Review: Ugly Betty, Season 3, Episode 17: Sugar Daddy

It is official: Ugly Betty is back to its Season 1 glory. While the plot has completely changed, the tension, the web of relationships, the ups and down, the almost unexpected twists – it’s all back and I’m loving every second of it.

I’ll tell you what is not back though: Wilhelmina’s all black or all white wardrobe. Perhaps the baby is inspiring her to wear more colour? Who knows.

In any case, what matters is that Ugly Betty’s plot is back en force. I love the extra dollop of reality in this particular episode; asking for the bailout being offered to print media was a gem typical of UB, and I grinned throughout the entire episode.

But the writers didn’t stop there. Heaven forbid they don’t use this golden opportunity and milk it for all its worth. Having Daniel and Wilhelmina travel by bus? Priceless, especially when Wilhelmina whips out her credit card followed by Daniel asking the bus driver if he can break a 50$.

Funniness aside, this situation paints a portrait of the situation in the world: the rich being so rich that they lead lives miles away from that which we ‘normal’ people live, and even further from the lives of poor people. The gap between rich and poor is time and again addressed in Ugly Betty, namely by contrasting Betty’s problems with those of Daniel. Are we surprised, then, that decision-makers at the national and international levels, who have no idea what the people at the local level are going through day to day, create policies that don’t help the poor?

Too bad these decision-makers aren’t more like Daniel; while spoiled and pampered, he has come to realise how lucky he is, and, now more than ever, he’s willing to put it on the line for the greater good (chalk it up to Betty’s positive influence!). I’m sure that in the last couple of months, as we watched company after company go under and ask for government bailouts, we all wondered how some CEOs and other heads were making so much money even as their companies were going down. And, in the same vein, I’m sure we all wondered how many of these same top heads have millions worth in assets (lands, houses, art, jewellery just to name a few) that they could liquidate to help their companies. Why only use hard earned tax money? Perhaps the government should tell companies that their bailout will match the amount of money these CEOs and other top heads put in themselves.

Favorite moments:

Wilhelmina (in the crowded bus): Excuse me sir, you’re in my personal space.

Wilhelmina (to Daniel): I’m trying to antagonize you and it’s no fun when you’re not listening.
Daniel: She’s sick. She’s dying.
Wilhelmina: Great. Now you made me feel awkward.

Chef: What are you grinding?
Ignacio: Not bread crumbs.
Show commentator: Ouh, trash talk.

Ignacio: Who’s the best at chopping?
Hilda: I just did my nails.
Justin: Me too.

Mark (walking into The Closet): Hey Christina, we’re here to sign out Wilhelmina’s baby.

Christina (handing the baby to Mark): Please be careful with him. No piercings, no tattoos.

Amanda: Babies are THE hot accessory in the gay world.

And now, in a shameless display of greed, I wait for Heroes’ return to its Season 1 glory.

“Domestic Abuse: What You Need to Know”

Heidi Brown, 03.13.09, 04:00 PM EDT

Even successful women in professional careers can get trapped in abusive relationships.

The grisly details of pop star Rihanna’s alleged beating by fellow singer Chris Brown have been shocking and disturbing. How can a talented, ambitious woman on the cusp of superstardom stay with a man who has allegedly demeaned and hurt her?

Movies like Urban Cowboy, which depicted John Travolta smacking Deborah Winger in their mobile home, reinforce the idea that poor women are the only ones who are victims.

They are not.

Reports of abuse against celebrities remind us that domestic violence affects women of all classes and races.

Domestic-violence prevention experts don’t quantify how many victims are middle-class, but there’s abundant anecdotal evidence that thousands of successful, professional women–celebrities and not–are suffering silently.

Just some of the celebrities who have gone public about the abuse they endured are Robin Givens, ex-wife of Mike Tyson; Tina Turner, formerly married to Ike Turner; and comedian Brett Butler, who established a career despite years in an abusive marriage.

“I see a variety of people from all backgrounds, including affluent victims,” says Candice Lopez, the outreach manager of Doorways for Women and Families, a domestic-violence and homeless shelter serving northern Virginia.

While charities and scholars across the country may devote more energy to the effects of abuse in low-income communities, the problem is far more widespread.

Read the rest of this article here.

“Chris Brown’s star falls; Rihanna’s could, too”

The Associated Press – Thu. Mar. 12 2009 10:17 AM ET

NEW YORK — More than a month after the assault that left Rihanna bloodied and bruised, the situation is grimmer for the once-brilliant career of Chris Brown, her boyfriend and alleged attacker.

