What Does Race Have to Do with Ugly Betty?

What Does Race Have to Do with Ugly Betty? An Analysis of Privilege and Postracial(?) Representations on a Television Sitcom

Television & New Media
Volume 10, Number 6 (November 2009)
pages 521-535
DOI: 10.1177/1527476409340906

Jennifer Esposito, Associate Professor of Research, Measurement & Statistics
Georgia State University, Atlanta

This article examines ABC’s television comedy Ugly Betty, in particular one episode that explores race-based affirmative action decisions and quotas, to argue that race and racial categories are ever more present in our society and that they need to be. Asserting how and in what ways race “matters” is important in a social and political climate that often suggests race dare not speak its name. Circulating within sociology and education discourse is the notion of a “color-blind society” (meaning that we no longer see color or that the color of one’s skin will not determine his or her life chances).  This idea has been has been recently redefined by the media as “postracial” (meaning that we have moved beyond race and that race no longer structures our thinking or our actions). Either discourse silences talk of racial privilege and disadvantage.  As a discursive racial project, the Ugly Betty text helps reify notions of race and difference.

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