Time’s James Poniewozik notes that the eponymous character in ABC’s hit series “Ugly Betty” is “as Norman Rockwell as a chestnut-stuffed turkey” yet “if you listen to some politicians and pundits…she should have been booted out of the country years ago.” Her father on the show is an illegal immigrant; Betty herself is played by America Ferrara.
He writes, “So why do some 14 million people a week watch and root for her? Because it’s easier to hate a straw man–or a straw Mexican–than a person, even a fictional one. And because, as our pop culture shows, Americans’ attitude toward foreigners is more complex than the build-a-fencers would make it.”
He goes on to note the immigration makeup of reality shows. “American Idol is British. Big Brother, Dutch. Survivor, Swedish and imported by Mark Burnett, a Brit. And every week on reality shows, Americans embrace foreigners with Emma Lazarene openness–Heidi Klum and Simon Cowell, East European and Latin hoofers on Dancing with the Stars, Mexican boxers on The Contender and a Siberian drag queen on America’s Got Talent.”