20 moments that prove Ugly Betty was ahead of its time

18 of 21

Justin being named Homecoming Queen

The next few entries all have to do with Justin Suarez, and if you know the show, you know exactly why we’re putting so much emphasis on his character.

It’s clear from the beginning of the series that Justin’s character is a flamboyant young boy. He loves fashion and drama, and especially musical theatre. The easy way out is just to say he’s gay, or make him the butt of the joke, but Ugly Betty handled his sexuality carefully. Even though it seemed so obvious that he may be gay, we watched Justin grow up and struggle with accepting his sexuality instead.

Justin was teased for being different, as we mentioned when discussing his ex-friend Randy, and it didn’t get any better when he was in high school. He was already getting teased for helping out with the cheerleading squad to help him earn some popularity points. But when Betty is told about the football team’s plan to humiliate Justin at homecoming, she tries to rush him out as soon as possible.

As the family is rushing out, a jock on stage announces Justin as the Homecoming Queen (before Glee pulled the same thing with Kurt a couple years later), and the crowd laughs. Instead of cowering away, embarrassed, Justin walks onto the stage, accepts the crown and flowers, and cracks a joke about the cheap bouquet. Then he makes a speech to his classmates about dedicating the win to his mother, who missed her own homecoming because she was pregnant with Justin, and her father wouldn’t let her go.

The family, and Marc, who is a surprisingly good mentor to the teen, praise Justin for how he handled the situation and for staying true to himself no matter what. That’s when Justin tells them he’s not gay, he was just playing along.

This was just one step in the complicated teen years of Justin, but it was so major for gay teens to see. There will be a time when you deny your true self, and other people may bully you over something you’re not even sure of yourself yet. Ugly Betty perfectly handled all of it.