The recent appearance of Ugly Betty actress, America Ferrera, on the covers of fashion magazines -- Cosmopolitan (February 2007), W (May 2007) and, most recently, Glamour (October 2007) -- makes my brain hurt.
The show revolves around the hypocrisy of the fashion industry. Betty is (relatively speaking) ugly and lovable. The take-away message: You are more than your looks. Yet all three covers proudly and loudly announce that America Ferrera is, in fact, beautiful. Why bend-over-backwards to make Betty a bombshell after all? Is the fashion industry scared?
An early episode revolves around the excessive re-touching of a starlet who is to appear on the cover of Mode, the fictional magazine in the show. In one poignant scene, Photoshop is used to make her thinner and thinner until she disappears. Weight is a metaphor for power***. The take-away message: The fashion industry wants women to be insignificant in all ways. Less is better. What does it mean when America Ferrera beams, heavily re-touched and with a fake skinny body, from the covers of fashion magazines? Doesn't she feel just a little bit sheepish about the whole thing? Shouldn't she?
And, most perplexing, why aren't we pissed off?
A gorgeous Britney Spears appeared on the cover of Allure (September 2007) in the midst of the most public deterioration in recent memory (talk about ugly). It's no longer a matter of do-they-or-don't-they re-touch cover girls. We know she doesn't look like that! Do any of you feel just a little bit insulted? When do we say enough is enough?
We are allowing fashion magazines to make a mockery of the sweet message of Ugly Betty. We are allowing them to make a mockery of us. Where, exactly, are we going to draw the line?
***Thank you to Susan Bordo for this insight.