(2006-2010) is an ABC Dramedy
and an Americanized version
of the Colombian Soap Opera Yo soy Betty, la fea
, which already had dozens of versions around the world
. 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 advertised 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 catharses 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.
This show provides examples of:
- Aborted Arc: The death of Fey Sommers, and subsequent hints that she is actually still alive. The Bandaged Woman, who was all but outright stated to be Sommers, was instead revealed to be Alexis Meade. From that point, Sommers is brought up just enough to remind us who she was. Ultimately, she never comes back, and it's left to the viewers whether or not she truly died.
- Actor Allusion: Zachary Boule dated a Gossip Girl. So did his actor, canonically.
- Aloof Big Brother: Alex Meade (eventually Aloof Big Sister).
- Alternate Universe: episode 17 of season 4, see Dream Sequence
- 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.
- Author Avatar: Justin for creator Silvio Horta.
- 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 sex change. She 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.
- The Bechdel Test: Passes with flying colours. Despite the show being about fashion, the business setting allows women to talk about many, many other things than men or the getting thereof.
- Best Woman: Bradford passes up his son Daniel as best man and instead asks his daughter Alexis to stand up with him.
- Beware the Nice Ones: At one point, Henry loses his temper and shouts at Marc and Amanda...though afterward they both admit this actually turned them on.
- 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
- Boxing Episode: "Kissed Off"
- Brought to You by the Letter "S":
- Betty wears a necklace with a large capital B on it. This necklace is actually modelled 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.
- California Doubling: Seasons one and two were filmed in Los Angeles (save for the pilot), even though the show takes place in New York City. Averted in seasons three and four (as well as the pilot) which were filmed on-location.
- Camp: Justin and Suzuki St. Pierre.
- 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).
- Happens again while Betty is struggling to balance being an intern at YETI and dealing with work problems, her family constantly nag at her for not helping with her sister's launch party for her salon. Betty always helps every other time, and even sends Christina in her place when she can't spare the time, but that still isn't good enough for them.
- 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 like 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-centred, somewhat cruel ditz she was at the beginning, but she goes from despising Betty to having the biggest girlcrush imaginable on her.
- The Chessmaster: Wilhelmina Slater
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Practically everyone! It occasionally gets the point where you seriously begin to wonder if anyone in charge actually remembers that they're supposed to be running a million-dollar company!
- 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.
- Cute Clumsy Girl: Betty Suarez
- 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
- Drag Queen: Wilhelmina Slater is so notorious in Manhattan one sprouted up ("Wilhelldiva Hater", played by Vanessa Williams' Real Life brother)
- 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
- Drugs Are Bad: Several episodes use this trope to reinforce this message, but especially the episode where Claire is acquitted for the murder of Fey Sommers after Betty discovers the perfume she left causes extreme mood swings which can result in violence, irrational behavior and hyper-sexual feelings (Methamphetamine).
- 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 Show: Averted overall. Fashion is more of a background while the show focuses on the characters and their daily lives.
- Fashion Magazine: Mode Magazine.
- Flanderization: In a rare inversion of this trope, Betty starts out as an uber-tacky Fish out of Water and Rummage Sale Reject, Marc and Amanda are super-shallow, mean and ditzy. Daniel a sex-obsessed and rather dim example of nepotism, and Wilhelmina a comical and bitchy snake who throws hissy fits when things don't go her way. All of these characters gradually develop away from these extremes as the show goes on. Played straight with Justin however as he just gets more and more campy. Claire, Hilda and Ignacio remain pretty constant.
- Friday Night Death Slot: When the show aired for the first half of the fourth season — it escaped to Wednesdays, only to get canceled anyway.
- Funny Foreigner: Christina.
- Hawaiian-Shirted Tourist: The hallucination of Bradford Meade, apparently because Betty's subconscious always felt he was far too formal.
- 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, seeing as Alexis is transgender.
- Hidden Depths: Marc and especially Amanda demonstrate this increasingly over the course of the series.
- 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.
- 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:
- While the obvious elephant in the room is "Why the hell don't they just fire Wilhemina?" after everything she does to screw them over, it's repeatedly justified over the course of the series. Wilhelmina is very good at her job and has great publicity, so the magazine can't justify jettisoning her outright for fear of bad press, particularly with all the Meade family drama and Daniel's initial incompetence threatening to send the company under. She was briefly fired after Bradford's death, but the baby scheme forced them to rehire her and receive a 50% share of the company, though she was often overpowered by Daniel, Alexis and Claire. When it was found out the baby wasn't hers and Bradford's and Connor embezzled the Meade's finances, she only was saved from being thrown out the door because Cal Hartley demanded that she kept her position before he'd invest. Still, Daniel has no excuse for repeatedly listening to her right through to the end of the series;
Claire: You listened to advice from Wilhemina? Doesn't that strike you as a really stupid thing to do?!
- Daniel not realising just why he's lucky to have Betty as his Hyper Competent Sidekick. She's probably one of the reasons the company wasn't run into the ground a long time ago. In fact, on several occasions when she leaves for even a few weeks, Daniel nearly destroys the company with his poor management.