Despite reports the couple has reconciled – including reports of an apparent duet recording session – public animosity toward Brown, Billboard’s artist of the year for 2008, seems to be growing.

Radio stations are dropping his music, and on Wednesday he voluntarily removed his name from the ballot of Nickelodeon’s Kids’ Choice Awards, for which he was twice nominated just before his Feb. 8 arrest for allegedly beating Rihanna.

“Unfortunately, the controversy surrounding the incident last month has shifted the focus from the music to whether he should be allowed to be among those nominated,” a statement from his representatives read.

At 19, Brown is already a multiplatinum star who has not only dominated music but made the leap to film in movies like “Stomp the Yard” and “This Christmas.” He was a favourite of kids for his lithe voice, danceable beats and formidable dance skills; of young girls for his handsome looks and of parents, because of his clean-cut image.

That winning combination helped him rack up album sales and awards: Billboard named him as its artist of the year for 2008. But figures show his overall audience, if not his fan base, has shrunk since his arrest. A leaked photo showing the battered face of Rihanna didn’t help and an affidavit released last week included details that highlighted the apparent brutality of the attack.

While Brown didn’t have any new music out at the time of his arrest, his top hit “Forever” was still getting substantial radio play at the time. Billboard’s Hot 100 Recurrent Airplay chart showed the song was slowly drifting down and was at No. 14 before the arrest, for a radio audience of about 16 million people.

Billboard said right after the arrest, the song plummetted from 14 to 58, or an audience of about nine million. It is now off the chart.

Even having Brown featured on a song may be a bad move: Jive Records labelmate T-Pain, who did a duet with Brown called “Freeze,” is offering an alternative version to radio stations that deletes Brown, said people inside the radio industry who requested anonymity.

Bill Werde, editor in chief for Billboard, said it may be too early to say whether the severe damage done to his career in the short term will affect Brown permanently.

“People’s memories can be short and I think sometimes an amazing hit can trump even people’s expectations,” he said Wednesday.

“That said, Chris Brown is a guy who sort of developed his career around a very clean image, and an image that was safe for teens and tweens…When you have an artist whose career has been so predicated on keeping a clean image, this is a little bit of a tougher hurdle to get over.”

Howard Bragman, veteran Hollywood publicist, damage-control specialist and author of the book “Where’s My Fifteen Minutes,” said Brown’s youth may also be an asset to him in the long run if he makes a sincere attempt at rehabilitation.

“I do think he can come back from this, I think if he made the mistakes people think he made,” he said.

“I think he is young enough and talented enough; eventually there are people who will forgive you.”

Read the rest of the article here.

“Rihanna’s troubles may lead other domestic violence victims to seek help”

by Kathleen O’Brien/The Star-Ledger; Thursday March 12, 2009

Very little about the case of singer Rihanna — whose bruised face in an evidence photograph has become a symbol of domestic violence — surprises New Jersey’s experts in the field.

Not the brutality of the violence with which her boyfriend, singer Chris Brown, is charged.

Not the relative youth of the couple. (She’s 21, he just 19.)

Not even news the two appear to be reconciled — even as they await his April 6 arraignment.

Whether publicity about photograph, reportedly taken by investigators after the Feb. 8 assault, helps or hurts Rihanna herself remains to be seen. However, it may prove to be a powerful flashcard that provides insights to everyone else, they say.

“It’s a shock-value photo,” said Judy Postmus, director of Rutgers University’s Center on Violence Against Women and Children. “It shows this happens to everyone: rich or poor, white or black, famous or not famous.”

Those who work with battered women say they fear some women may think they have to be as badly injured as Rihanna in order to have it considered domestic violence. The singer’s battered visage may be so threatening that such women will try to distance themselves from it.

“They’ll say, ‘That happened to her, but my situation isn’t as bad. I’ve never been bitten in the ear, so I don’t have it as bad as she does,” said Anthony Winchatz, a retired Bridgewater Police Department lieutenant who now works with the Somerset County’s domestic violence agency.

“I will have people call me and say, ‘I don’t know if I’m a victim of domestic violence because I didn’t get a black eye and I didn’t go to the hospital,” said Diane Finn, coordinator of client services for the Rachel Coalition, which provides non-residential domestic violence counseling for Essex County.

“Not all violence results in a black eye or a broken arm,” Finn said. There may be incidents of pushing, choking or dragging by the hair — “but nothing you can take a picture of.”

