that before you gave away the family jewels, huh?

  • "Shut Up" Kiss: Marc to Betty, of all people, to prevent her from revealing to his mother that he's gay.
  • Snub By Omission: What is presumably an oversight in the third season finale gloriously becomes this. Henry is repeatedly described as Betty's first love, ignoring the existence of Walter... or implying she never loved him.
  • Something's Different About You Now: "-Oh, it's not that funny."
  • Spicy Latina: Averted with Betty, but her sister Hilda is pretty caliente.
  • Subways Suck
  • Title Drop First done in one of the Lindsay Lohan episodes where Kimmie calls her "Ugly Betty". Later, in the What If episode "Million Dollar Smile", Daniel makes a remark to Betty that on the inside "You're ugly, Betty." Long story.
    • Also, in "Grin and Bear It", Amanda calls a photo of the young Wilhelmina "Ugly Willie".
  • Tomboyish Name: Charlie.
  • Transsexualism: Alex(is) Meade.
  • The Vamp: Wilhelmina with Bradford.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Wilhelmina Slater.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Daniel all the way. Eventually subverted when his father says "I love you too son" when Daniel was out of earshot.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Sofia Reyes is in the same building as the Mode offices for (as far as we know) the rest of the series, but is never seen or mentioned again. Not even when plot developments would indicate some mention (Claire taking control of Meade Publications, and again when they're deciding which of the magazines to cut). This is especially strange since her portrayer, Salma Hayek, is one of the producers and would've been available to reprise her role.
  • White and Grey Morality: While things started out very clean-cut good and bad, the main villainous characters were just too appealing to stay flat. The turning point was probably the fourth episode "Fey's Sleigh Ride", which featured all the good and bad characters working together, and is highly regarded as one of the best episodes. Fully evil villains were a rarity even for antagonists outside the main cast.
  • Whole-Episode Flashback: "Swag".
  • Xtreme Kool Letterz: The "Debitz", Henry's bowling team name. The Z is for intimidation
  • Yes-Man: Marc St. James. So much that when he starts working as Daniel's assistant, he expresses his confusion as to how to react to Daniel's remarks.