- Making Kimmie Keegan into an Executive Editor after 3 weeks on the job, for doing one photoshoot that was reasonably successful. It's official, the people running Meade Publications are functionally insane!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- New York City
- No Bisexuals: Typical in shows which are created by and/or written by Gay people.
- Not So Different:
- Betty can just as selfish and self-serving as Wilhemina, which is lampshaded on occasion.
Wilhelmina: Why Betty Suarez, using a man to get what you want?! You are full of surprises tonight
- Also Justin and Marc, as they both come to realize by the end of the series.
- Odd Couple: Betty and Amanda as roommates.
- Only Sane Employee: It's obvious that Betty and Christina are the only people in Meade Publications who are actually concerned with doing their damn job. Everyone else... not so much.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Claire, once she quits drinking. By the end of the series, while Wilhemina and Daniel are still acting according to their own personal idiom, she seems to be the only one in management who's mind is on getting the job done.
- Open-Minded Parent: Hilda, Claire, and Ignacio. All for different reasons but supportive nonetheless
- Paintball Episode: "Bananas for Betty"
- 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.
- Papa Wolf: Do not mess with one of Ignacio's daughters. Bradford is this, although it's mostly hidden under his tough love. Daniel demonstrates this towards D.J., although he later discovers he's not really his father.
- Pet Homosexual: Marc St. James.
- Pet the Dog: Almost every villainous character at some point.
- If it wasn't for Marc serving as Wilhemina's Morality Pet to give her these moments, it's clear that she would have crossed the Moral Event Horizon long ago. Acknowledged in-universe, as Wilhemina seems to realise this whenever doing something so cruel that Marc threatens to leave over it.
- Playing Against Type: Fabia, the hilariously camp cosmetics mogul, is played by... Gina Gershon???
- 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.
- Pragmatic Adaptation: Basically the writers dumped the angle of Betty being instantly in love with Daniel and supplementing her crush with her office work, in favor of Betty realizing that Daniel wasn't totally worthless and becoming the little sister he never had who didn't take his crap and pushed him to prove everyone who looked down on him wrong and giving him the positive (non-romantic) re-enforcement that he never had growing up when he did good or had to do something he didn't want to do for the sake of proving himself a good person. As such, when the writers finally did go down the romance angle with the two, it was Daniel who was secretly in love with Betty and Betty being unaware of it.
- Pretty in Mink
- Relationship Reveal: Justin and Austin towards the end of the show.
- 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 Transsexual 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 Mode 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.
- Daniel during Series 1, though he later realises it's due to sex-addiction.
- Revenge of the Nerd
- Rich Bitch Wilhelmina Slater and Victoria Hartley
- 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.
- Shipper on Deck: Claire Meade shipped Daniel and Betty as early as Season 3.
- 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?
- Shout-Out: The episode where Betty reviews Daniel's childhood Christmas video to make up a presentation for Claire's birthday. In the video, which is presumed to take place in The Eighties, Judith Light's '80s Hair is an obvious Shout-Out to how she looked as Angela
- Show Within a Show: Two. "Fashion Buzz" and the "Vidas De Fuego" ("Lives of Fire")
- "Shut Up" Kiss: Marc to Betty, of all people, to prevent her from revealing to his mother that he's gay.
- Sitcom Archnemesis: Gina Gambarro for Hilda
- Snubby 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.
- Spicy Latina: Averted with Betty, but her sister Hilda is pretty caliente.
- Straight Gay: Cliff, Austin.
- Subways Suck
- Suddenly Sexuality: Two examples. Both the opposite of what you normally see with this trope. The Designer Tavares reveals to Amanda he's really straight because no one would believe or accept a male fashion designer as straight in 21st Century Manhattan.
- Same goes for Suzuki St. Pierre, the host of "Fashion Buzz", who's revealed to simply be the alter-ego of Byron Wu, a normal guy living in the suburbs with his wife and kids. He admits to only pretends to be gay because it was the only way he could get ahead in fashion.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Bobby can be seen as this for Santos. Both were former small-time criminals who reformed, dated Hilda several years previously and ended up getting her pregnant. It's no surprise that Ignacio utterly loathed them both when they came back into Hilda's life.
- Take That: A few quick ones here and there. Example:
Look at the files Wilhelmina has! Madonna, Trent Lott,
Christina: I don't know why she's holding onto that one. Somebody should take him down
- 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".
- The Other Darrin: Wilhelmina's daughter in season 4. Marc lampshades this by complimenting her on her nose job.
- Tomboyish Name: Charlie
- Took a Level in Jerkass: Betty over the course of the series becomes noticeably more selfish and self-serving. She later snaps out of it, after she imagines herself from the pilot episode calling her out on all the morally dubious things she's been involved in since starting at Mode.
- Transsexual Alex(is) Meade
- The Vamp: Wilhelmina, with Bradford.
- Kick the Dog:Lampshaded when Betty daydreams about turning into Wilhemina and literally kicks a puppy, which wakes her up.
- 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 is out of earshot
- Amanda demonstrates after upon learning her birth-mother was the late Fey Sommers.
- 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"
- 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.
- Where Da White Boys At?: Betty, Marc, Renee and Wilhelmina can't seem to resist the white boys. Mostly averted with Hilda although she dates a white guy or two before finally settling down with Bobby. Averted with Amanda.
- 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.