Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Is ABC Pushing the Gay elements out of Ugly Betty?

There are times when you don't notice something until someone points it out to you.

I started writing a story about Lindsay Lohan appearing on the season finale of Ugly Betty, but somehow, it sort of morphed into something else.

Over the weekend I happened to read a story about Rebecca Romijn getting demoted to recurring status on Ugly Betty, and a commenter happened to mention the possibility that ABC was trying to minimize issues of sexuality in their prime time schedule, something which hadn't occurred to me.

Marco Pennette, the man Silvio Horta said gave the show its gay sensibility, was also the man who had been the writer who was most responsible for the Alex/is Meade character and storylines. Without his input, well, it seems that the fresh batch of writers the show has no idea what do with a male-to-female transsexual played by Romijn. And then I started thinking about some of the other elements that may change because of this lack of perspective amongst the writing staff and producers.

For instance, I noticed that Marc St. James, who in the episodes preceding the strike, had found a loving monogamous relationship with another man, Cliff St. Paul. But I have a feeling that now that storyline is going to be minimized if mentioned at all, since there has been no mention of it in the past couple of episodes.

I also have a sinking feeling that Justin isn't going to get the continued development his character so richly deserves. There was a lot of potential there, and somehow I think that as the series goes on from this point, the writers and producers may be wary of exploring the issues facing his character in the way they had before the departure of Marco Pennette. And given the setting, well, such issues seem to be at least peripherally relevant to show as a whole.

Now I am a straight guy, so I don't have an agenda or a vested interest in this, however, the fact that in the past issues of sexuality were discussed in nuanced ways contributed to the strength of the series, and without it, well, it fundamentally weakens the show. Because even the most evil characters on Ugly Betty have their sympathetic moments and are capable of showing tenderness and compassion, and if the producers start holding back on such content, the show would end up becoming purely a soap opera, an outcome that would likely cause a decline in viewership.

But, I may be misreading all this. After all, there were concerns that Brothers and Sisters would drop its own gay-related storylines when series creator Jon Robin Baitz was pushed out, and time has revealed a different outcome entirely.

I guess I'll just have to wait and see if Ugly Betty wins GLAAD awards next year.


Arjan said...

it would be very sad if the series changed because of the time it's broadcasted etc.
I hate 'forced' changes in tv-series period.

Elizabeth said...

I admit I was worried about this as well when I read that Alexis was being turned into a recurring character. I'm an ally, but I'm still very passionate about the heart and issues the show deals with...I don't think Silvio Horta would allow this to happen, but one worries.

Megan said...

This is not a show that I watch regularly, but if they are "straigtening out" the storylines, that's sad.

MC said...

Arjan: I think it may have more to do with the network(ABC/Disney) and threats from religious groups to boycott the network if they don't bow to their pressure.

Elizabeth: Well, networks have a way of pecking away at series creators to get what they want... and if that fails, they also have threats and ultimatums at their disposal.

Megan: Indeed.