The Czech Ugly Betty as a Heroine of Utopian Capitalism

TitleThe Czech Ugly Betty as a Heroine of Utopian Capitalism
Publication TypeConference Paper
Author(s)Reifova, I.
Affiliation (1st Author)Faculty of Social Sciences, Charles University in Prague
Section or WGPopular Culture Working Group
DateSat 29 June
Slot CodePOPS1a
Slot Code (Keyword)POPS1a
Time of Session9:00-10:30
Session TitleFashioning Subjects
Submission ID6741

This paper explores the main narrative elements employed to domesticate the story of the original Columbian show Ugly Betty for the Czech television market as Ošklivka Katka (Ugly Katka. In pursuing the concept of “cultural proximity”, as emphasized by Straubhaar (2007: 197), it seeks to specify particular adjustments to the format with regard to the cultural and socio-historical context of contemporary Czech society. The theoretical framework of the paper draws upon current stage of the cultural imperialism debate (Tomlinson 2002, McMillin 2007). It explains that the newly emerged media markets in Central and Eastern Europe represent another opportunity to show complex nature of cultural exchange which can not be reduced to a one-way flow. Transfer of “ugly Betty” into a post-socialist condition is presented as an example of localization of a global television format (Moran, Malbon 2006)  –  e.i. as an ambivalent and dialectical process which  can not be interpreted as a straightforward cultural dominance of the country of format’s origin. (Bilterayst, Meers 2000; Waisbrod 2004). The paper reviews signs of local invention and creativity that were built into the text in the course of its adaptation for target Czech (post-socialist) cultural environment. Implementation of the Columbian format, which combines social realistic leitmotif with fairy tale and dramedy in the post-socialist environment, provides the opportunity to negotiate sensitive meanings concerning the status of capitalism. The challenging intersections of some of the most effective engines (Keane, Moran 2008) of this format and the issues related to the post-socialist agenda are motivations for a focus on the following narrative representations: social inequality, private business, economic expertise, work/unemployment, and the patriarchal family. Katka comes from a world that looks ugly on the surface, but whose people act beautifully, while the other world looks beautiful on the surface, but its people act in an ugly way. Drawing on the fact that “ugliness” is conspicuously and frequently articulated with the socialist past or its repercussions, the main question of the paper relates to how the meanings of “ugly” and “beautiful” are secured within the narrative and how these meanings are linked to the broader post-socialist context of its reception.   List of references: Biltereyest, Daniel and Meers, Phillip. (2000) ´The international telenovela debate and the contra-flow argument: a reappraisal´, Media, Culture & Society 22(4): 393–413. McMillin, Divya. (2007) International media studies. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. Moran, Albert – Malbon, Justin. (2006) Understanding global TV formats. Bristol: Intellect. Morane, Albert and Kean, Michael. (2008) ´Television’s new engines´, Television & New Media 9(2): 155–169. Straubhaar, Joseph D. (2007) World television: from global to local, Los Angeles: Sage. Tomlinson, John. (2002) Cultural imperialism: a critical introduction, London: Continuum. Waisbrod, Silvio. (2004) ´McTV: Understanding the Global Popularity of Television Formats´, Television & New Media 5(4): 359–383.

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