What Ugly Betty Can Learn from Fruit of the Loom

It’s Hispanic Heritage Month— something I hadn’t realized until Al Michaels and John Madden told me, repeatedly, during Sunday Night Football. (That’s the only thing I want to remember from the disastrous Bears game. I don’t even want to remember that odd Ozomatli halftime performance.) Perhaps that’s why I found the Ugly Betty marathon yesterday on ABC Family. The show’s scenary design is fresh and it’s nice to see a show that has more than token Latino representation– as Vivir Latino noted upon the show’s debut last year, “when was the last time we saw a Latina featured on a network primetime spot?” I was quickly bothered, howevered, by the fact that a supposedly Mexican-American family in Corona, Queens features so many characters speaking with Caribbean accents. Synergybc last week “was really annoyed at the very Puerto Rican/New Yorican-like sister and the baby daddy.” I hesitate to criticize one of the only English language shows that employs Latino actors– including two native Philadelphians, Ana Ortiz and Mark Indelicato– but surely we viewers are sophisticated enough to know that all Hispanics dress and talk the same.

Marketer John Gallegos, the subject of Cynthia Gorney’s How Do You Say ‘Got Milk’ en Español? in the NYT magazine, thinks Latinos are sophisticated enough.

[Latinos] are multiplying so fast in certain parts of the country — nearly a 1,000 percent increase in Atlanta, for example, between 1980 and 2000 — that one recent report used the term “hypergrowth.” More than half come from or have origins in Mexico, but the array of homelands is extensive; when Grupo Gallegos got the Fruit of the Loom account a few years ago, Favio Ucedo, the Argentine chief creative director, decided to Hispanicize the four fruit guys, all of whom hover around in the ads offering underwear advice, via some mother-country humor that in Spanish constituted a collective private joke. He made Apple Guy and Leaf Guy Mexicans, hiring Mexican actors and giving them script lines that indicated they were the group leaders. Red Grape Guy became a Caribbean, dark-skinned and the best dancer, with the lilting half-swallowed Spanish of Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic. There had to be a South American, Ucedo decided, so he tipped his hat to his countrymen’s unfortunate reputation elsewhere in Latin America and made Green Grape Guy an ego-inflated, overbearing Argentine, a caricature Ucedo knew Mexicans especially would relish.

One of the highlights of the episodes I saw yesterday was seeing Rita Moreno playing Betty’s tipsy chismosa aunt in Guadalajara. Reminded me of the first time I saw her on TV, on the Muppets.

One thought on “What Ugly Betty Can Learn from Fruit of the Loom

  1. realise this is an old post. but how do you feel about the fact that the sister is half-italian (in real life) and the sun is like 1/4 latino?

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