Brown, an R&B star, is charged with two felonies for his alleged attack on girlfriend Rihanna, which included beating, biting, and choking her before trying to kick her out of his Lamborghini.

The couple has since appeared to have reconciled, with Brown apologizing and reportedly giving her a ring.

Despite the stereotype of domestic violence involving married women with children, it is just as prevalent in dating relationships. Experts say they see hints of unhealthy anger and control even in middle-school couples. In New Jersey, domestic violence offenses arising from a dating relationship accounted for 15 percent — or 10,646 — of the total for 2007.

Read the rest of this article here.

Rihanna & Chris Brown: Some personal thoughts

Blog hibernation is officially over. The accumulation of three weeks worth of reading and thinking is finally producing posts. More specifically, I have been spurred into action after finding out that Rihanna and Chris Brown are back together, even after what happened last February 8th, my fingers have once again found the keyboard and probably won’t be stopping anytime soon – at least, not until next winter.

I don’t believe in judging people for what they have done. After all, that’s what we have a judicial system for. One could argue that once we know the entire story, we can pass judgement – but the thing is, no one can ever know the full story. It would include understanding not only the facts and the reasons behind the event, but also the history leading to this event.

However, I do believe that when people make decisions that harm others, especially younger members of our society, then a stand must be taken, to start a conversation about the subject and to help the public understand some of what is going on so that they don’t blindly follow suit.

And Oprah agrees with me.

Even before knowing the details of what happened, it was shocking to find out that, whatever she had done, Chris Brown had hit Rihanna. Because even if Rihanna provoked Chris, even if she deserved to be punished for something she might have done, even if she hit him first – I don’t think anything can excuse a man from hitting a woman, especially when he is bigger and stronger than her. If Rihanna was verbally abusing him, he could have dumped her out of his car and driven off; or, were she to refuse, he could have stopped the car and walked off himself. It’s not like he can’t afford the cab fare. While not the most gentlemanly of moves, both these choices would have been understandable were it to come to light that Rihanna was behaving terribly. Were she hitting him, he could have, without a single blow, simply pinned her down – against the car, against the ground – and held her until she calmed down. That would have been perfectly understandable self-defence. And don’t tell me it’s not possible – have you seen how big he is and how small she is?

Putting aside what ifs and what nots, the truth seems even worse than the relatively tame story lines from the previous paragraph. Here is a small snippet of what ABC news is reporting:

“Their Feb. 8 fight broke out after Rihanna read a three-page text message on Brown’s phone from a woman (…). An argument ensued and Brown tried to force Rihanna out of the car but was unable to because she was wearing her seat belt. Brown then shoved Rihanna’s head against the passenger window of his rented Lamborghini, causing an approximate one-inch raised circular contusion (…). When Rihanna turned to face him, Brown allegedly punched her and then continued punching her while driving. The alleged assault caused her mouth to fill with blood and splattered blood all over her clothing and the interior of the car. (…) Brown then told her, “I’m going to beat the s— out of you when we get home. You wait and see.” Rihanna countered by calling an assistant’s phone and saying, “I am on my way home. Make sure the cops are there when I get there.”

After that, according to the documents, an enraged Brown warned Rihanna, “You just did the stupidest thing ever. I’m going to kill you.” He allegedly continued punching Rihanna, who attempted to text message another personal assistant Melissa Ford. Brown snatched the phone out of her hand and threw it out the window of his car.”

It is all the more alarming when celebrities such as Rihanna are involved in such events in that we live in a world where for some kind of reason, we look up to these celebrities as role models. Somewhere along the line, instead of role models becoming celebrities, we have decided that people who entertain us will also provide us with the moral and behavioural compass we need to navigate the treacherous waters of life. Rihanna, raised to the status of role model, has decided to return to her romantic relationship with Chris Brown; what does that say about the situation, and how will this impact young girls who look up to her?

This is one situation in which I had hoped to hear more from a celebrity rather than less. I would have liked to hear someone from Rihanna’s camp – and, eventually, Rihanna herself – talk about what happened and unabashedly declare that it was unacceptable for Chris to have laid a finger on her. As it stands, the message Rihanna is sending out to her fans as well as to millions of other women exposed to her music is that being beaten up is a normal part of a relationship.

But I refuse to let Rihanna’s bad decision go – and I’d much rather turn it into a good one by making sure to keep the conversation about domestic abuse in the open. Because violence, in whatever shape or form, is unacceptable, whatever Rihanna might say.