So You Think You Can Rate a TV Show?
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Ugly Betty on
8:00 p.m. ET
Rating: TV-PG L
The October 25th episode of Ugly
Betty featured multiple crassly sexualized scenes filled with lewd innuendo,
the most blatant coming even before the opening credits had aired.
As the show opens, the camera is focused on a
male model’s underwear-clad rear end. Throughout the scene Christina and Betty’s
supposedly innocuous conversation and exaggerated facial expressions combine
with the scene’s visual focus on the nearly naked man to give the entire scene a
lascivious and tawdry tinge.
Betty bemoans her failed love life as her
co-worker Christina lays a tape measure against the model’s rear. As Christina
and Betty discuss Betty’s infatuation with Henry, Christina stares at the man’s
buttocks and says, “You don’t have anyone else to focus on.” As Christina
leers at the man’s rear she coos, “Not bad! Not bad!”
Betty states that she’s not ready to get
involved with a man. Meanwhile the model turns, placing his crotch directly in
front of Christina’s face. Christina stares at the man’s groin, gaping in
shocked pleasure. As Christina advises Betty, “Who said anything about getting
involved? All you want to do is to have a little bit of fun!” she places
her tape measure against the man’s crotch, measuring his genitals.
Betty complains that she always leaves before
the fun begins. Christina ogles the man’s genitals again, remarking “You don’t
know what you’re missing!”
The model turns so that his crotch is directly
before Betty’s face. Betty goggles and rolls her eyes in shock, then turns
away…but continues to peek at the man’s crotch out of the corner of her eye. As
Christina continues to fondle the man with her tape measure, Betty says, "What
are you doing? You can't alter underwear." Christina smirks, "Oh, they never
Later in the episode, after convincing Betty to
try online dating, Christina urges Betty to “sex up” her description of herself.
When Betty asks what items Christina listed as the things she “can’t live
without,” Christina replies, "Sex! Five times!!" And when Betty receives a
message from an interested suitor, who remarks on Betty’s interest in bowling,
Betty sends him a message saying she loves bowling. But Christina advises Betty,
Christina: "Send that again."
Christina: "You typed
Betty’s message "Yes, I love blowing!" is seen
on the computer screen as Betty frantically retypes it.
And if such blatant heterosexual innuendo were
not offensive enough, the program also goes out of its way to depict the gay
character Marc as a sex fiend. Magazine boss Wilhelmina induces Marc to
supervise a photo shoot by telling him, “There'll be male models in underwear."
"Not if I have my way!" Mark leers in reply.
When Marc arrives at the photo shoot,
photographer Cliff is preoccupied taking a picture and, thinking the new arrival
is his model, says “You’re late. Take off your clothes.” Marc smarms, “Easy,
sailor. Buy a girl a drink first.” When the muscular male model Gus appears
wearing only underwear, Mark moans, "I'll sign for that package!!" When
Gus realizes he has put his underwear on backwards Marc rushes over to him
yelling, "I can help you!" and pushes Gus behind a dressing screen. Later, Marc
boasts to Amanda that he is going on a date with Gus. Amanda demands, "I want
proof. Send me a dirty cell phone picture. Oh, but not your parts again. That
was gross." Responding to Amanda’s crude reference to his genitals, Marc replies
with a crude reference to Amanda’s breasts: "Yeah? Well, your left one's
The episode also reveals that photographer Cliff
is gay by showing him displaying a sample magazine cover, in which he has posed
Gus holding a long object directly in front of his crotch, resembling a phallus.
When Marc chooses a date with hunky Gus over one with Cliff, Cliff rants at him
using a homophobic slur:
“Look at you! You’re such a cliché! You and Gus?
What is that? That’s Beauty and Beauty. That’s not a story! Now Beauty and the
Beast – that’s a fairy tale!”
As has been shown, the material presented on
this episode was inappropriate for children, and a rating of TV-14 would have
been justified; yet the program was given only a rating of PG with the
“language” descriptor, without even a D descriptor indicating sexual dialogue.
This inappropriate rating means that parents were not made aware of the true
nature of the program, and the V-Chip would have been unable to block it.
Since the show’s premiere, ABC has marketed
Ugly Betty to viewers as a sweet, family-friendly comedy with heartwarming
characters and positive messages. While America Ferrera’s characterization of
Betty may fit this definition, nothing else in the program does. Instead, ABC
has larded the show with smirking innuendo and lewd visual and verbal references
to sex, while deliberately giving parents the impression that the show is
suitable for children. Showing a program so filled with sexual material, during
the Family Hour, with incorrect ratings, demonstrates that ABC is not interested
in the concerns of families or children. Indeed, by misrating this program, ABC
is being deliberately deceptive, in an attempt to lure ever-younger viewers into
watching the network’s overly sexualized and inappropriate material.
If you agree that this program was inadequately
rated, please write to the TV ratings advisory board at
firstname.lastname@example.org and let them know that the TV
ratings once again failed to adequately warn parents about inappropriate
For more information about the TV ratings,