A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
Messages about having a strong sense of self, having a strong work ethic, and the importance of family. A major theme is integrity. But the show also sends mixed messages about body-shaming and toxic working environments -- sometimes they're called out, but other times the problems are taken too lightly.
Positive Role Models
Enthusiastic, dedicated, optimistic Betty is a great role model. She has a warm relationship with her nephew, Justin, who demonstrates great courage as he navigates a challenging adolescence. But Betty's co-workers can be very petty, mean, and sneaky.
One of the series' co-creators, Fernando Gaitán, is Colombian, and executive producer Salma Hayek is Mexican American. Main character Betty Suarez is also Mexican American, played by multiracial Latina actress America Ferrera (who has Lenca ancestry). Betty is portrayed as intelligent, resourceful, and hard-working, but the show argues that she needs to conform to society's beauty standards, such as thinness and femininity, to earn basic respect at the workplace. She suffers constant fat-shaming, especially in the first couple of seasons. Justin, another member of the Suarez family (played by Italian-Puerto Rican actor Mark Indelicato), is a brave teen who embraces his queer identity. Betty's empathetic best friend, Marc St. James, played by openly gay actor Michael Urie, is multidimensional and fearless. In a minor role, transgender woman Alexis Meade is admirable. She's played by Rebecca Romijn, a cisgender actor. The series' villain/Betty's workplace rival, Wihelmina Slater, is played by multiracial actor Vanessa Williams, who's of Black and Welsh descent. Wihelmina is negatively portrayed as mean, superficial, and scheming.
Did we miss something on diversity? Suggest an update.
Violence & Scariness
Back-biting and scheming, but no physical violence (except to a stuffed bunny...). A regular character is portrayed as a womanizer who has no qualms about sleeping with his co-workers and manipulating sexual favors from his female employees. He makes unwelcome advances at the workplace, comments on women's appearances in derogatory ways, and creates an abusive environment that's played for comedy on the show.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Given its setting at a fashion magazine, characters dress in daring ways -- tight clothes and bare midriffs/backs regularly appear. Main characters have romantic arcs: They kiss, make out, and confess love to one another. Sex is implied, such as a character in a rumpled bed or grabbing morning papers in only his underwear outside a co-worker's apartment.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
"Bitch," "damn," and "pansy" (used to refer to a gay man). Women are constantly called "fat" throughout the series ("You look like two fat girls hugging each other.").
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Products & Purchases
El mundo de la revista Mode es muy materialista, pero la mayoría de las marcas y nombres de diseñadores que se mencionan son ficticios.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Ugly Betty is an hour-long comedy adapted from the popular Colombian telenovela Yo soy Betty, la fea, set in the competitive, materialistic world of a high-fashion magazine called Mode. Several characters -- most of whom are pretty over-the-top -- exhibit iffy behavior (scheming, corporate one-upmanship, petty meanness to those who don't fit in, etc.). By comparison, main character Betty Suarez (America Ferrera) stands out like a cheerful beacon who's proud of her Latino and working-class roots, and demonstrates courage and integrity. There's LGBTQ+ inclusion, with Betty's nephew, Justin Suarez (Mark Indelicato), and best friend Marc St. James (Michael Urie) taking pride in their sexualities. On the other hand, be aware that the series has a lot of fat-shaming, and Betty's boss Daniel Meade (Eric Mabius) sexually harasses his female co-workers, played for comedy.
Is It Any Good?
The show's writing and acting are both top-notch, and there are giggles to be found at every turn. In one scene, for example, Betty admires a model's beautiful Dolce & Gabbana poncho and chummily tells the woman that her father bought her a similar one in Guadalajara ... only to show up the next day proudly wearing a gaudy, blanket-like garment that has "souvenir" written all over it. With similar themes to The Devil Wears Prada, released around the same time, Ugly Betty is wildly fun fare that takes the Prada premise and ups the ante -- unlike Anne Hathaway's Andy, Betty has to overcome more workplace challenges as a woman of color who doesn't fit into the fashion industry's Eurocentric and thin-obsessed beauty standards.
Ugly Betty has enough drama to keep viewers interested throughout, but, unlike other soapy shows, it spends an equal amount of time on "everyday" storylines like Betty's heartwarming relationship with her father, her queer nephew, and her gay best friend. Though the show has a few risqué scenes that might raise some eyebrows, including Daniel's predatory behavior at the office, Ferrara's stellar performance outweighs them. Betty is clearly the most admirable character on the show, and her positive qualities just make the other characters' failings more obvious.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.