My Fascination with Ugly Betty

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The original

The original

It all started one day as I flipped the channels and landed on one of the Spanish language channels. The Colombian soap opera, Yo soy Betty, La Fea was on, and I was immediately captivated by the story, the actors, and the cadence of the Spanish language spoken with a Colombian accent. The story about an ugly duckling who falls in love with her handsome boss struck a chord in me, and although the “hero” in the story starts off as a callous jerk who uses her, he grew on me, especially once her realized he loved Betty.

Unusual for a leading lady, the Beatriz Pinzon Solano is visually shocking. No one would classify her as beautiful; she wears thick, round glasses, braces, and her frizzy hair slicked forward in an imitation of bangs. Her clothes are too big for her, and her braying laugh makes others wince. Those around her deride and heckle her because of her looks, mocking her voice and laugh. She’s resigned herself to never finding love, having been the object of a bet in her youth. Betty is loyal, a hard-worker, and impossibly intelligent, holding several degrees in business and economics.

When she falls in love with her boss, Armando Mendoza, a handsome playboy with little regard for others, she never hopes that he returns her affections; she’s content to be by his side, becoming the best assistant ever, and goes along with all his crazy schemes, often rescuing him and protecting him. When he hatches a plan with his friend Mario Calderon to keep the company afloat that depends on her active participation, she accepts.

Mario and Armando become paranoid that Betty will betray them, so Mario convinces Armando to seduce Betty as a means of controlling her. His seduction backfires as he falls in love with her, but when the truth of his betrayal reaches Betty, she’s devastated. It’s too late for Armando. He can’t convince her of his love, and she leaves.

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The Mexican remake

There follows a period of discovery where both characters grow. She meets people who help her realize how beautiful she is and is given a makeover. He goes through a destructive period, drinking every night and brawling with others, yet he grows, too, maturing into a truly likable character.

I watched this series twice, and then I discovered the Spanish remake, Yo Soy Bea. The story is similar with a few variations. Again, the cadence of the language and the story captivated me, and I watched as many episodes on YouTube as I could. When I learned that Mexico’s Televisa was remaking the story into La Fea Mas Bella, I was doubtful since I loved the original and didn’t think they could do better. But I was wrong.

I instantly fell in love with the characterization that Jaime Camil and Angelica Vale brought to the leading roles. I especially loved Jaime Camil as Fernando Mendiola, and when they extended the story beyond the original ending, I was upset, until I realized that it provided even more opportunity for plot resolution and character development, especially the minor characters. I loved the Mexican remake so much that I bought the DVD (although it doesn’t provide all the episodes) and the music CD.

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When it ended, I was a disappointed, but then ABC brought the story to the English-speaking public, and my hopes were raised again. However, to tailor the Ugly Betty story to American audiences, there were too many changes made to the characters, plot, and story, and I stopped watching after the first season.

The years passed, and I longed for the story that captivated me until last year, when I found that two different Spanish language channels were re-broadcasting both Yo soy Betty, La Fea and La Fea Mas Bella, respectively, and yes, I watched both, the original and the remake every day, often re-watching episodes that I particularly liked.

Yo Soy Betty, La Fea ended months ago, and Fea Mas Bella is in its last weeks of broadcasting, and I’m already feeling withdrawals. To say that I became absorbed, attached, dependent, or addicted to the story is right. I could watch it just about any version, anytime, anywhere. I hope Netflix obtains the rights to stream it. If it does, I’ll be watching.

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