Friday, December 22, 2006


My niece attends public school here in Germany. Ellen is pretty level-headed, but like most 15-yr-old girls, she spends her day with schoolmates whose lives are brim-full of drama. Her little brother's English has a few gaps, so yesterday at dinner when I compared Ellen's classroom to a "Soap Opera," I had to define the unfamiliar term for David.

His Dad helped me to explain by offering the example of "Verleibt in Berlin," a cult hit in Germany that boasted 5 million daily TV viewers in 2005. Dan described the plot and cast to me, and I recognized the show as a current cross-over American weekly dramedy called, "Ugly Betty." Curious, I googled it and found out the history of the show.

It originally began in 1999 as a Columbian telanovella titled, "Yo soy Betty, la fea." In addition to Spanish, English, and German versions, there have also been Dutch, Russian, Indian, and Israeli adaptations. Score one for the "small world" concept. I imagine that the writer of "The Devil Wears Prada" also took the idea from some version of the original Columbian hit.

My inner grad student is tempted to write a comparison contrast essay about the different versions of this Cinderella story and the insights they reveal about our changing global cuture. I wonder why lots of the world's population enjoys watching fashionistas make fun of an ugly duckling.